As states across the country have adopted new educator evaluation requirements, the challenges of implementation have become increasingly evident. The media is full of stories of local educator discomfort with, and resistance to, the new systems. In some instances lawsuits have been brought to block implementation. Are such reactions inevitable? The Maryland experience suggests not.

With Maryland now in its third year of implementation of the state’s Teacher and Principal Evaluation (TPE) system, a growing proportion of educators in the state are responding positively when asked about the system, which includes the use of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) as a measure of student growth and a driver of improved instruction.

These are among the major findings from a recently released progress study of Maryland’s TPE, carried out by the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC@WestEd) through partner agencies WestEd and the Community Training and Assistance Center (CTAC), in collaboration with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Study findings also reveal that with each year of implementation, educator perceptions about TPE are becoming more positive. In addition, the gap in positive perceptions between principals and teachers is narrowing over time.

“These findings show Maryland to be a national leader in implementing a statewide educator evaluation system with increasing understanding and buy-in from frontline educators,” says lead author and CTAC founder and Executive Director William J. Slotnik.

The Maryland TPE system is designed not just to evaluate current educator evaluation practice, but, equally important, to drive improvements in practice. It was also important to find out what impact the new system might have on instructional dialogue between educators and their evaluators. Many principals and teachers note that, since establishing the new system, they are deepening reflection on their own practice and also seeing more focused data-driven conversations about instruction in their schools or districts.

Results also indicate that teachers are becoming more confident that TPE evaluation results will be used to inform their subsequent professional development. And they show that implementing the new system with an instructional rather than a compliance focus is associated with greater attention to quality, greater organizational commitment to achieving consistent high-quality implementation, and more positive change in principal and teacher practice.

The report, Change in Practice in Maryland: Student Learning Objectives and Teacher and Principal Evaluation, also includes detailed recommendations for improving the quality, consistency, and manageability of TPE implementation in Maryland.