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The state education department has rejected St. Mary’s public schools’ teacher evaluation model, a new system that includes using students’ test scores to determine a teacher’s job performance.

St. Mary’s was one of seven Maryland school jurisdictions piloting new evaluation methods, which go into effect for all state teachers starting next school year. The Maryland State Department of Education gave school systems a chance to develop their own system, within certain framework, or use a state model.

St. Mary’s schools worked for 18 months to fine-tune the new evaluation system, Superintendent Michael Martirano said this week. He said it got “rave reviews” until a few months ago, when the state announced schools needed to count results from the Maryland School Assessments as a full 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

“It’s rejected for one reason,” Anna Laughlin, president of the local teachers union, said. The union, which initially did not sign on to the evaluation reform, did work to help develop the system and eventually supported it. The newly formed St. Mary’s supervisors union also supports the locally developed evaluations.

Lillian M. Lowery, who was named state superintendent last summer, said the plan does not meet requirements, according to Laughlin.

The new evaluation system is part of the federal Race to the Top education reform package, which also includes upgrading schools’ use of technology and other aspects. Maryland was one of three education systems in the nation that did not keep up with its promises for education reform, according to a report last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

Problems cited for the state included hiring qualified staff to run new data systems and implementing the new evaluation systems; specifically not collecting data from pilot programs last year.

In St. Mary’s, “we are proceeding with the model we developed,” Martirano said. The superintendent dismissed any notion that it was St. Mary’s evaluation plan that led to the poor report by the federal education department.

The St. Mary’s evaluation model had been lauded by state and other education officials as a great example of combining a reasonable amount of student testing results with other measures, including teacher observations, Martirano said.

He said St. Mary’s and eight other Maryland school systems whose plans were not approved were given until May 15 to submit revisions. However, the superintendent said he does not plan to back down from the locally developed model.

The St. Mary’s model only counts the state assessment results as 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. The evaluations do, however, include 20 percent derived from other student formative and performance assessments, which are based on the same teaching objectives as the MSA.

Laughlin said it makes no sense to include an even higher percentage of a teacher’s evaluation on the MSA, which is outdated. Maryland and other states are moving toward a new set of teaching standards, called the Common Core Curriculum, and will give new standardized tests in 2014 that would replace the MSAs.

The new evaluation systems must use 50 percent of the evaluation based on professional practice and 50 percent student growth, including test scores. It would rate teachers and principals into one of three categories — ineffective, effective or highly effective.

The evaluation system being piloted this year at all St. Mary’s schools will be compared with the current system for all teachers.

“The way this works out is there’s no way you were going to lose your job over one test,” Laughlin said. “I thought it was going to be something people could live with and work with.”

St. Mary’s teacher and principal evaluation systems were rejected, as were evaluations in Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties. Prince George’s public schools’ plan for its principal evaluation system was also not approved.

Anne Arundel, Calvert, and Somerset counties are using a state model, but have until March 30 to submit a local plan for review if they so choose, according to a state spokesperson. The other 12 systems gained approval for their locally developed evaluation programs.

Laughlin said the Maryland State Education Association is looking at legal avenues to keep the state from forcing the counties to submit new plans.

“MSEA is not at all happy with the way this has happened” to St. Mary’s and the other eight school districts, Laughlin said.

State legislators have also submitted a bill this month that would prohibit the state from making the MSA results count for 20 percent of teacher evaluations.

Martirano said he is in a “holding pattern” because of these and other actions.

jyeatman@somdnews.com