Update on status of teacher/principal evaluation rules

Dear Superintendents:

The Department provisionally adopted Chapter 180, the rules for implementing required teacher and principal evaluation systems, seven weeks ago today. A number of you have been asking me and other Department staff when you can expect the new rules on teacher effectiveness evaluations to go into effect. This is to update you on where that stands and why we have not been able to help you move forward with that work.

The next step in the process is for the Legislature to take up the provisionally adopted rules, modify them as they see fit, and approve them to move forward. I have asked legislative leadership repeatedly to move forward on this because of the requests from you, superintendents, to finalize action on these rules so you can begin your work. To date, they have refused to act on these critical rules.

If I sound a bit frustrated, I am. It is widely accepted that improving educator effectiveness is perhaps the single most important action we can do for students. The educator effectiveness bill was unanimously approved by the Legislature a year ago—not one member of the Legislature voted against it. We worked with all the stakeholders, including the MEA, MSMA, and others, to craft a bill that moved the state forward on this critical issue. School districts are ready to get to work, but for us to provide you with needed guidance, we need the Legislature to act. I would ask that you join me in calling on legislative leadership to move forward with final adoption of the educator effectiveness rules so that you can continue your work with some predictability and so we can provide the guidance you have asked for.

Just by way of background, this legislation, LD 1858, was proposed by Gov. Paul R. LePage and enacted in April 2012 with unanimous Education Committee support and no dissent in the House or Senate. It requires school districts to develop and implement systems for evaluating teachers and principals based on professional practice, student achievement growth and other measures. Systems are created locally and collaboratively among teachers, principals, administrators and others, but they must meet standards that are to be developed by the state. The evaluation systems must make clear what’s expected of educators, offer them constructive advice on improving their practice, and support them in their continued professional growth. The rule incorporates recommendations of the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council, a stakeholder group established in the educator effectiveness legislation, regarding professional practice standards and criteria for the use of student learning and growth measures.

Maine DOE worked with stakeholder groups throughout 2012 and invited public participation in the rulemaking process in November 2012, including through a public hearing, originally scheduled for Dec. 27, but rescheduled due to a major snowstorm. In March 2013, the Department provisionally adopted the rules that would allow districts to begin this work. Because the adoption came after a statutory deadline (due to the snowstorm, which delayed the public hearing), the Department cannot put the new rules into effect until the full Legislature approves them. To date, legislative leadership has not sent the rules to committee for a public hearing, which would set the rules on course toward final adoption and implementation.

We want you to have as much time as possible to conduct this work – the first deadline is to have developed a system during the upcoming school year (2013-14), followed by piloting the system in 2014-15, and fully implementing in 2015-16.

I encourage you to contact and speak with your local legislators to explain the need for quick action so that you can work with your administrators and teachers to develop teacher evaluation systems that support professional development and improvement, and higher student achievement. For more information, please contact the Department or follow the links below.

Sincerely,

Stephen L. Bowen, Commissioner of Education

Resources and Information

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