March 15, 2012

Teachers raise evaluation concerns about LePage bill

While favoring evaluations, some oppose a bill that would base assessment on student achievement.

By Susan McMillan
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — At a legislative hearing Wednesday, teachers spoke in favor of performance evaluations but against a bill to require school districts to adopt new evaluation systems.

LD 1858 would allow school districts to dismiss poorly rated teachers if they don't improve after two years.

It would limit appeals of those dismissals in a way that teachers said would strip them of due process protections.

Proponents of the bill, including people who testified on behalf of Maine superintendents and school boards, said the restriction on appeals and grievances is necessary to enable school districts to get rid of ineffective teachers.

The bill submitted by Gov. Paul LePage's administration would require school districts to implement comprehensive performance evaluation systems for teachers and principals by 2015-16.

The Maine Department of Education would develop standards around which districts would craft their systems.

Educators would be rated on multiple measures of effectiveness, including "student learning and growth" data.

School districts would have to give educators the opportunity and support to address shortcomings.

Two consecutive years of "ineffective" ratings would be grounds for nonrenewal of a teaching contract.

Some teachers raised concerns about including students' achievement data in educators' ratings. The bill does not specify what data should be used. Some states use standardized test scores.

Sally Plourde, a veteran second-grade teacher in the Westbrook School Department, said standardized tests are designed to assess a student's knowledge, not a teacher's effectiveness.

She said she has many students whose circumstances outside the classroom make learning difficult, including two homeless students, five English language-learners and a boy who has exhibited suicidal behavior.


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