MSMA: AG says stakeholder group must act on evaluations

Maine School Management Association

May 4, 2010

AG says stakeholder group must act on evaluations

State Attorney General Janet Mills said Monday the state’s Race to the Top application will be in jeopardy if the stakeholder group charged with approving a teacher evaluation model that includes student achievement data doesn’t come to agreement by May 14.

Attorney General Mills appeared before the group at its second of three meetings Monday and explained the law passed by the Legislature last month puts a barrier in statute because it requires the stakeholder group to approve any evaluation system that uses student achievement data before it can be used by school districts.

That requirement was added on the Senate floor at the behest of the Maine Education Association.

“Unless something positive comes out of this stakeholder group, this statute could well be construed as a barrier,” Attorney General Mills said. She therefore could not sign off on the application verifying there is no barrier to using student achievement data – a signoff that is required by the federal U.S. Department of Education.

Gov. John Baldacci said as much in his weekend radio address on Saturday.

“Maine can’t apply until we have at least one evaluation model that is available to all our schools. The deadline is May 14,” he said. “With the stakes so high, I am hopeful that all parties can set aside old fights, and develop ways to assure our students have the best teachers in the country.”

Maine hopes to be awarded up to $75 million in a federal Race to the Top grant and the application is due June 1, which is driving the May 14 deadline for the stakeholder group.

That impending deadline concerned members of the stakeholder 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.

Their issues centered on having the time to review a model or models that are affordable, doable and offer local districts a choice. Questions also were raised about what student assessments would be used as part of the evaluation process and how to evaluate teachers whose course work is not part of a standardized test review.

“We’re sitting here trying to make a huge decision with very little information,” said Jill Adams, executive director of MADSEC.

Maureen King, president-elect of MSBA, said she worried about the state’s ability to pay for a good evaluation system.

“I want to include student achievement data in our evaluations, but I’m very concerned about the budget cuts,” the state and districts are facing, she said. “I’m very concerned whether we as a state have the capacity to jump in and do this.”

The state’s teachers union, which lobbied for the amendment that requires stakeholder approval before school districts can use evaluations tied to student achievement, argued the Attorney General was misinterpreting the law.

“I blame the Attorney General for putting us in this very difficult position. The governor is culpable as well,” said Mark Gray, executive director of the MEA, who said the process was being rushed.

Acting Education Commissioner Angela Faherty agreed the time was short.

“I couldn’t agree more with Mark that May 14 is ridiculous,” Acting Commissioner Faherty said.

That said the group pledged to keep working, with one three hour-meeting left on May 12 to try and come to an agreement.

On Monday the group reviewed the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) evaluation system used in more than 200 schools across the country. It was generally deemed too complicated, expensive and overly focused on teacher pay for performance.

Next week the group will review additional models in existence today including the Framework for Teaching (FFT) model developed by Charlotte Danielson and used in some form by more than a dozen districts in Maine already. That model does not include student achievement data, but the group members will attempt to approve language that adds it to the mix.

The Department of Education has been asked to send out other models that will be reviewed by members prior to next week’s meeting.

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