May 22, 2013

Maine educators object to evaluation emphasis

They say too much weight is placed on student assessments in the proposed process.

By SUSAN McMILLAN Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA – Teachers and school administrators took issue Tuesday with the weight given to student assessments in proposed regulations for teachers' and principals' evaluations.

click image to enlarge

Carrabec High School math teacher Marc Collard discusses a proposal to evaluate teachers Tuesday May 21, 2013 during a Legislative hearing at the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

EVALUATE: Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, left, and Rep. Matthew G. Pouliot, R-Augusta, listen to proponents of legislation to evaluate teachers Tuesday May 21, 2013 during a hearing before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Most of the people who testified before a legislative panel said the minimum of 25 percent that the Department of Education says students' growth measures must count in evaluations is too high.

Several teachers and Maine Education Association representatives said those measures should count no more than 10 percent, while the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association recommended a floor of 15 percent, with the ceiling to be determined locally.

Much remains to be determined in the state framework for educators' evaluations and the systems that school districts must develop to implement in 2015-16.

The rules do not specify which students' growth measures and which subjects a teacher would be evaluated on, leading the MEA to express concerns that teachers could be held accountable for students' assessments in areas where they have little influence.

The department's proposal says a working group would be set up to resolve those issues, and the department must determine protocols for training evaluators.

Once all regulations are in place, school districts must decide how to measure students' growth, which can include but may not be limited to standardized test scores. They may have to develop their own assessments for untested subjects such as art, foreign languages and physical education.

The evaluation results may be used to help teachers improve, to distribute performance incentives or to determine which teachers to let go in a layoff.

With all the work ahead of the state and school districts, some who testified before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Tuesday said they would like the timeline to be extended, which would require the Legislature to amend the educator effectiveness law passed last year.

Others said the Legislature should not delay adopting the regulations.

While several teachers said 25 percent is too much weight to give to students' growth measure, Messalonskee High School teacher Mary Paine said she would support 100 percent if there were a valid way to measure students' learning because it's the only thing that counts, for teachers.

"There are too many gaps, but the biggest one for me is that there are no decent measures of student growth out there," Paine said.

Other teachers questioned the capacity of commonly available assessments to measure skills that matter, or to reflect teachers' quality rather than students' work.

Doug Hodum, a science teacher at Mount Blue High School in Farmington, said the thing he most likes to hear from students is that he made them think.

"I share this with you ... to shine a light on another component of education that goes on in classrooms every day in this state, where teachers find a way to foster lifelong learners and foster in students the ability to think and reason for themselves, not to take standardized tests," he said. "I would like you to keep in mind all the intangible things that go into teaching and how hard they are to measure."

The Education Committee's work session on the regulations is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@mainetoday.com

 

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