Discussion: Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility

The Maine Department of Education wants to hear from you as it puts together a request to the federal government for flexibility in holding schools accountable and recognizing their success under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as No Child Left Behind).

Requesting ESEA flexibility is an involved process. In its request to the U.S. Department of Education, the Maine DOE must share its plans for a new accountability system that recognizes schools when they succeed and provides support to them when they need improvement. The state must also put forth detailed plans for developing and piloting an evaluation system for teachers and administrators.

Commissioner Bowen and Maine DOE staff want to hear from you as we work on the state’s flexibility request. Hearing many good ideas will ensure the highest-quality request possible.

Add your feedback as a comment at the bottom of this post. Please read the Maine DOE Newsroom’s Comments Policy before you respond.

Here are some potential discussion topics, but feel free to address any aspect of Maine’s ESEA flexibility request.

  • Should Maine develop a uniform teacher and administrator evaluation and require that all school districts use it? Or should state officials develop guiding principles for such evaluations that local districts can adapt to their needs?
  • Should a school’s success in Maine’s accountability system be based on how successful its students are five years after graduating from high school?
  • How could Maine incorporate subject areas besides math and reading into its accountability system?
  • Should student achievement figure into the performance evaluations of Maine’s teachers and administrators? If so, to what extent?
  • Should Maine’s accountability system take into account other assessments besides the state’s standardized tests? Examples include DIBELS for reading, NWEA for math and reading, Accuplacer for college course placements.
  • How can Maine’s accountability and recognition system account for differences in schools, such as rural vs. urban and wealthy vs. low-income? Or should all schools be held to the same measures, regardless?
  • How would you propose evaluating the effectiveness of instructors who teach subject areas not measured by state assessments (arts, social studies, etc.)?

Thank you for your feedback! Visit Maine DOE’s ESEA Flexibility page for more information and other opportunities to share your input.

34 responses to “Discussion: Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility

  1. To add to my previous comments…..If we are moving toward customized learning with teams of teachers and ed techs involved in various aspects of instruction, then trying to judge any teacher on the basis of student learning is completely illogical as well as unfair. Student and peer evaluations make a lot more sense than administrator or student performance evaluations. We ought to be focused on developing teacher skills, not looking for ways to punish teachers. In most industries people get fired when they don’t show up to work regularly or don’t get along with fellow workers or customers. Focusing on those factors would allow administrators to get rid of truly ineffective staff and such a focus would be much easier to administer.

    • Spot on, Will. The sad thing is I think we had the perfect model back in the 80’s with the Teacher Assistance Team (TAT) training. Whatever happened to that? My question any time this sort of much-ado-about-nothing comes up is: How do the teachers, students, and parents directly and immediately benefit from what is proposed? Now, if the state mandated a starting teacher wage of $150,000 with full benefits and made districts hire the best qualified (not cheapest) candidates, I would say the benefit would be direct and immediate all around. Or, if the state decreed that class sizes were to be limited to 15, 10 for kindergarten and preschool, with at least one aide in each classroom, we would see immediate and direct benefits. However, these real solutions never seem to be part of the “let’s just toss this one around again” way of manipulating education without really changing anything. Still waiting for the military to pay for their weaponry through bake sales because we decided to put our money into education.

  2. I am a retired everything (teacher, principal, professor, etc.). In my view this is just more tinkering with the system without changing anything. We have standards set by the NCTE, NCTM, IRA, NCSS, and other professional organizations. We had Teacher Evaluation Teams in the 80’s whereby teachers observed and helped each other improve their practices. It was a good model. All the time and effort teachers spent developing the Learning Results and communicating with each other about good practice is now falling away so we can be judged scientifically according to “objective” tests. This takes us far away from what current educational research suggests and ignores the education and well-being of the whole child. Children are not blips on a test grid, nor can they be taught that way. Education is a social science and we are leaving out everything social. A school is a community, and parents, teachers, staff, students, and taxpayers are all members. Unless and until we give our full support to building strong, happy, productive educational communities, all we will get is fragmentation, frustration, and failure. The whole organizing principle behind this ESEA project is flawed, therefore everything within it is flawed.

    • Well done, Karen Johnson and many others! When you discover that you are in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging. The time has come to declare that No Child Left Behind is a failure and a waiver to a failure is still a failure!

