Monthly Archives: November 2013

Concerns re proposed teacher evaluation rules

Subject: Comments re proposed rule Chapter 180, “Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems.”
Date: November 24, 2013
To : Deborah Friedman, Director, Policy and Programs, Maine Department of Education and Mary Paine, Educator Effectiveness Coordinator
From: Brian Hubbell, board member, Bar Harbor School Committee, Mount Desert Island Regional School System

As a school board member and a participant in the MDI Regional School System’s collaborative committee developing an evaluation system to meet the requirements of Chapter 508, I am relaying the following concerns of our committee members. (Please note that I am writing here as a school board member and not as a legislator.)

1) Understand and agree that there are good reasons to limit the factor of student performance on current standardized tests as an overall measure of teacher effectiveness.  But hope that the rules may permit local districts greater latitude to include other broader measures of student growth by mutual agreement.  See this as particularly important as local discussions evolve on proficiency-based learning.

2) It is critically important to encourage teacher collaboration in teaching and to recognize that the concept of ‘teacher of record’ is conceptually at odds with this effort.  Because of this, districts ought to be allowed latitude under the rules to adopt substantial student-centered collective measures of student learning which can be applied to all those who may contribute a to student’s education and experience.

3) Statewide consistency has its merits but the rules should permit substantial local authority to determine effective evaluation systems.  Giving authority to local voices from both school boards and teachers’ associations would also relieve much unwarranted anxiety about the implementation of evaluation systems.

4) Think it’s unfortunate that the evaluation system is explicitly tied to decisions on compensation and dismissal because this unnecessarily drives much of the rest of the anxiety about the rules.  Have no doubt that the discussion around the rules would be much more open and less defensive were these links not statutory.  But acknowledge this is a consequence of the law not the rules.

5) Concern about requiring a percentage that needs to be factored in to a teacher’s “score”.

6) Concern that the rule as written will not permit alternate means of looking at student growth beyond standardized growth measures and Student Learning Objectives.

7) Concern about the validity and reliability of SLOs. Feel that student performance on common assessments will be a more powerful lever in a standards-based system.

8) Concern about how to hold specials teachers and others beside classroom teachers responsible.

9) Concern about insistence on “teacher of record” when it is clearly a team effort to support student success.

10) Concern about insistence on a four point scale — how about “at least” a four point scale.

11) Concern that the bill ‘commoditizes’ teacher effectiveness and requires decisions about teacher pay and hiring/firing to be based, in part, on ratings.

12) Concern that the bill undermines standards-based education

13) Concern that the bill and the Rule will take a lot of teacher and administrator time with little to show for it

14) Fundamental concern that LD 1858 or the Rule will not actually result in improved teaching and learning and that they have the potential to undermine serious efforts to improve teacher supervision and evaluation in ways that support individual and collective accountability and effective use of data.

15)  Even so, absolutely believe in improving teacher supervision and evaluation and believe in our collective accountability to ensure that students are growing at least a year’s worth of growth each year — more if a student is behind.

Nonresident student transfer bill request

To: Speaker Eves, President Alfond, Distinguished Members of the Legislative Council,
From: Representative Brian Hubbell, Bar Harbor
Date: November 4, 2013
Re: Appeal of Legislative Council decision on LR 2478: An Act To Correct an Inconsistency in the Process Controlling the Transfer of a Student between School Administrative Units

Policy Background

Last session, via LD 530, the Legislature amended the statute regarding school superintendents’ transfers of non-resident students. This change — which received a unanimous report from the Education Committee and was enacted under the hammer in the House and with unanimous roll call in the Senate — simply intended that superintendents document the reasons for their decisions regarding transfer requests in order to inform any subsequent process of appeals.

In our committee’s policy discussion, no one advocated altering the threshold for valid non-resident student transfers. Therefore the amended statute deliberately retains this permissive language: Two superintendents may approve the transfer of a student if the transfer is in the student’s best interest.

Inconsistent interpretation

However, following guidance from the Department of Education, apparently some are now reading the amended statute to require the approval of all transfer requests unless superintendents can explicitly prove that such a transfer is specifically not in the student’s best interest

This interpretation represents an inconsistency between the long-established permissive language in the statute which allows certain flexibility in non-resident transfers based on specific circumstance and this new, much more stringent interpretation — which essentially requires a non-resident transfer or else a problematic proof of a negative.

Consequence to taxpayers and community schools

Should this newer, inconsistent interpretation prevail, the result seems likely to weaken local support for community schools as resourceful parents increasingly request to transfer their students to schools funded by adjoining towns while tolerating inadequate local funding within their own tax jurisdictions. At the same time, receiving schools will face increasing burdens for the wholesale education of non-resident students at their own expense.

The longer term consequence is likely to be increased inequality of educational opportunity for Maine students rather than overall improvement. This issue is an immediate concern to most local school boards and their taxpayers.

Emergency request

So, in order for our policy committee properly to review and rectify this issue, I ask that the Council allow this bill request for the upcoming session.

Representative Brian Hubbell, House District 35:
Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Mount Desert