Maine DOE speaks in support of educator effectiveness rules

Maine DOE Director of Policy and Programs Deborah Friedman spoke to the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee today in favor of the Department’s provisionally-adopted Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems rule. The rule establishes standards and procedures for implementation of performance evaluation and professional growth systems (known as PE/PG systems) for teachers and principals that each school administrative unit is required to have developed and fully-implemented by the 2015-16 school year. The purpose of a PE/PG system is to improve educator effectiveness by establishing clear expectations for professional practice and student learning/growth and providing actionable feedback and support to help educators meet them.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Rier urged the Legislature to act quickly on the rule and adopt what the Department has thoughtfully put forth in the bipartisan spirit in which the educator effectiveness law was initially enacted. Doing so will not only give districts the direction they deserve, but more importantly, is perhaps the single most important action we can take in Augusta this legislative session to put Maine’s students first.

Friedman delivered the following testimony:

Senator Millett, Representative MacDonald, and Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs:

My name is Deborah Friedman, Director of Policy and Programs for the Department of Education, and I am here today representing the Department speaking in support of L.D. 1747, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180:  Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education.

Rule Chapter 180 fleshes out an important law that was passed 2 years ago, An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership. That law laid out the basic framework for comprehensive systems of evaluation and support for teachers and principals, which are to be locally developed, piloted and implemented.

You may recall that the Department brought this rule before you last year, but the Resolve authorizing us to finally adopt the rule (LD 1542) failed to gain the 2/3rds vote necessary for emergency passage, so we were required to begin another rulemaking process.  I have attached the testimony from last year, which contains some background information that you may be interested in reviewing. I have also attached a summary of the law and the entire rule.   Rather than going through all of that with you at this time, I would like to highlight a few of the items that have been of most concern to the Legislature and to commenters over the past couple of years.

The rule before you today covers the same subjects as the 2013 rule, but is different in many ways. Changes to the rule were inspired by a review of the committee and floor amendments from last year, by the comments and discussions made during the legislative process, and by the addition to the Department of Mary Paine, our Educator Effectiveness Coordinator, who has brought important expertise and perspective to the work.

 Key elements of the rule, and changes made since you last reviewed the rule, include: 

  • Sections 5 and 6 of the rule provide benchmarks by which the professional practice of teachers and principals will be measured (InTASC standards for teachers and ISLLC standards for principals).  The language of the rule has been changed to clarify that a “set of professional practice standards” must include standards, descriptors and a set of rubrics.
  • Section 7, Student Learning and Growth Measures, contains provisions that have raised the greatest amount of concern and led to the greatest number of public comments.  This section has been changed considerably in response to those concerns. It contains the criteria for determining what measures of student learning growth are acceptable for use in performance evaluation and professional growth (PE/PG) systems; what portion of an educator’s summative effectiveness rating must be based on student learning and growth; and which student’s growth is attributed to a particular teacher, the “teacher of record” issue. 
    • With regard to the criteria for determining which types of student growth measures may be used, this version of the rule requires that multiple measures of student growth be used, and that large-scale norm-referenced standardized tests may not be the sole type of measure used. 
    • The portion of an educator’s final effectiveness rating that is based on student growth is regulated by state law, which states that “measurements of student learning and growth must be a significant factor.” Other than this requirement, the law says that “the proportionate weight of the standards and the measures is a local decision.”  The rule therefore defines when a student growth measure is considered “significant.” If a school uses the percentage method (as opposed to a matrix), the prior rule started with a minimum of 20% and increased to 25%. This version of the rule does not include the increase to 25%.
    • The rule filed with you last year proposed to create a working group to define teacher of record.  This committee was unanimous in its rejection of that proposal – instead calling for a definition that ensures that a student’s academic achievement is not attributed to a teacher unless the student was in class and taught by that teacher for at least 80% of the scheduled instructional time.  This rule adopts that 80% requirement, and includes additional process requirements such as notifying teachers of which students are likely to have their growth included in the teacher’s rating.  The only exception to the 80% requirement would be for the use of “collective measures,” which would have to be agreed to by each teacher.  Collective measures would be allowed in order to encourage and honor achievements that result from team-teaching or from school-wide learning initiatives. Again, they could only be used if the teacher agreed.
    • Section 11 of the rule relates to implementation requirements. This rule version fleshes out the standards for training of evaluators, and requires that the educator be told the name and contact information for the person responsible for overseeing the evaluation and support process for that educator.   The rule also adds a provision to ensure that all educators receive a full evaluation at least every 3 years;  the rule allows for less-than-annual evaluations depending on a person’s effectiveness rating.  The US Department of Education when they looked at an earlier version of the rule asked us to ensure that evaluations are done no less frequently than every 3 years, even for highly-effective educators.  Regardless of how often formal evaluations are performed, observations of professional practice and formative feedback must occur every year and throughout the year for all educators.

Those are the key elements of the rule, and in particular the elements of the rule that have been changed from previous versions.  I would be happy to go into greater detail on any aspect of the rule either now or at work session. 

The Department believes that the rule before you sets forth appropriate guidelines for the development and implementation of performance evaluation and professional growth systems, is within the scope of authority of the Department, and is consistent with the basic framework for those systems as set out in Title 20-A, chapter 508. 

For these reasons, the Department of Education is testifying in support of LD 1747, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180:  Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education. I’m happy to try to answer any questions you may have, and I will be here for the work session.   

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