May 20, 2018
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Let local districts develop teacher evaluations. Override LePage veto

By Doug Hodum, Special to the BDN

In 2011, Gov. Paul LePage signed into law the “educator effectiveness” bill, which stipulated that school districts develop a teacher evaluation system. Since that time, many districts around the state have taken great strides in addressing the requirement for those systems.

LD 1747 allows districts to determine the best way for local communities to evaluate and improve educational experiences of students and the professional craft of teachers. On Thursday, the Maine Legislature will consider overriding LePage’s veto of LD 1747, the rules surrounding the teacher evaluation system.

For more than two years, the members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee have considered the rules to accompany the 2011 law. The committee has heard testimony from a variety of stakeholders, especially teachers like me. We have asked that the decisions be made at the local level. This empowers local stakeholders to become involved and also to participate in meaningful conversations about how to encourage and increase educator effectiveness.

The rules stipulated in LD 1747 are a compromised formula to provide school districts guidelines as they develop these programs. One of the key components of this legislation is that it requires all stakeholders to be involved in the process. For example, in my district ( Mt. Blue Regional School District), a committee was formed under the guidance of a district administrator and a teacher, who co-facilitate the meetings and collaborate in developing agendas and the execution of a plan. The committee itself is comprised of invested teachers, administrators and a parent, all of whom volunteer their time because they are interested in this topic. The conversations in those meetings are rich and meaningful, as we have discussed what the teacher evaluation system should look like for our educational community.

If a district’s committee is unable to decide what the local model should include, LD 1747 creates a clear timeline for a state model to become the default evaluation system for said district. Without this type of concrete timeline, the process could be drawn out indefinitely — creating a local quagmire for educator evaluations.

Involving teachers and administrators in tandem, as well as other interested groups, will also increase buy-in, which is critical for any type of new system-wide program to succeed. In most professions, practitioners have a voice in decisions that affect them. Education needs to begin to change to align with other such professions. LD 1747 is a potential first step in that direction.

The end goal of the educator effectiveness law should be to improve experiences of students in the classroom by honing the craft of educators. LD 1747 sets the table for that to happen. Experts in education are in the classrooms with students everyday. Why not allow local districts to tap their own expertise (in the form of teachers) and have them sitting at the table with other involved parties? When all the participants are invested and want to make progress, the entire educational system benefits.

When legislators review LD 1747 and decide whether or not to override LePage’s veto, I hope they will keep in mind the success stories such as the one being written in the Mt. Blue Regional School District, where local leaders are cooperating in the development of a system to support highly effective educators, ultimately boosting student learning.

Doug Hodum, a science teacher, is in his 15th year of teaching at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

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