      • Karen Johnson

        These “researchers” who supposedly are on top of the “research” are seldom questioned about the assumptions they make. As the old saying goes, GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. I have no idea how to stop this nonsense (unfortunately), but the basic premises are faulty and wrong headed according to the 50 years of educational research I am familiar with. No educator should be traveling down this road which seeks to blame the teacher and puts non-educators and test/textbook publishers in the driver’s seat.. Can you imagine a doctor or lawyer putting up with these distortions of the truth and denial of teacher observations? No Child Left Behind begs the question: behind who?? All children learn differently and at different rates in various ways about everything that’s important, most of which is not in any curriculum. A skilled teacher can sort this out and plan, with others, to educate any child according to his or her needs. We teachers need to find a way to take back our profession. The many good comments here will not, I’m afraid, result in any action to undo the damage heaped upon damage we are doing to what’s left of our public school system, our vulnerable children, their parents, and our increasingly fragmented communities..

  3. I recently returned from the NAESP leadership conference in Washington, D.C. and the concern expressed there from our leaders was the possibility that the election may result in all of this being null and void, whether with a new administration or with final passage of some form of the ESEA in 2013. Will we be required to go through yet another set of hoops next year? Are we better off waiting at this point to see what happens in November?

  4. It has long been said, ” the proof of a good pudding is in the eating”. One may test all they want in each grade and in each school, but the final result of learning comes long after the students have graduated and become good citizens, parents and humans. School should be an enjoyable experiences. Schools and classes should be interesting, meaningful, exciting, stimulating, rigorous, and meet the students’ needs. Students should look forward to attending schools and classrooms. Students should be able to do critical and creative thinking, trial and error methods, hypothesize, and form conclusions. Students should have the love of reading instilled in them throughout the school years. i have seen very little of this in classrooms over my twenty-eight years of teaching. Teaching to the test for reading and math or any other subjects will not accomplish any of the above. The sooner we recognize this the better we will all be and our students will also be ready for adulthood.

    Evaluating teachers based on student testing will be a disaster. If you think ” teaching to the test ” is bad, just imagine “teaching the test”. Imagine having having a teachers or administrators positions or salaries based on this years class or classes of students.

    Teaching is not emitting facts to be given back from the students. It is the shaping of students for life long learning and critical thinking. I do not know how to test this with paper and pencil, but I know it when I see and hear it in my students.

  5. After more than 35 years of teaching in Maine and international schools, I KNOW that high stakes testing is counter-productive.I know that testing shapes curriculum and that testing ONLY math and language arts (which should be and was present in any American curriculum with which I worked) is creating a situation in which social sciences and the arts are marginalized.

    I KNOW that reasonable class size, and that family-based interventions like Head Start are productive.

    I KNOW that support for professional growth is less and less available to teachers and administrators (i.e. Blaine House scholarships, Principal’s Academy, support for attendance at national conferences); the best teachers are always those who are active learners themselves. I would like to see more about evaluation of administrative practice.

    Having worked in Turkey, I KNOW that the affluent international community (many of them educated in American schools themselves) sends their children to the USA for school because we foster the original, expressive, and imaginative creativity necessary to shape a productive future. I KNOW that the reason the USA created a system of public schools for ALL was that we intend to have an informed and participatory democracy. I think Dewey must be rolling over in his grave, given recent movements in the United States.

  6. I am with Ken Coville, I believe a parent and student survey would be most helpful as long as something was done with the results. As a parent who has pulled a child out of public school due to a teacher calling my child and other students in the classroom names, one who doesn’t grade papers on a regular basis, and one who has physically put her hands on students. I’ve tried to go through the proper process to no avail. What good is evaluation by anyone if nothing is done about it?

    NCLB is a failure in Maine because there is no real school ‘choice’ when a rural school goes on a CIPS plan. What is the big deal if they don’t lose students to better schools? Medway has 1 school. It doesn’t make AYP. So, nothing happens. They ‘try’ to do better in Math, they make a plan, and in the mean time their Reading scores suffer. Well, maybe there should be something more done. School choice for those schools who fail to make AYP should be mandatory. Whether it be the town 25 miles away or an online academy, these students deserve a choice, a better choice, for education. What happens if they don’t ever get off a CIPS plan? Not a thing. So they will continue doing what they do, that doesn’t work, with no repercussions to the administration or staff. It is the students who suffer and will pay in the end for a sub par education.

