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Calvert County Public Schools is currently under the process of field testing a new teacher and principal evaluation, half of which will be based on student achievement.

The new evaluation system falls under the federal Race to the Top act.

CCPS Superintendent Jack Smith, Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh and Executive Director of School Operations Deborah Pulley updated the Calvert County Board of Education on this process at its meeting Thursday.

Smith explained that for the field testing, CCPS is using the state designed evaluation model; however, for the actual evaluations, CCPS will design its own model. Smith said the deadline to turn this model into the state for approval is the first week of April. Smith said CCPS should know if its model was approved by the state by late May.

He told the board nine Maryland school systems have already had their models rejected by the state, possibly because they didn’t make the Maryland State Assessments a large enough percentage when measuring student achievement.

“We don’t want to be in that position,” Smith said.

Pulley said nine principals have volunteered for the field test and have submitted learning objectives. She said much of what’s being looked at in the new principal evaluation was in place all along, and “we’re just calling it different things.”

Pulley explained that the main difference in the principal evaluations and what they’re already using is how evidence is supposed to be found backing up the evaluation itself.

“And they also have to work with all of their teachers, as well,” Pulley said.

For the teacher evaluation field test, Welsh said 150 teachers are participating with one administrator each observing two teachers.

Welsh said the field test was piloted last month and will last until April. She said to observe teachers correctly, all administrators have been trained in writing learning objectives and how to conference with teachers on how to approve and score student learning objectives.

These scores, she said, will read “obtainable,” “partially obtainable” or “not obtainable.”

Welsh said all of the field test trainers have been consistently asked for feedback.

“They have pointed out things that have been of some concern, but they have also said teachers have been very positive,” Welsh said.

Welsh said now that administrators have been trained on how they will evaluate teachers, the next step will be implementing the actual evaluation itself, which Welsh said will take about a month to complete.

She said administrators will confer with teachers in late March to discuss student learning objectives and go over their final scores.

“This is a no-fault year. We’re just doing this to come up with some information,” Welsh said as to what she has been telling field test participants, who she said should not focus deeply on their final score numbers.

“This really does give us an opportunity to review all of the components. … I think the state will want to have some feedback,” Welsh said.

Smith said the initial plan for the school system is to use feedback from the state model field test to develop a workable local model for the actual evaluation.

“It’s a pressing issue — we want to do it right,” Smith said, continuing that the new evaluation, once implemented, would not be costing employees their positions.

“You don’t fire your way to excellence,” he said.

Calvert County Board of Education President Eugene Karol said he could not hide his disdain for the new system.

“I’m a pessimist. I think we’re putting our folks through an awful lot of heartache,” Karol said, continuing that like several education reforms, “this, too, will pass.”

“No one in this county chose this,” Smith said.

ldukes@somdnews.com