Teachers prepare this week for new students, a new curriculum and a new evaluation system.
The new system came about through a state law in 2010 that mandated Maryland schools overhaul their evaluation practices.
Charles County piloted its model last year. Districts were allowed to develop their own models, and they were to put more emphasis on student growth.
In Charles County, teachers are evaluated for professional practice by looking at planning and preparation, instruction, classroom environment and professional responsibilities. The categories are derived from the Charlotte Danielson framework for teaching.
In the framework, for student growth, teachers are broken into various categories depending on their grade level and teaching assignment.
Part of the evaluations will be based on student learning objectives, or measurable instructional goals established for a specific group of students over a set period of time.
At last week's Charles County Board of Education meeting, superintendent Kimberly A. Hill updated board members on the state of the evaluations.
Hill said school staff have had a series of meetings and that subcommittees were formed to focus on specific areas of the model.
All teachers and administrators have a common understanding of the objectives and how to write them. Hill said professional development training will be standardized across the system so that all schools will have the same information and training.
“Professional development is key for all of our folks, but the thing that I am most proud of is that we are making professional development consistent,” Hill said.
Hill said that technology will be used to assist with the new model, such as online resources and the use of specific software for qualitative and quantitative data collection.
Hill said that moving forward, professional development will continue and staff will seek out feedback from teachers and administrators.
Troy Barnes, principal of C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School, said teachers know what they will be evaluated on. As he told his staff recently, “It's a learning process for all of us.”
Elizabeth Brown, president of the Education Association for Charles County, the teachers union, said Monday that she wasn't convinced that every teacher has a clear understanding of the evaluations, but she is confident that Hill will make sure teachers get the training they need and have a clear understanding of the evaluations.
Brown said that the EACC, which represents about 89 percent of Charles public school teachers, has a good working relationship with the school system and will help to ensure teachers have a clear understanding of what is expected.
Joseph McMahan, a third-grade teacher at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School, said that while the evaluation process is not 100 percent solidified with back-and-forth communications between counties and the state, Charles County is doing a great job of explaining what the evaluations will be like.
“The county is doing a good job keeping up with the process,” he said.
The importance of getting information to teachers has all those involved with education at the forefront working together, McMahan said.
“Truly, this is the one time when the school board, the school system and teachers are on the same page,” he said.
McMahan said that teachers are getting a feeling of what will be expected.
“I look at teacher evaluation as a way to improve instruction,” Hill said. She said evaluations are not meant to be a “gotcha” or something just to check off on a list.
Hill said that evaluations are a chance to “take a look at what's going on in classrooms and help teachers support teachers in improving what they are doing with our kids.”