  7. Teacher Evaluations: The University should be commissioned to do a detailed search of the industrial, military, and educational literature to identify the key characteristics of an assessment system that fits current school structural characteristics. The overall system of evaluation must be based on multiple input sources and likely include input from students, peers, and administrators.

    Systemic Accountability: The key will be multiple sources of data and be compatible with an anytime, anywhere system of instruction. An ongoing conversation and data set will be needed to ensure continuous improvement of the system.

  8. Hi Steve, yes student input through such measures as the research based tripod system would be very appropriate as part of a comprehensive system. The key is that not every tool should be used in the same way. Just as a hammer, a screwdriver and a set of pliers each has their particular function so should the components of a comprehensive evaluation system. My belief is that student and parent survey input can be one of the valuable tools if used properly. In particular student and parent survey results should be used as informative not determinative tools. By this I mean that the results should be used for teacher reflection on improvement of practice as well as for guiding the selection of professional development and supervisory guidance but not directly for determination of employment action. At the end of the day direct supervisors (i.e principals and other administrators) must use the supervisor observation and performance assessment tools to make recommendations to the superintendent and ultimately the school board for employment action. If this strategy of using the right tool for the right purpose is followed then many of the issues around including student and parent input as well as peer and self assessment and student learning outcomes can be easily resolved. On the other hand so long as there is an insistence in using all tools as interchangeable equivalents the issues will remain irresolvable.

  9. Hearing comments and online feedback suggesting students should also have a voice in measuring teacher and school effectiveness. What do you think about student surveys as ONE of multiple measures? Is there another way to capture student input?

  10. Since I last wrote the Center for Educationl Learning today came out with the news (?) that about half the public schools in our land have not met their goals under the mandate of No
    Child Left Behind, thus verifing once again what we have known all along namely that the plan is a huge failure.

    On this same web site one can find profiles of Maine”s public schools. It is not unusual to find high schools with less than twenty percent of the teaching staff lack a master’s degree, elememtary and middle schools are even less. This is a far greater problem than continually distracting and deluding ourselves with “extreme” testing and accountability issues. Adequate pay and good incentives are woefully inadequate in our state.

    Peter J. Lucas

    • Mr. Lucas, sometimes we must fail to succeed. Success can be achieved by evaluating what we have been doing, why we are failing to achieve and then investigating how we may be able to do something differently to achieve our desired end result.

      We must change our behavior, our assumptions and our teaching methods to meet the needs of students. Perhaps we should take a look at measurable student outcomes, increased student involvement and student centered focus—what do our students need—what will be the jobs of the future and how can we model our schools to effectively prepare our students for success.

      The collaborative model must not simply increase pay and incentives. We must ask teachers to examine their teaching processes and self evaluate the relevance for their students. We must ask them to collaborate with our newer teachers coming with more modern skill sets yet less classroom experience. We must ask students to evaluate what motivates them and teach them the skills they do not know they need to learn.

      Parents should be involved in the process. We, the parents, see how things work and how they could work better and could make wonderful partners in education. We know our children and we know what we want for our children and what they want for themselves.

      • Karen Johnson

        So right, Laurie. I’m curious to know how many parents are involved in this project, and are they parents that represent a cross-section of Maine families?? A school is a community and involves all of its stakeholders as partners in the supremely important job of educating our children. Parents are the child’s first teachers, and we teachers can learn so much from you, as you can learn from our observations. We have made schools distinctly parent-unfriendly by posing as know-it-all educators. This has to go. Even the least-schooled parent knows more than we know about their child and, unless they trust us and see themselves as partners, they will not share that valuable knowledge, nor will they support public education if they feel it does not serve their children.

  11. Katherine JH Warren

    Yes, you should incorporate areas beyond Math & Reading. I think there is no better indicator of the death of the Social Studies, Civics & History curricula in the nations schools than the current state of our public discourse. Of course Science & Vocational/Technical Studies should be in the equation – they are at the core of almost all future economic growth. If you are taking the time to teach it then the results of that teaching is critical to true accountability.

