Racing Backwards…

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Where to begin?

By a 22 to 12 vote, a bipartisan majority of the Maine Senate tonight voted to prohibit the use of ANY teacher evaluation system which uses student performance data as a metric UNLESS it has been approved for that purpose by an unelected five-member panel made up of representatives from the various status-quo defending special interests that have put Maine’s public education system in the sorry shape it is in.

In so doing, they have struck a blow against local control, the likes of which we have not seen since the school district consolidation bill. It is worse, in fact. At least district consolidation gave the districts some choices about how and with whom they would merge. The amendment passed tonight not only gives the local districts no additional options for teacher evaluations, it takes away from them the right to use the evaluation systems they may already be using, if such evaluations use student assessment data of any kind.

The arrogance and presumption of these people is unimaginable. No, you poor folks out there in the school districts are far to ignorant and incompetent to develop your own teacher evaluation systems, so we in the legislature, because we are so much smarter than you and because we care more about schools and teachers than you do, are going to let some nameless panel made up of lobbyists for the establishment special interests make those decisions for you.

It is unimaginable.

Oh, and by the way, this unnamed panel, which has nobody on it representing parents, students,  taxpayers, employers, community members or anyone that is not employed by and/or involved in the public education system, will approve whatever assessment models they will approve, then they will go away. This all-knowing, all-seeing panel will cease to exist. If you, as a school district, come up with another kind of student achievement-based assessment system in a year or two that you’d prefer but which was not approved by the five gods on Mt. Olympus, you not only can’t use it, even if the board and the local union association agree on it 100 percent, you will have to go BACK TO THE LEGISLATURE and get SPECIAL LEGISLATION passed in order to use the evaluation system you came up with on your own. It will literally – LITERALLY – take an act of the legislature to let you use a teacher evaluation system that you developed locally and for which there is 100 percent local support from both management and labor.

Even now, I find it almost impossible – almost impossible – to believe that a majority of the Maine Senate did what they did. I am almost speechless. Every teacher, school administrator, superintendent, and school board member in this state should be insulted and outraged by what the Senate did tonight, and so should the rest of us, who are to be given no representation and no voice on a panel that will determine how every teacher and school administrator in the state, all of whom work for us, is to be evaluated using student performance data.

Race to the Top?? HA! Not in Maine. We’re not even crawling to the top here – we are going backwards.