Worcester, Wicomico Teachers, Principals Score Well On First Evaluations

BERLIN — School teachers and principals across Maryland this week were issued their first-ever report cards this week, and while the results were somewhat mixed across the state, the Lower Shore counties including Worcester and Wicomico scored exceptionally well.

The Maryland State Department of Education evaluated over 43,000 teachers and 1,112 principals in Maryland on a variety of criteria to determine their overall effectiveness on a simplified three-tier scale.

The teachers and principals were evaluated and issued scores of either highly effective, effective or ineffective. In terms of the teachers statewide, 41 percent were graded as highly effective, 56 percent were graded effective and 3 percent were graded ineffective. Teachers receiving ineffective grades were largely concentrated in the large school districts in the metropolitan areas on the west side of the Chesapeake, and by and large, the rural areas on the Eastern Shore fared much better than their counterparts in the densely populated center of the state. For the most part, the state was generally pleased with the results, although the 3-percent “ineffective” group was reason for some concern.

“Maryland’s educational success is built solidly on the effectiveness of our educators, and today’s data release tells us that many of our teachers and leaders are getting the job done,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery. “These results give us a starting point and provide important data for the state and our systems as they continue to strengthen instruction for students.”

In Worcester, frequently regarded as one of the best public school systems in the state, the report released on Wednesday was exceptionally good. Of the 640 teachers evaluated in Worcester, 55 percent were graded as highly effective, while 45 percent were graded as effective. Worcester had no teachers graded as ineffective. Perhaps even more impressive for Worcester, 85 percent of the principals evaluated were graded effective and 15 percent were graded highly effective, with no principals in the county receiving an ineffective rating.

“Worcester County Public Schools has strong, high-performing teachers and principals who are absolutely committed to student growth,” said Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson on Thursday. “A variety of indicators support this assertion each and every day as well as over time.”

Over in Wicomico, the news was just as good. Of the 957 teachers evaluated in Wicomico, 64 percent were rated highly effective and 35 percent were rated effective. Less than one percent of the teachers evaluated in Wicomico were graded as ineffective. In terms of Wicomico principals, 45 percent were graded highly effective and 55 percent were graded as effective with no principals rated as ineffective.

This year marks the first statewide effort to evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness based in part on student growth, but Maryland school systems have spent four years developing the TPE programs. Funding for the program was provided in large part by Maryland’s winning of the federal $250 million Race to the Top grant. State Board officials said the first effort reflected in the data released this week could be stepping stone to a larger, more comprehensive teacher and principal evaluation program in the future.

“This is our first data release and local school systems have done an amazing job in providing this information to us,” said David Volrath, who leads the state TPE efforts. “As we strengthen this process moving forward, ratings could be affected.”

While pleased with the outcome for his teachers and students, Wilson cautioned against using the release of the TPE data as the only barometer for measuring teacher and principal effectiveness.

“At this stage in the transition, the teacher effectiveness data is more like a test drive of the new system,” he said. “It provides a first-look at how student growth data could affect teacher effectiveness or accountability. For our school system, the results were consistent with our expectations.

Not surprisingly, the new TPE system has been designed with alignment in mind, where student growth is reflective of a student’s progress on a variety of indicators including performance on the Maryland School Assessments (MSA) and the Maryland College and Career Readiness Standards (MCCRS). For example, the release this week of the TPE report used the 2013 MSA data for students across the state as one of the student-growth indicators. Next year, 2014 MSA data will be used along with MCCRS data. Between now and then, professional development will continue to be a key focus during the transition in Worcester.

“We will continue to support our teachers so that they have the tools and strategies they need to provide our students with a world class education,” he said. “This is a very exciting time for teaching and learning.”