    Also can we please re frame vocational education ? These areas are APPLIED Science, Math, English, Arts & Language. The reading levels of technical manuals in the “Trades” today need to be BEYOND HS and often even college level literacy. We have to stop talking about these skills as a less rigorous learning experiences, all of our students should be exposed to hands -on, experiential, applied subjects as part of a complete educational experience.

    Maine wants and needs well educated, well rounded citizens. Curriculum must include the broad areas of learning, well integrated with each other so that they can all be covered. An educated citizenry is at the foundation of everything we aspire to in a secure future for Maine. This knowledge is the foundation for all future cultural, political and economic success. Our ESEA waiver needs to represent the structure that will help us build and achieve this strong, diverse foundation – let’s go back to the true roots of what public education was meant to achieve for our children, our citizens, and our state.

  12. What makes an effective school? The research is pretty clear, but somehow it remains a mystery both to the public and within the profession. Student performance MUST be the foundation of all evaluation – for kids, teachers and administrators. The common element of proficiency in looking at schools is ‘teamwork’. Does the school have structures for teacher planning that support best practices? There are some recognizable components in quality schools: 1) teacher planning time is part of the core schedule and teams meet to plan curriculum, discuss common assessments and outcomes and adapt instruction, 2) principals inform this teamwork and protect the planning time as a core value of the school, 3) the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model suggested by Richard and Rebecca DuFour, gives schools a working blueprint for teamwork with kids at the center, 4) the engine of school improvement is ‘Response to Intervention’, this approach asking teacher teams to share specific instructional strategies that work with under performing students – in a supportive, non judgmental context. It tears down the invisible wall between regular and special education and creates a model of ‘every education’ in its place. When schools utilize their special staff and resources in a broad-based manner, all children receive the structured support they need, regardless of grade level or diagnosis. No child IS allowed to fail when teachers utilize their best skills and where asking for help is viewed as a good thing.

    Leadership studies are clear – great schools have strong leaders at the building level freed from burdensome paperwork, leaders who see teachers as the center of all meaningful change. These are principals and curriculum specialists who provide classroom teachers with what they truly need in terms of time, materials and courageous support. Great schools develop ‘lab classroom teachers’ and coaches setting the stage for beginning practitioners to observe, chat and learn to take risks with a seasoned professional as a guide.

    All schools and all children should be held to the same measures, but common sense dictates that many factors influence student outcomes. An intelligent conversation needs to take place within a school district regarding testing and other measures adopted by the system. The assumption must be, however, that teachers are the key to getting kids to meet targets and when they don’t, an animated, constructive engagement of teachers will lead to better outcomes-regardless of students’ race, socioeconomic status or background. Great schools welcome all kids, particularly those who need teachers the most. Great teachers rise to the challenge and, with good tools, never give up on a child. With a focus on success and school-based structures that develop and support effective teaching, no child would be left behind.

    • Nicely stated and right on target.

    • Katherine JH Warren

      Excellently well stated Mr. Abbey ! I will add that those great schools are supported by another non-instructional team that applies the same teamwork principles to running the school operations, facilities, transportation, HR, finance, food service. As professionals committed to education the best school operations are, imho, committed to whats best for kids in our areas and getting the business of operations out of the way so that principals & teachers can focus on whats important for kids instructionally. In this way too we put the money where it is best spent whether it is in effective budget development as a finance “service” to schools or food service. Teamwork again is paramount.

      We have these systems in place in many Maine schools. We know much of how this looks and there is room yet for improvement statewide in group purchasing & planning & greater coordination of resources. As President of the Maine Association of School Business Officials I know many districts where these best practices are in place. We know how to do this. We can figure out how to do it better. As in the instructional side of the house – we need to have a frank discussion of resources and focus more on how to best coordinate state and local financing to deliver equitable educational resources of all kinds to students and taxpayers across Maine.

      • Re: Katherine Warren’s comment – I couldn’t agree more. Exceptional schools cannot exist without the deep commitment and partnership with all agencies of schooling, including business offices and support services and staff. Such a common commitment and being part of the ‘same team’ allows school systems to become exceptional from an organizational standpoint. Everything must be done from superintendent level to classroom level to support children’s progress. The budget must be responsive to teacher and administrative requests, business practices should be simple, making it easy for schools to order and procure, buses must run on time and with the support of building principals, food service quality is part of a good education. Achieving a consistent district architecture and focus is complex, but not impossible. When everyone shares the mission and puts children first at every turn, the success is all inclusive. It takes an ‘uncommon dedication’ to common core values, the generation of the spark that kindles real student learning.

