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Md. schools superintendent, head of state teachers association discuss education reform

June 18, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Betty Weller, standing at left, president of the Maryland State Education Association, and Maryland Schools Superintendent Lillian Lowery. right, welcome community and business leaders to an informal conversation Tuesday afternoon at the Myersville, Md.-area home of former Washington County Schools Superintendent Betty Morgan about changes that will affect education in Maryland.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

MYERSVILLE, Md. — More rigorous Common Core education standards, new assessment tests, and new teacher and principal evaluation systems that begin this school year were among the issues the superintendent of Maryland schools and the head of the state’s teachers association discussed Tuesday with local business leaders.

 Shortly after Maryland Schools Superintendent Lillian Lowery took office almost a year ago, she began meeting at least monthly with Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, they said.

 The pair has been having periodic meetings with community and business leaders, including the Tuesday gathering at the Myersville-area home of former Washington County Schools Superintendent Betty Morgan.

 The series is being sponsored by Leadership Maryland, with the local event co-sponsored by Leadership Washington County and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

 At their first meeting, the two leaders agreed they won’t always be on the same side of the fence, but they wouldn’t get over that fence together without continuing to talk, Weller said.

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 One of the key topics of discussion between them recently has been the new teacher and principal evaluation systems, with student progress accounting for 50 percent of the evaluations.

 One way the state wants educators to be evaluated is the progress students make on state assessment tests.

 MSEA officials have disputed a claim by Lowery that there is an agreement for a three-year phase-in for state assessment tests to count for 20 percent of evaluations.

 Before Tuesday’s presentation, Lowery said the three-year phase-in is more a matter of state policy and not a formal agreement, but she has told Weller that aspect will be reviewed annually.

 Most local school districts, including Washington County, submitted and received state approval for an evaluation plan that calls for assessment test results to account for 20 percent of evaluations, education officials said.

 Weller said there was no research that showed 20 percent or 10 percent was the right weighting for assessment tests.

 Weller also reiterated concern about teachers being evaluated based on new assessment tests they haven’t seen yet. 

 The state is expected to start using Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exams as soon as the 2014-15 school year.

 “We’re still building the plane while we’re flying it,” Weller said.

 About 30 people attended the event, with some asking questions about vocational education, the importance of arts and sports, early childhood learning, and funding for school libraries and media specialists.

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