AUGUSTA – The move toward evaluation systems for teachers in all Maine schools takes a big step forward this month. The Maine Department of Education will hold a hearing later this month on rules setting the standards for such evaluation systems. Meanwhile, the stakeholder group tasked by the Legislature with developing standards just submitted its report.
“Of the education laws passed last session, this is one of the two most significant,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. “We are extremely grateful for the work of the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council. They met many many times, put in a lot of hard work, and have helped us move this forward.”
The legislation was proposed by Gov. Paul LePage and enacted last year with unanimous Education Committee support and more than two-thirds support in both the House and 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.
“Every student deserves an excellent teacher,” LePage said. “And every teacher and principal deserves clear expectations, and a fair evaluation process that rewards effectiveness and supports teachers in constantly improving. In private business, we call that professional development. Teachers deserve that as much as workers in private industry. And their students and their parents deserve to have teachers who are constantly improving.”
The Council was charged with developing the standards and agreed to work on a consensus basis. Meanwhile, the Department is charged with proposing standards by early January, based on the work of the Council.
“The Council has agreed on key pieces of the standards and we have incorporated those into the proposed rules,” Bowen said. “And they are continuing their work.” To submit the rules in time, the Department has fleshed out some areas the Council has not yet concluded working on.
The rules strike a balance, establishing statewide underlying standards that ensure student achievement is a part of any system, and protecting teachers from arbitrary measurements while giving control over details of the system to local districts, working in collaboration with their teachers.
A number of schools and districts in Maine are already well on their way in this work. A Teacher Incentive Fund grant is supporting 22 schools in five districts in developing local evaluation systems and paying for a pilot performance pay structure. Seventeen more schools in six districts recently signed on to do similar work. The local union chapters had to agree to the projects for the work to go forward.
The Department will hold a public hearing on its proposed rule to implement the evaluation system, Chapter 180, on Dec. 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 103 of the Cross State Office Building, across from the State House in Augusta. The Department will also accept written comment through Jan. 7. Once the final rule proposal is drafted by the Department, it will go to the Legislature’s Education Committee, which will also hold a public hearing and accept written comments before making a final decision. The text of the proposed rule and information about the hearing can be found on the Department’s rule changes web page: http://www.maine.gov/doe/rule/changes/index.html.