        Thanks for your observations!

  13. It is shocking that none of the survey questions dealt directly with parent involvement/engagement. How can we as a State request flexibility without considering carefully the role of parents in education and how the State will partner with parents without the fairly strict requirements for failing schools per NCLB. Parents will simply not have the same kind of role with respect to troubled schools without NCLB and that must be addressed. The survey does not address this adequately.

  14. Experience tell us that some things are not measurable, yet, we must measure outcomes and performance. We must also allow for parent and student voices to be heard. Their personal stake in public education must be considered or they have an option to leave. (Although financially difficult or impossible in this economy for most )

    Business leaders, the future employers of these children must be consulted, encouraged and engaged with public education for its success to flourish. They must see the benefits of technology, improved health and wellness of our future working force and they must understand how they can support the mission of the schools. It must be mutually beneficial, not for the administrators and teachers but for the students, parents and future employers.

    If my employer tells me to work harder, it is my responsibility to comply. But for those great employees that are putting out bright, engaged students and providing them with exceptional opportunities to learn and deepen their engagement…they should be rewarded, incentivized and recognized.

    Technology must be used to improve collaboration and communication with teachers, parents, students and the community at large. There are wonderful things going on that no one knows about and it is time to market the accomplishments.

    Assessments must be multifaceted and must take many things into account, simply data collection must not be overweighted , yet can reveal much about the challenges that face a school or district…There must be a significant local component and some greater flexibility for the community to be involved with the School Board as it works to improve the conditions at the school and highlight the accomplishments.

  15. Why not measure student progress? A student may be below grade level and remain below grade level based solely on his/her ability; therefore he/she will score poorly on state assessments, but if that student can make adequate progress within a given school year – is that not a logical goal?

    • Yes, Rachel. Student progress can and should be measured. However that can be done without mandating the specifics of an evaluation system. It is currently being done in many schools without the added regulation of uniform evaluations at the state level. The schools are figuring it out and dedicating themselves to effective data based decision making. There are benefits to public debate about schools, but the current climate around the school effectiveness debate seems to accentuate the negative (“Fire the ineffective teachers!”) rather than celebrating successes as well. I appreciate Commissioner Bowen”s dedication to telling the stories of success. However, any teacher will tell you that it is very difficult to navigate the politics surrounding education, stay positive, and not feel the public doesn’t appreciate the professionalism they bring to their classrooms every day.

      There is a silver lining to the chaos in Washington and the inability to collaborate to renew NCLB legislation. It appears that some wisdom has prevailed and there is recognition that the issues surrounding this legislation are monumental. The offer of waivers appears to be a reasonable course of action. I still am cautious about the dangling carrot, ie requiring student achievement be a part of uniform performance evaluations for teachers and administrators in exchange for a waiver. Perhaps a discussion related to possible unintended consequences related to these evaluations and how these consequences might be addressed would move the debate along. My hope would be that we do this in a thoughtful deliberative manner that minimizes the chance that in several years we are where we are today – trying to undo problems at the same time we are trying to move forward in transforming education today to meet the needs of all students.

      Perhaps some questions could be added to the public debate : “What are the federal, state, and local roles in student achievement and teacher/administrative evaluations today? How can these roles be complimentary to one another? Do we have enough resources at this time to undertake this? How many resources will this effort take away from resources that could be directed toward the classroom? Can we do this thougtfully in the 3 months before the application for waivers is due? All this implies a collaborative approach, not a punitive approach. So many questions……so little time.

