Time is running out for a stakeholders group charged with accepting a model system that would allow student performance to be linked to teacher evaluation.

The panel has one more meeting on Wednesday to agree on at least one model before the May 14 deadline for application to the Race to the Top federal grant program. If they can’t, Maine will lose out on a potential $75 million boost for its schools.

Groups at the table represent administrators, school boards and the state Department of Education as well as the teachers’ union. But if the process fails to produce at least one model, it will be the Maine Education Association that will rightly bear the blame.

That’s because, through its allies in the Legislature, the union insisted on requiring the stakeholders process that essentially gives the organization veto power over the implementation of the state law. Before Maine Attorney General Janet Mills can sign off on the state’s application for Race to the Top funds, all legal barriers to linking student performance and teacher evaluation have to be removed.

As a result of a last minute legislative deal, school districts can only choose models approved by the stakeholder group, and if the group cannot adopt at least one model in time, Mills said she would not approve the application.

Since the MEA insisted on this process, it is most at fault if it fails. If the stakeholders process had not been created, Mills could have determined that there was no legal barrier to using performance data in evaluations even if there were no model available to school districts. The stakeholders would have had more time to research the alternatives used in other states and come up with a range of choices while filing the grant application.

But now they have to quickly agree on at least one model before Mills will sign off. The list doesn’t have to be exhaustive and the committee can and should continue working after the May 14 deadline.

But it should come to consensus on at least one evaluation system that all sides can live with and let Maine schools move forward in this process.

When the teacher evaluation law passed, we said that the stakeholders groups’ progress would be a test of how sincere the MEA is about participating in school reform efforts. On Wednesday we may get our answer.


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