Bowen hails “most significant” education legislation this year

AUGUSTA – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen called Thursday’s enactment of Gov. Paul LePage’s teacher effectiveness bill a major advancement for the improvement of education in Maine.

“This is the most significant education bill of this legislative session,” Bowen said. “The research is clear that the effectiveness of teachers and education leaders is the most important school-based factor in influencing student achievement and success. This legislation will set standards for educator effectiveness, improve teacher and principal evaluation systems, and give educators the tools they need to be as effective as they can be. The ultimate winners are our students.”

LD 1858, An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership, was enacted with more than a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate on Thursday. The legislation requires schools to adopt teacher and principal evaluation systems and makes other significant changes to Maine law with regard to educator training and certification. Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign the bill next week.

The Legislature has supported efforts to promote improved standards for students and now follows suit with clearer standards for teachers. The Maine Department of Education will work with stakeholder groups of educators, parents and community members to develop guidelines and standards for evaluation systems, but the systems themselves will be developed or adopted at the local level.

The law establishes a new set of statewide standards for teacher and principal evaluation systems. For example, evaluation systems must be based on clear standards; use multiple measures of effectiveness, including student achievement and growth as a significant factor; use a four-level rating scale; be conducted regularly; and must provide specific, timely and relevant feedback to teachers and principals that is used to direct and support professional growth.

The legislation is one of four bills that are part of Gov. LePage’s education legislative agenda. A bill that would enhance access to career and technical education opportunities for students and another that would improve school choice options for families and students are both pending in the Legislature. A fourth that would allow funding for religious schools failed to pass the Legislature.

Information about all four bills, including links to the bill language and the commissioner’s testimony, can be found online.

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