  16. It seems to me that there are contradictory notions regarding regulations and who should be bound by regulations. Businesses want fewer regulations so that they can accomplish what they need to accomplish to create jobs. Why doesn’t this apply to education, who some say should be run like businesses? Administrators and educators cope daily with pages and pages of both federal and state mandates, ie. regulations. The truth is schools are not businesses, nor can they be run effectively on a military model. Neither businesses nor the military accept every applicant or recruit that comes through their doors, however public schools accept every child. And from what I observe teachers greet every child in a welcoming way day after day, year after year. I agree that schools in Maine should be highly effective in delivering education. I agree that teachers should be highly trained professionals. I agree that administrators should be highly trained professionals. Therefore, they should be regarded as professionals. Professionals are afforded the opportunity to make decisions in consult with others. As Mr. Burrows so eloquently stated, there are many variables to student achievement and not all of them are under the direct control of the classroom teacher, not under administrative control. Not mentioned is how a local community chooses to fund its schools. There are wide funding variations across the state and the EPS model is as flawed as the NCLB. Very difficult choices are made every year by school boards about what to fund and what not to fund in order to balance the need for excellence in education for students and affordable tax rates for citizens. The diversity among communities across our state and also within each community also impacts each child’s readiness to learn as they enter the classroom each day. Some children bring baggage they need help sorting through and others bring a rich supportive background provided by highly motivated parents. Yes, there is a parental component to school effectiveness. And yes, for older students, there is a motivational factor to school effectiveness. Recognizing, balancing and addressing these various variables to student achievement is a monumental task and best left to the professionals within each school. And let’s remember what exists today may not exist tomorrow. These variables constantly shift. Funding isn’t the same each year, for better or not. Families’s situations change, for better or not. Children’s environmental situations change, for better or not.

    Therefore, I do not support the state nor federal government mandating evaluation systems for administrators and teachers. Nor do I support using student achievement as any part of an individual administrator’s or teacher’s performance evaluation. Evaluations should be left to the appropriate professionals at the local level. As far as the NCLB waivers are concerned, I support them. NCLB has serious flaws that are undermining the state of education today. However, I am concerned the way the chance for being granted a waiver is being dangled in front of the public is inappropriate. It feels like schools are being blackmailed. It feels like educators will not win whatever the outcome. It feels like the current process is collecting many opinions from the public, who may or may not truly understand what is happening in schools today, to prove the public supports something. There are disadvantages to survey research! I don’t believe the state of Maine should risk getting mired in another flawed experiment (adopting state wide evaluation systems) by being willing to “give up” another flawed experiment (AYP of NCLB).

    Brenda Clough
    Brunswick School Board member

  17. ■Should Maine develop a uniform teacher and administrator evaluation and require that all school districts use it? Yes, and we do not need to re-invent the wheel here. If the teachers that I had at both Mount View and Presque Isle High Schools were required to follow the same guidelines that I had to follow as an Instructor in the Marine Corps on Avionics and Mechanics, my education would have been a thousand times better.

    ■How could Maine incorporate subject areas besides math and reading into its accountability system? Bring back vocational training to both the High Schools and Secondary Schools. I was quite shocked that one of Maine’s greatest treasures of a working skill labor force, has been strangled by changing of the mission statements of our Vocational schools during the transfer of name to Communtiy College. It is interesting that our bridges are being maintained and built by out of state companies and employees. This is not my opinion, it is a fact that all could see just on the news this past year with an injured worker being reported, from out of state working, on a bridge in southern Maine by an out of state company. Math, Science and the working skill labor is the future of not just Maine, America but the World. I can watch a two year old make art, LOL.

    Teachers should be paid and paid well. Teachers should be paid on ability and performance. Teachers should be held accountable and if necessary, fired if they are no longer performing. Tenure does not breed performance, it breeds negligence.

    I could go on but I think I’m going to try to take time and make the trip to Portand for the public hearing to voice further opinions. I think many would agree that this is not only a Maine issue but a National one that needs attention.

    Arel Spaulding
    USMC (Ret.)

    A great teacher can teach without teaching aids, a poor teacher cannot. Throwing money at the problem can be the solution if we pay for the great teachers and let the poor teachers find another job.

    • Teacher evaluations: It would be great if schools could follow a military or industrial model of supervision. I don’t know the military model in any detail but I do know in most business environments the number of “direct reports” is between 9 and 12. In a typical school you have 30 plus. Add to that a lack of appropriate training for administrators and you have a system that can not work fairly or effectively.

    • I can watch a two year old make art, LOL.? Yes, I agree that “love oversees learning”, and your understanding that the arts are so foundational to innovative engineering skills is refreshing given your disappointment with the narrow focus of your military training! Thank you.

