I posted this at MainePolitics.net today in response to Brian Hubbell’s piece entitled Two Circumstances: Legislature’s Education Agenda. Brian is one of the clearest thinkers I know on the subject of education in Maine. He is passionate about protecting public education, but doesn’t hesitate to carefully consider alternate points of view even if they conflict with his own. Teacher evaluations are something I feel passionate about, so here’s what I said:
I disagree with Brian’s characterization of teacher evaluations as “mere”, at least as they apply to individual teachers across the state. Whether or not performance pay is ever implemented in Maine, the impact of a teacher evaluation model that includes student performance for even a short period of time could have long-term consequences for teachers who are early in their careers.
10 or 20 years down the road, when Paul LePage and the 125th Legislature are long gone, the evaluations done during this period will still be in teachers’ personnel files. Having been in the situation (as a union representative for teachers), I know full well that superintendents will go back into those files to try and find a pattern of poor teaching in order to dismiss, non-renew or otherwise force a teacher out.
By then, few will remember that the teacher-evaluation-based-on-student-performance was just a phase. And for those that do, the fact that the teachers’ own union was part of the group approving the evaluation model will be a strong argument in favor of using the individual evaluation against the teacher in question.
Since there isn’t much money available, as Brian correctly points out, so-called merit pay schemes are unlikely to find much traction in the Legislature. But a teacher evaluation process that includes student performance is well on its way to implementation. I can only trust that someone will speak persuasively on behalf of the thousands of Maine teachers who will be affected by the decision before it is a done deal.