Teachers denounce job evaluation proposal

April 27, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Saying it would lead to arbitrary dismissals, teachers yesterday denounced a state superintendent's proposal to strip the licenses of those who do not receive three satisfactory ratings every five years.

Testifying before the state Board of Education, teachers said they could lose their jobs based solely on principals' evaluations, and argued the measure would create a climate of fear and discourage innovation.

"These new procedures will sacrifice creativity and innovation to job security," said Nancy S. Dietz, a math teacher in Frederick County.

"Requiring teachers to show three years of reproach-free evaluations will sap the courage to take those risks. How often would you expect me to experiment with curriculum design or teaching and learning styles with the dark cloud of decertification hanging over my head?"

Ms. Dietz joined about a dozen teachers and union representatives who testified against Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's proposal. About 40 teachers, united in opposition, jammed the hearing.

But Dr. Grasmick, some board members and some local school superintendents say bold steps are necessary to weed out incompetence among the state's more than 45,000 teachers.

Said Harry D. Shapiro, an attorney and board member, "Obviously, if my clients are not happy with my services, they find another lawyer. But these students are assigned to a particular teacher, and they don't have a choice."

State officials said teachers who receive unsatisfactory ratings could appeal to local school officials, the courts or the state board.

The hearing came a day after the Maryland State Teachers Union launched a campaign to defeat the proposal, which it said would consign teachers to "probationary status for the rest of their careers."

Teachers said yesterday that evaluation policies vary widely among Maryland school districts. A few, for example, evaluate teachers only once every four or five years. Others do not make clear what is "satisfactory," teachers said.

Board members acknowledged that more consistent policies may be necessary before adopting new licensing standards.

The proposal, the product of about three years' work, would affect primarily teachers with "advanced professional certificates" -- about 80 percent of those statewide.

The measure would replace what Dr. Grasmick calls an outmoded system that allows most veteran teachers to be recertified simply by paying a fee.

Probationary teachers -- typically those with less than two years' experience -- can now lose certification for unsatisfactory performance without a hearing or right to appeal.

In practice, more experienced teachers are not stripped of their licenses for poor performance. But they can lose certification for breaking the law or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for instance.

In any given year, state officials say, about 7,000 of those teachers would be required to renew their licenses. They would have to be recertified every five years -- the requirement is now every 10 years -- and license renewals would be based on evaluations and other proposed measures designed to demonstrate "continued professional growth."

Under the new requirements, teachers would continue training throughout their careers.

Teachers not recertified lose the right not only to teach in this state but also more than 30 others that recognize Maryland's certification.

The state board will review public comment -- including written testimony -- until May 3. It is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month.

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