  18. I’m so glad that we are pursuing a waiver! Here’s a link to a very interesting presentation given by Dr. Zhao at the recent Maine Principals Association conference … Note the slides (several slides, about halfway in) that describe the NEGATIVE correlations between: high standardized test scores and a nation’s: GDP, number of patents, overall wealth and creativity …!

    We should use this waiver application as an opportunity to carefully consider what we mean by “success” and to completely revolutionize the way we measure student achievement:

    http://zhaolearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Maine.pdf

  19. Well said, Mr Burrow! Once we stop testing for testing sake and start measuring what has been learned and understood, the better off all of our students will be. What students know and what they do not know is the important criteria. What skills and concepts have they learned? Learning is a lifelong endeavor not only from ages four thru eighteen . A combination of “Mass Customized Learning” coupled with “Khan Academy” would be a great start towards change in education. Schools could then become exciting, stimulating, meaningful, motivating and a beginning of lifelong learning.

  20. Kids growing up in Maine not knowing how to connect their brains to their hands will lead us down the road to a population without meaningful lifestyle. Schools have to think about what has been taken away from our kids. Hands on learning is so important. Independent thinking skills and self-reliance were things once taught in Maine’s schools and have been diminished too much in the name of accountability, whatever that means.

  21. No person in any business should be held accountable for outcomes that are not under the primary control of the person being evaluated. Student outcomes are impacted by a broad and diverse range of factors. I have never seen a study which does a rigorous multi-variate analysis of the factors which have a causal relationship to student achievement. Absent a sound research foundation a teacher evaluation system that was based on student achievement would be very unfair and likely would generate a number of unintended consequences. A fairer system might be based on a teacher’s compliance with district expectations for the delivery of very specific products (including but not limited to achievement scores) associated with the district’s mission and vision.

    Evaluating a district’s performance by analyzing multiple data points generated by student performance has potential if the focus is on student growth over time and not a single test at a single point in time. While other factors (home support) may not be under the control of the district, many of the factors that do impact achievement can be controlled by the district. NWEA and NAEP are two potential sources of data that could be used to judge a district. Some weight could also be given to graduation rates and the proportion of students continuing their education beyond high school. Judging the schools based on 5 year outcomes would be very inappropriate because the school would have influence but no control over intervening events. Five year data could inform policy decisions but it would do little to fairly evaluate an individual district’s effectiveness.

    If Maine schools are to be held accountable for producing verifiable results, then districts must have the resources to do the job. Money is not the answer to every problem, but the lack of money can be a major detriment to progress. The state must also have adequate resources if it is to support local districts in their efforts. The state must also have the resources to collect and analyze the data that will be an integral part of any accountability system. At this point in time local and state resources are lacking. DOE’s relationship to local districts is, at best, muddled. The current educational system in Maine is riddled with problems that must be addressed with strong leadership and adequate resources. We have a long way to go.

    • Very well stated, Mr. Burrow. As a teacher, I am concerned that even the authors of many of the tests that are currently being used state that these tests were not designed to be used to be the sole method of assessment, nor are they reliable enough to be used to determine the fate of a professional.

      It is not uncommon to be in a gathering of teachers across the state and have the majority of them say that they have not had a formal observation/evaluation by the principal or superintendent in years. Strong leadership IS the key. We all have our roles and responsibilities. I have also heard administrators blame the Union for this, but the Union doesn’t want to protect ineffective teachers any more than you or anyone else. The Union needs for administrators to have a fair, honest method for evaluating teachers that will stand up to legal scrutiny. This means leadership not being stuck in their offices doing mounds of paperwork to jump through hoops of red tape created at the state level.

      On another note, our school continues to meet AYP in all academic areas, but does not meet AYP in attendance due to factors beyond our control – in a small school population, the flu, pertusis, or any other communicable disease knocks out our attendence percents very quickly. The administration has been able to get most of these reversed, but it is after we are in the paper for not meeting AYP, and there is no mechanism in place to publish schools who later were reversed.

  22. Comments on ESEA flexibility:

    The DOE should develop a uniform teacher and administrator evaluation and require that all districts use it. Otherwise, it will be like the Local Assessment System fiasco.

    It would be hard to measure success on 5 years past high school for us, as we are a K-8 district of 5 schools. Kids leave our schools when they are 13, yet, you’d be assessing us on when they would be 23.

    Mark Hurvitt
    Superintendent
    Union 93

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