A, by circumstances beyond my control, very short legislative history of teacher evaluations in Maine:
Until the Spring of 2010, Maine teachers could not legally be evaluated using student assessments. The previous law read: “The student assessment program is separate from local practices and procedures regarding supervision and evaluation of a teacher for retention by a school administrative unit.” [20-A MRSA 6204(3), now repealed].
When the federal Race to the Top was adopted, there was significant debate over various state-level educational policies that stood in the way of Maine getting any of the RttT money. One of those was Maine’s prohibition against linking teacher evaluations with student test data. LD 1799 was introduced in order to eliminate that prohibition. You can read some of now-Commissioner of Education Steve Bowen’s thoughts about then-LD 1799 here.
Despite their professed opposition to the bill …
LD 1799 proposed the removal of a 25 year old firewall between teacher evaluations and student testing. MEA opposed it, saying that it was sound public policy and that the legislature would be breaking a promise made to teachers with the introduction of the Maine Educational Assessments.
… the Maine Education Association proposed a solution that allowed the prohibition to be eliminated: create a stakeholder group to “review” teacher evaluation models that had been “established” by the Maine Department of Education. Since the MEA was part of that stakeholder group, I expect they thought they could control the process sufficiently to keep student test data out of the evaluation models. Given that the two MEA representatives were outnumbered by the eight members of the group who belonged to various administrators’ professional associations, though, I wondered how that could work. Since MEA proposed that group composition, they were in no position to gripe.
Anyway, in the current legislative session – no surprise – the inevitable happened: the terms of the old LD 1799 were changed by the language of the new LD 391 (soon to be part of 20-A MRSA 13802). Most of the old (relatively-speaking) language was kept, but a few major changes were made:
- the word “develop” became “propose”;
- the Department of Education is no longer able to “adopt” but could only “put forth” an evaluation model;
- the July 2011 deadline for that the evaluation model being written was eliminated; and, last but certainly not least,
- this language was included: “Nothing in this section prevents a school administrative unit from developing and adopting its own models for teacher and principal evaluation.”
So, in the space of one year – at the initiation of the union that supposedly protects teachers against arbitrary employer actions – the 26-year old Maine law that prohibited student test data from being used in teacher evaluations was eliminated and the ability of school boards/committees across the state to implement whatever teacher evaluation processes they want is soon to be in place (90 days after the end of the legislative session, so around the beginning of the 2011-12 school year).
As far as I know, MEA has yet to say a word about this conundrum. So, here’s my two-cents worth.
Dear MEA local affiliate Presidents and Negotiators, these are the two terms you need to know, understand and employ:
- Meet and Consult
- Impact Bargain
If you don’t know what those mean or how to make them work, NOW is the time to learn. You can check my previous blog posts for the Meet and Consult legal requirements. I’ll be discussing “impact bargaining” in the weeks to come. You should also check with your region’s UniServ Director for any recommendations MEA may develop about this difficult and touchy subject.