Liveblogging the LD1799 Stakeholder Meeting

Liveblogging the LD1799 Stakeholder Meeting

April 27, 2010 Posted by Steve Bowen - No Comments

Check out my live blog from today’s stakeholder meeting in Augusta. Things got tense at times, and it’s clear that frustration has set in with many of the parties involved with this effort but at the end of the day things looked a little more hopeful for the committee.

***Start from the bottom

4:00 pm. In closing where are we? “Struggling,” says Faherty. Struggling with scope, time, ill-defined federal law, few models with which to work, no real definition of what constitutes “consensus,” and philosophical issues about how much of a teacher’s evaluation comes from student achievement.

This panel has a pile of work to do, and about a day-and-a-half to get its work done.

A good start today, I think. It is hard to see, given the short time frame, how else it might have been done, though they seem to have ended the day with more questions than they had when they began.

3:55 pm. An excellent discussion going on about balancing the need to develop a number of good models with the more immediate “attorney general problem,” as MEA’s Mark Gray called it. The AG Problem is that a model needs to be approved by May 14. The panel seems interested in looking carefully at these models, but they have very little time…

3:41 pm. Faherty is trying to refocus the panel on the narrow task of approving a single model in order to satisfy the AG, so that she can sign off on the RTT application. What she wants is ONE model – just ONE, in order to get AG Mills’ signature on a piece of paper. That’s it. In order to keep this thing from blowing up, she is insisting that the panel can continue looking at additional models for a year if it wants to, but it needs ONE model by May 14. The department clearly wants TAP and are bringing in some folks from TAP to make their case, but the panel is still pushing back on the size of the task and the short time frame. The Maine Principal’s Association is suggesting that someone try to convince AG Mills that the fact that the panel is meeting ought to be enough to get her to sign off.

3:35 pm. Remember how I said the Department had done a good job of focusing the panel? I was wrong. The panel, under the informal leadership of SAD 3’s Carrie Thurston, is pushing back hard against what they see as an attempt by the Department to push them, quickly, in a certain direction. The panel is now backing up to where it began, wanting to know what exactly it is that the Department is trying to get them to do.

3:27pm. Interestingly, the Danielson framework is being given “short shrift” by Conley because, as I pointed out in an earlier post, Danielson does not use student performance data. The Department seems to be pushing the TAP model, which has raised a few hackles in here. The Department has brought the panel two models, someone observed, but only one would qualify the state for RTT. Opposition, again, is mounting.

3:20 pm. Where is TAP in place? Is it focused on urban schools or would it work in a more rural state? According to TAP, the program is in place in 13 states, including rural states such as Arkansas and South Carolina. The Department has folks from TAP coming next week to answer additional questions.

3:05 pm. Conley’s TAP presentation has hit on what will be a key issue here, which is what percent of a teacher’s evaluation will come from student achievement data. This is a huge issue for the MEA, which has already argued that teachers will not be able to negotiate that percent on the local level under collective bargaining. Under TAP’s model, “individual classroom achievement growth” would make up 30% of a teacher’s total evaluation, school-wide achievement would be 20%, and more traditional teacher observations would make up the remaining 50%. These specific percentages are not set in stone, Conley is quick to point out, but it will be interesting to see what the MEA’s response is to this model.

2:50 pm. Having finished his little pep talk, the governor is out the door and the Department’s Dan Conley is doing a presentation on the TAP model. Interesting that the Department is leading with this model and not Danielson, which, as I noted in an earlier post, does not use student achievement data.  TAP is a great model, it will be interesting to see how it is received by the panel.

2:47 pm. MEA’s Galgay has taken the governor up on his offer to take questions and is pressing him on Faherty’s assertion that “approval” will be a majority rule decision by the group. Baldacci says he wants consensus and doesn’t want lines in the sand, but he did not overrule Faherty and insist that the panel come to a unanimous recommendation.

2:40 pm. Governor Baldacci has joined the group, and insists that “this must be done” because “it is the future,” but also insists that “teachers must be at the table.”  That may be tougher than it sounds given the discussion thus far.

2:35 pm. Back underway and the issue of what constitutes “approval” by the panel, an issue first brought up by MSMA”s Sandy MacArthur, is being addressed by the deputy commissioner. To her way of thinking, majority rules. This means, of course, that the MEA has no veto authority here and could potentially vote against whatever model is “approved.”

There is no discussion in response.

2:20 pm. Over an hour in now and the Department’s folks are now starting every sentence with the fact that they are using NEA’s own research to move the group forward. That should give you some indication of how things are going.

A five-minute break and it couldn’t come at a better time…

2:15 pm. About an hour in at this point, and the MEA’s Chris Galgay has laid out the key issue from the union’s perspective, which is that teacher evaluation is not a collectively bargained issue on the local level. The MEA pushed to have this panel created and to give it veto power over performance-based evaluation systems specifically because this is the case. What he wants is to have a model approved here to not only be the ONLY model that can be used statewide, but wants it to be very tightly constructed so that there is NO flexibility on the local level, where teachers have no bargaining power. MSMA disagrees, and wants precisely the kind of flexibility on the local level that MEA opposes.

The battle lines are being drawn…

2:05 pm. Resistance is mounting. Lot of questions coming now about what exactly the panel is to do, why it is being rushed, how the model or models approved here are actually to be used, and whether this is all about a federal money grab or not. Faherty is working to keep this thing from going off the rails…

1:55 pm. Less than an hour in, and the Department’s representatives have mentioned at least a half-dozen times that they are working off the NEA’s research on evaluation models. In fact, the only piece of research on teacher evaluation that the Department put forward to stakeholder group members was a report from the NEA. This is a smart move on the Department’s part. It helps focus the group (the Department has identified two models from the NEA report that it intends to explore), and it defuses, at least somewhat, what is likely to be some resistance from the MEA.

1:45 pm. So what is this stakeholder group to do? Simply put, it must approve at least ONE evaluation system for teachers and principals that uses student achievement data.  The panel can approve more than one model, of course, but is under the gun to get at least one approved before May 14.  Deputy Commissioner Faherty is doing an admirable job keeping the group focused on this one task.

1:35 pm. The Department’s Wanda Monthey is leading off by describing why it is that this stakeholder group has been assembled and why it has such a short time frame in which to complete its work. (Governor Baldacci has given the group until May 14 to agree on at least one performance-based evaluation model.) In essence, the time crunch comes from the state’s need to be in compliance with federal law in order to compete for the Race to the Top program, the application for which is due June 1. If this panel fails to get that done, Maine will be ineligible for the Race to the Top competition and may face barriers to accessing other federal education funds as well.

1:10 pm. The controversial stakeholder group tasked with approving teacher and administrator evaluation systems which use student achievement data has convened in Augusta and has been brought to order by Deputy Commissioner Angela Faherty.

Our friends at MDIschools.net have put together the list of stakeholder group members, and introductions are being done as we speak.

There does not seem to be an agenda for the meeting, but we do know that Gov. Baldacci will be visiting to say a few words later today.