HOLDEN, Maine — School districts across the state, including SAD 63, are scrambling to come up with plans to comply with a law requiring that teachers and principals be evaluated using new standards-based or proficiency-based education rules for students, Superintendent David Anderson said Wednesday.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said while sitting in a classroom at Holden Elementary School with the district’s curriculum coordinator Susan Smith beside him.
The law, which was proposed by Gov. Paul LePage and enacted with unanimous support of the Legislature in 2012, requires school districts to develop and implement systems for evaluating educators based on professional practice, student achievement and other measures.
SAD 63 has created a 14-member steering committee to develop a plan. The group has met twice already and has monthly meetings planned for the next several months, the superintendent said.
“Seven of the people around that table are teachers and are here to give input,” Anderson said.
The district has hired substitute teachers to cover for the teachers during the meetings, because, Anderson said, “I couldn’t ask them (teachers) to volunteer after working an 8-hour day.”
Teacher input is crucial in creating a plan that meets the state’s requirements but still aligns with local goals, said Smith, who has been in education for 23 years and has worked as a curriculum coordinator for the last nine.
“We want it to be compliant but be tailored,” she said.
“It’s important to tie (the proposed rules) back to the core values,” Anderson said, listing respect, responsibility, honesty, kindness and other district wide values.
The Department of Education wants 25 percent of a teacher’s overall evaluation rating to be based on student achievement. Teachers and administrators from around the state testified in front of the Maine Department of Education on Monday about reducing the percentage. Anderson and Smith said SAD 63 and other districts will have to wait and see what the final number is and will adjust the local rules accordingly.
Performance evaluations for certain classes — math, literature and science — will be easy to complete but other subjects, such as physical education, speech pathology, special education and art, will be harder to gauge under the standards-based rules, Smith said.
“Finding ways to do that is why this is so important,” she said.
While schools statewide work on their teacher and principal evaluation rules, high schools across the state are also working on standards-based rules that will affect students graduating from high school in 2018.
Brewer High School principal David Wall told his school board earlier this month that he and other team members are working on plans that replace the traditional report card with standards-based learning results that show whether a student has demonstrated proficiency in the various Maine Learning Results content areas.
“The class of 2018 is this year’s seventh graders,” Wall said.
Internships, seminars, exhibitions and dual enrollment in college courses are some possible pathways to show proficiency, the principal said.
Teachers in SAD 63, which comprises Holden, Eddington and Clifton, already have volunteered to pilot the teacher evaluation program the steering committee is working on beginning in January 2014. The DOE wants the educator evaluation process in place statewide for the 2015-16 school year.
“We’ll have about a six month head start,” Smith said. “That will allow us to get feedback.”
And to work out any glitches, Anderson said.
“We’re only just beginning,” Smith said.