MSMA: Evaluation group worries about timeline, lack of detail

Maine School Management Association

April 28, 2010

Evaluation group worries about timeline, lack of detail

A stakeholder group charged with approving a statewide teacher evaluation model that includes student achievement data as one measure of performance met Tuesday and voiced concerns about their ability to do such important work in the less than three weeks they’ve been given.

The group, which includes two representatives each from the Maine School Boards Association, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine Education Association, Maine Principals Association and Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities were given Tuesday’s meeting and two others – one on May 3 and a final one on May 12 – to approve a model.

The short timeline is being driven by the state’s deadline to get an application in for a federal Race to the Top grant, which requires proof there is no legal barrier in the state to prevent the use of student data in teacher and principal evaluations.

A major concern is whether the model being recommended by the Department of Education – the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) used in more than 200 schools across the country – is doable, affordable and fair. The teachers union also opposed the notion that local school boards get to decide what weight to give student performance in the overall formula used to rate teachers.

Soon to be Acting Commissioner Angela Faherty, who is taking over when Commissioner Susan Gendron officially resigns April 30, said decisions have to be made locally in order to make the evaluation system work. She said school boards and unions will have to work together at the district level.

“This has to be very locally driven,” Faherty said, because districts are so different.

MSBA President-elect Maureen King agreed.

“This has to be a collaborative process,” King said. “We all need to put our differences behind us.”

Gov. John Baldacci made an appearance at the meeting and told the group it had no choice but to act.

“We have to get this done and we have to get it done by the middle of May,” Gov. Baldacci said. “The reality is these evaluations are going to occur. It is the future.”

MSSA Executive Director Sandra MacArthur said it will be important the group sees the details of how the evaluation will be done to make sure it is doable. She also asked what would determine consensus on the group.

MEA President Chris Galgay opposed majority rule because he said teachers were outnumbered on the stakeholder group.

How consensus is achieved is important because if a model isn’t approved that could technically mean the state still has a barrier in law to using student achievement data and therefore would be ineligible to apply for Race to the Top.

That was not an issue until the MEA successfully pushed an amendment on the Senate floor to L.D. 1799, “An Act to Encourage the Use of Models in the Collection and Use of Student Achievement Data,” that says local school districts can only use evaluation models containing student achievement data if the model has been approved by the stakeholder group. The original bill supported by a majority of the Education Committee simply said the group had to review the model.

The stakeholder group includes: MSBA President-elect Maureen King and MSBA Vice President Susan Campbell; Superintendent Robert Hasson and MSSA Executive Director Sandra MacArthur; Special Education Director Carrie Thurston and MADSEC Executive Director Jill Adams; MEA President Chris Galgay and MEA Executive Director Mark Gray; MPA President Linda Bleile and MPA President-elect Gus Leblanc; and DOE Acting Commissioner Angela Faherty.

Contact: Dale Douglass, executive director
Victoria Wallack, communications director
Telephone: 207-622-3473 or 1-800-660-8484