About a week after most area schools closed, teachers and administrators were back in the classroom, taking part in a summer course that will prepare educators for implementing new standards across the state for the 2013-2014 school year.
The state's Educator Effectiveness Academies began this week as part of what school officials say is a continuation of the largest professional development program in state history.
More than 6,000 educators are scheduled to take part in several regional academies, including the first academy at Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, which more than 1,000 from Howard, Prince George's, Montgomery, Frederick and Anne Arundel counties attended.
Academies are slated for June 26-28 in Baltimore and Waldorf.
The academies are part of the state's efforts to prepare for more stringent national standards that will require students to comprehend reading, writing and math concepts on a deeper and more rigorous level, and teachers will be required to deliver lessons that are considered competitive in the global educational arena.
Tests on those standards will be administered beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
"Last year, we took standards and turned them into frameworks, and frameworks identify the essential skills and knowledge that a kid has to have to successfully tackle that standard," said Scott Pfeifer, the state's director of instructional assessment. "This year … let's take a framework and illustrate it with ... some model lessons that are specific.
"What we're not interested in doing is writing hundreds and hundreds of those," said Pfeifer, "because that would be a scripted curriculum, and the fact is that teachers need to write their own lessons in order to be effective. We have to give them models."
The academies began last year, as teachers and administrators were introduced to the standards. This year's academies, school officials said, will cover how the standards will be implemented; educators at Marriotts Ridge High, for example, attended work sessions that covered model lessons in mathematics, English/language arts and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Said Lisa Douge, reading specialist at Summit Hall Elementary School in Gaithersburg, who is among more than 130 master teachers facilitating the professional development, "Doing things like this helps teachers get an idea of different ways of thinking."
Jason McCoy, principal at Cradlerock Elementary School, agreed. "It's not just about selecting the right text," he said. "It's also how you're going to instruct. This generates some good discussion about such things as higher-level questioning."
At the end of the three-day academy, participants were given time to meet and probe how to tailor the practices for their respective schools.
"This is going to be the core of our work for the next two years to transition to the new curriculum, the new assessment program," said Frederick County schools Superintendent Theresa Alban.
Asked about the pace at which such federal and state programs and assessments have been presented over the past few years, Alban said, "The pace is not ideal. We are putting a lot on people that is new at the same time.
"What we are making an effort to do in our system is to make sure that we align as much as we can so that as we're talking about the common core, we are also going to be able to talk about student learning objectives that tie into the evaluation."
Cradlerock reading teacher Jodi Hunter said that the programs help ensure that instruction doesn't become stagnant. "I think," she said, "that it is adding another layer to what has already been implemented."