Teachers take active role in focus on training

Schools for Excellence initiative piloted at 18 Maine schools with focus on training and incentives

AUGUSTA — Teachers at 18 schools in five Maine school districts are participating in focused and integrated professional development, and developing new evaluation and performance-based pay systems this fall. The goal: improved achievement for their 5,500 students.

The Maine Schools for Excellence initiative ties together intensive professional development for the 450 teachers in five school districts with meaningful performance evaluations developed largely by the teachers themselves and incentives and stipends that reward educators for increased student learning.

“The most important thing we can do to improve student achievement is to put an effective teacher in every classroom,” said Gov. Paul LePage, who has made teacher preparation, effectiveness and accountability an education priority. “I am confident the schools and teachers in this program will provide a model for others to follow.”

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said the initiative is only one piece of a growing focus on teacher effectiveness that includes the state’s School Improvement Grant schools, other efforts to develop evaluation systems that include student progress as one of a variety of measures, and improvements to teacher preparation programs.

“We expect a lot of our teachers and if we are to hold them accountable, as we should, we must also provide them with the right training and fair tools for measuring success,” Bowen said. “The professionals participating in this project will blaze the trail for others interested in using assessment and student learning data to help teachers help their students to succeed.”

The initiative is a five-year pilot project of the Maine Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. The Maine Department of Education is working closely with the participating school districts: Lewiston Public Schools; School Administrative District 24, Van Buren; and Regional School Unit 12, Whitefield; RSU 55, Hiram; and RSU 74, Anson.

This fall, teachers will participate in Take One!, a course of professional development offered through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that moves teachers toward earning the National Board certification, an advanced and nationally recognized teaching credential.

Also this year, teachers and administrators will set “stretch goals” for improving student achievement. When schools as a whole meet the goals, teachers and administrators become eligible to receive bonuses. Teachers can receive up to $7,500 in incentives and stipends offered through the Schools for Excellence program.

In subsequent years, teachers and administrators will be eligible for incentives based on individual performance. The measures for these incentives will be developed through a collaboration among all members of the school community, including teachers, the school board, parents, and administrators.

“Our goal is to improve educator effectiveness and student learning by building a system based on sound measurement, frequent feedback, targeted professional development, and rewards for effective teaching,” said Scott Harrison, the Schools for Excellence project director.

More details about the initiative are available below and on the Maine Schools for Excellence web page: http://maine.gov/education/educator-effectiveness/excellence.

David Connerty-Marin | Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6880

Participating Schools

Lewiston Public Schools
Farwell Elementary School, Pre-K-6
Geiger Elementary School, Pre-K-6
Lewiston Middle School, 7-8
Longley Elementary School, Pre-K-6
McMahon Elementary School, Pre-K-6
Montello Elementary School, Pre-K-6

Maine School Administrative District 24
Van Buren Elementary School, Pre-K-8

Regional School Unit 12
Somerville Elementary School, K-5
Whitefield Elementary School, K-8
Wiscasset Primary School, K-4
Wiscasset Middle School, 5-8

Regional School Unit 55
Baldwin Consolidated School, K-4
Cornish Elementary School, K-4
Sacopee Valley Middle School, Hiram, 5-8
South Hiram Elementary School, K-4

Regional School Unit 74
Carrabec Community School, North Anson, K-8
Garret Schenck School, Anson, Pre-K-4
Solon Elementary School, Pre-K-5

More Information: Questions and Answers

The Maine Schools for Excellence involves more than 450 educators of 5,500 students in intensive professional development; developing constructive performance evaluations; and building performance-based pay systems that encourage effective teaching, continued professional growth and improved student learning.

1. What measures of students’ academic performance will schools use as they design their evaluation and performance-based pay systems?

Ultimately, schools will use a variety measures they determine to be valid and reliable as part of any decision on teacher evaluation and compensation. Those measures will likely be customized for each teacher based on grade level and content area.

While the performance pay systems haven’t been finalized, they could take into account state assessments like the SAT and the New England Common Assessment Program, and classroom assessments like Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, the Developmental Reading Assessment and computer-adaptive tests designed by the Northwest Evaluation Association.

Other job performance indicators could include classroom observations, portfolios of teaching accomplishments, student surveys, and graduation and attendance rates.

2. Have the schools participating in the initiative had to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements with teachers to allow performance-based pay?

Performance-based pay systems impact the collective bargaining agreements currently in place in most of the participating Schools for Excellence districts. As a result, school districts are working to develop written Memoranda of Agreement with their teachers’ bargaining units to address these effects and improve collaboration.

One participating district, Regional School Unit 74 of Anson, recently negotiated a new contract with teachers that allows them to choose between a performance-based salary track and the traditional salary track based on years of service.

3. Which teachers will participate in the professional development associated with Schools for Excellence?

All teachers and a number of principals at the 18 participating schools will participate in Take One!, a rigorous, job-embedded professional development experience offered through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Teachers can apply their Take One! work toward the involved process of earning their National Board certification, an advanced credential that indicates a teacher has met a set of exacting standards customized by grade level and subject area.

School for Excellence teachers are eligible for $500 stipends when they submit the teaching portfolios they develop as part of Take One! to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for evaluation. The teachers who submit this work are also eligible for three graduate-level credits.

4. What steps are Schools for Excellence districts following to set up performance-based pay systems?

Schools for Excellence participants are using a gradual approach to develop and implement new evaluation methods and performance-based pay.

This fall marks the start of Take One! professional development and the design process for the evaluation and performance pay systems. The design of each system will vary by district and be developed largely by district steering committees that include teachers, administrators, teachers’ association representatives, school board members, parents, community members and others.

The professional development, meaningful evaluations and compensation system are meant to form a continuous loop of feedback and support to help teachers continuously improve their craft. The systems are based on regular measurement; intensive and focused professional development; and fair and sensible recognition and reward.

5. Is Schools for Excellence a project that will transfer to other schools and districts?

The Teacher Incentive Fund grant that is funding the Schools for Excellence initiative does not provide for scaling up the initiative. The grant does, however, require that districts develop plans to sustain the new systems they’re developing long-term. The participating districts also expect to share the knowledge they gain from their experiences with other districts as they go about doing similar work.

One response to “Teachers take active role in focus on training

  1. It is always a great thing to see a push in our educational system for greatness, one that encourages doing things better which we can always do. Of course this all starts with better training for our educators which in-turn will lead to a great harvest of exceptional leaders for our future.

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