Board to vote on educator evaluations Policy would hold teachers accountable for student learning

'Willing to give it a try'

State funds would pay for salary increases for city instructors

December 09, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

In a deal that would put Baltimore in the forefront of a movement to make teachers more accountable for how well their students learn, the school board will vote tonight on a new 'policy to evaluate teachers and principals.

The policy negotiated with teachers would trigger the release of state funds to pay for teacher salary increases and remove major stumbling block in the contract talks between the teachers union and the schools.

Details of the pact reached between the city's teachers union and interim school chief Robert Schiller were not released last night.

Schiller said he expects the proposal to be passed by the school board tonight.

"We think this is a very major issue," Schiller said. He said the agreement has two parts, one for teachers and one for principals. He said the school board had been briefed last week and seemed pleased with the agreement.

A handful of cities, including Dallas, Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y., have linked teacher performance evaluations to standardized testing, according to Christopher Pipho of the Education Commission of the States.

The teachers union appeared satisfied with the agreement. "It may not be all that we wanted, but it is one that will try to improve achievement and one that will be fair," said Marcia Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. While teachers did not develop the plan, she said they have had "input and much discussion." She said the teachers hoped for an evaluation system that was "geared to improving instruction, one that recognized strengths and weaknesses and one that was not punitive."

Before the system can work, she said, a new discipline code needs to be in place as does the new curriculum.

"What we are willing to say is that we are willing to give it a try," Brown said. "It will need to be evaluated for its effectiveness."

The city has an evaluation system in place, but it has been criticized for being ineffective.

Teachers can be fired under the current system, but it is so difficult to prove and document poor performance that principals are more likely to shuffle teachers around the system.

In August, the city's teachers voted to "work to rule" -- do no more than the current contract requires -- until a new contract is signed and a pay raise is approved. Many teachers have ignored the "work to rule" vote, staying late to tutor children or performing lunchroom duty or playground monitoring. However, most education observers agreed that any reform movement would fail without the support of the teachers.

There were far more practical reasons to forge an agreement. Under the state legislation that created the shared city-state management of the city schools, the performance-based evaluations were required.

The legislation also calls for a boost in teacher salaries to begin moving them toward parity with their better-paid Baltimore County counterparts. But the raise, likely to be funded by $30 million in state aid, is contingent on the evaluation system being in place.

City teachers have worked for two years without raises and the contract, due to expire June 30, was extended until another one can be agreed upon.

Brown said yesterday that she is hopeful a contract will come soon. "We have great hopes that we will end the negotiations," she said. "We have been meeting regularly and negotiating the teacher contract."

Pub Date: 12/09/97

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