Maine Moves Forward on Teacher Evaluation Reforms

Maine is another step closer to setting up a uniform system for teacher evaluation in public schools after the Legislature’s Education Committee unanimously approved an amended version of bill LD 1858. The bill is part of the comprehensive suite of education measures introduced by Eductaion Commissioner Stephen Bowen and Governor Paul LePage.

LD 1858 creates an “effectiveness rating” system for teachers and administrators that includes markers for students’ progress. Any teacher who receives two consecutive years of “ineffective” scores by an independent evaluator could have his or her teaching contract canceled.

The bill was amended to address concerns raised during its public hearing last week and now heads to the House and Senate for consideration. It requires districts to give development opportunities to teachers scoring low in the ratings and aims to make teaching qualifications more rigorous.

“Of all the education bills this session, this one has the potential to positively impact education more than any other,” Bowen said in a statement Wednesday. “The bill goes to the very heart of what we know has the greatest impact on learning: the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. The best curriculum and learning materials in the world are of no use to us unless we have effective educators in our schools.”

The Maine Education Association still opposes the bill although it has worked with the commission on the amendments. Democrat Senator Alfond is pleased that the amendments give due process to teachers threatened with termination under the new system but remains concerned about how the evaluation system will be financed, citing recent similar measures in Colorado that cost millions of dollars to implement.

At the moment the costs of the program are intended to be covered by the state’s budget for essential programs and service, but with no-one involved having investigated the financial cost yet that may not be feasible. The Appropriations Committee will have to agree to the bill before its final passage.

If passed, the new system will be phased in from the upcoming school year until the 2014-15 year.