Maine teachers union resists evaluations based on student achievement

December 14, 2012

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By Ashleigh Costello
EAGnews.org

AUGUSTA, Maine – State officials have begun drafting a new teacher evaluation system, but some are questioning the weight student achievement should have in a teacher’s overall rating.

Earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature passed a law requiring school districts to develop systems for evaluating educators based on professional practice, student learning and other measures.  This is the first time the state has attempted to set common standards for all teachers.

The state Department of Education has announced it wants 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be linked to student achievement.  That’s more than double the 10 percent favored by some members of the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council, a state task force charged with developing the program, reports the Bangor Daily News.

Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said the state’s recommendation could be cause for concern.

“Using the student growth model could cause problems,” said Kilby-Chesley. “If multiple measures for evaluation are used then that would probably work. If only one measure is used to evaluate student growth and that measure turns out to be a standardized test, it probably won’t work. Occasionally, tests don’t match up to what’s happening day-to-day in the classroom.”

This argument is not new. Teachers unions have generally opposed to linking student achievement to teacher evaluations. But that leads to a simple question – what else matters if the kids don’t learn? Teachers can have the best intentions but if their students aren’t progressing, that’s a problem. Districts should be free to look at other criteria that measures growth, but student achievement must be the bottom line.

David Connerty-Marin said the new evaluation system is about identifying the best educators and offering support to others. He said 25 percent is the norm when linking student achievement growth to teacher effectiveness.

“This is not about weeding out bad teachers,” said David Connerty-Marin, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “Yes, there are a few teachers who should go and yes, there are mechanisms here to help that happen. But the goal is to help measure effective teaching and to help provide professional growth and support.”

LePage, a proponent of education reform, said every student should have access to an excellent teacher.  Moreover, he said every educator should know where they stand.

“…[E]very teacher and principal deserves clear expectations and a fair evaluation process that rewards effectiveness and supports teachers in constantly improving,” the governor stated in a press release. “In private business, we call that professional development. Teachers deserve that as much as workers in private industry.”

The DOE is required to propose standards for legislative approval by early January. A public hearing on the evaluation system is scheduled for Dec. 27. The DOE will accept written comments on its proposal through Jan. 7.

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