AUGUSTA — A bill described by the state’s education commissioner as the most significant piece of education legislation this year won final approval this week.
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said Friday that L.D. 1858, which will set statewide standards to evaluate teachers and principals, will make teachers more effective.
“The research is clear that the effectiveness of teachers and education leaders is the most important school-based factor in influencing student achievement and success,” he said in a prepared statement.
The bill is one of four education bills introduced by Gov. Paul LePage this year. Lawmakers rejected a bill that would have allowed public school money to be used for religious schools. Two other bills — one to improve school choice and another to help career and technical schools — are pending.
LePage is expected to sign the teacher evaluation bill next week, according to the Department of Education.
The bill directs the department to work with parents, educators and community members to develop guidelines for evaluation systems. The systems themselves will be adopted at the local level.
The bill requires systems to be based on clear standards, and use multiple measures of effectiveness, including students’ achievement and growth. The evaluations must be done regularly and provide feedback that is used for professional development, according to the Department of Education.
The Maine Education Association, the state’s teachers union, opposed a provision of the bill to limit the union’s ability to challenge poor ratings or evaluations.
Another key piece of education legislation, L.D. 1422, is awaiting another House vote after failing this week.
The bill would require all schools to change to a standards-based education system. That would mean students would have to demonstrate proficiency.
Schools would write their own rules, which could include promoting students based on achievement, not grade level or age, and changing grading systems from letters to numbers.
Instead of requiring tests, the new system would allow students to demonstrate knowledge in different ways, such as portfolios, performances, exhibitions and projects.
The new diploma standards would be required to be established by January 2017, except delays would be allowed if the state did not provide the promised funding.
The Senate added some funding for school districts to the bill, so it no longer requires two-thirds votes in the House and Senate. It’s expected to pass in the House as soon as Monday.
State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]