Education Evolving: Maine's Plan for Putting Learners First

Core Priority Area 2: Great Teachers and Leaders

  1. Common standards for teacher and leader effectiveness
  2. Initial preparation and ongoing professional development programs that are rigorous, relevant, and data-driven
  3. Next-generation evaluation systems for teachers and leaders
  4. Communities of practice designed to foster continuous improvement

Systemic changes to standards, curricula, instructional practices and assessment will achieve little if efforts are not made to ensure that every learner has access to highly effective teachers and school leaders.

Research from around the globe makes clear that educator effectiveness has a profound effect on achievement. Indeed, the findings suggest that no other school-based factor is more important to learner outcomes than the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. In a recent report, the Washington-based Center for American Progress found that “effective teachers are critical to raising achievement and closing longstanding gaps among student subgroups. Indeed, the research on this point has become absolutely clear: Students who have three or four strong teachers in a row will soar academically, regardless of their racial or economic background, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers will fall further and further behind.” The impact of effective school leaders is just as profound.

As a consequence of these findings, teacher and leader effectiveness have become a central focus of federal education policy in recent years. At the center of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative was a significant emphasis on policy related to teacher and leader effectiveness. States wishing to take advantage of the flexibility the administration is now offering around some key aspects of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be required to develop detailed guidelines related to teacher and leader evaluation and require that local districts adopt evaluation systems consistent with state guidelines.

Improving teacher and leader effectiveness will require the development of a comprehensive system of training and support that begins with rigorous preparation programs and follows teachers and leaders throughout their careers.

Within this core priority area are four subcategories related to different aspects of teacher and leader effectiveness:

  • Common standards for teacher and leader effectiveness
  • Initial preparation and professional development programs that are rigorous, relevant, and data driven
  • Next-generation evaluation systems for teachers and leaders
  • Communities of practice designed to foster continuous improvement

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1. Common standards for teacher and leader effectiveness

Advancing the cause of teacher and leader effectiveness means first defining what effective teaching and school leadership looks like. Through our Learning Results, Maine set standards for what its students should know and be able to do. It has not, however, established in law what its teachers and school leaders should know and be able to do.

Fortunately, educators across the nation have done a significant amount of work in this area, and several Maine school districts are piloting efforts to define performance expectations for their educators. In 2011, the Council of Chief State School Officers released an updated version of the core teaching standards adopted by the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC). This effort comes on the heels of the release, in 2008, of an updated version of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards for school leaders (ISLLC). Other national organizations, such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, have developed and released standards of their own.

Maine should take advantage of these efforts and join the community of states that have adopted clear standards for teacher and school leader effectiveness. Next, efforts should be undertaken to use these standards as the basis for aligning the state’s policies regarding approval of teacher preparation programs, teacher and leader certification and recertification, the employment of educational personnel and their evaluation, mentoring, and ongoing professional development. This work should be done in close collaboration with stakeholder groups, especially those representing teachers and school leaders.

Goal: Educator preparation, training and evaluation are informed by a common understanding of effective teaching and leadership.

Objective: Adopt state standards for teacher and leader effectiveness and align state statute and rules accordingly.

Action Steps:

Initial Action Steps

Progress on Action Steps

Response/Next Steps

2.1.a Standards
Develop state standards for educator effectiveness for adoption by the Maine Legislature.

Based on the recommendation of the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council (MEEC), the Department proposed a rule to endorse professional practice standards that set the benchmark for teacher and principal effectiveness (InTASC and ISLLC). The rule, as a whole, was not approved by the Legislature, although there didn’t appear to be opposition to the use of those professional practice standards

The Department has begun another rulemaking process, proposing the same standards for professional practice. The Department will work to attain authority to finally adopt those rules.

2.1.b Rules
Establish plan to update related rule chapters in order to ensure that effectiveness standards are fully implemented in rule and policy.  Goal to have all rules and policy updated within five years.

The full scope of “educator effectiveness” policies includes policy relating to educator preparation, certification, mentoring and professional development.  As these issues arise, the Department considers the potential impact of InTASC and ISLLC on those policies.

Once the rule is finalized, setting the benchmarks of effectiveness for teachers and principals, the Department will review related rules and policies and develop plans to update them to reflect those benchmarks.

2.1.c Promote, share effectiveness standards
Develop a plan to publicize effectiveness standards and feature examples of effective teaching and school leadership in online Communities of Practice.

While the proposed effectiveness standards are not finalized, the Department is planning to make those standards, and others aligned with the standards, available for SAU review on the Educator Effectiveness pages of the DOE website

Once the effectiveness standards are finalized, the Department will be more proactive in publicizing those standards and providing examples of effective practice.  They will likely be provided on a dedicated Educator Effectiveness website.

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2. Initial preparation and ongoing professional development programs that are rigorous, relevant, and data-driven

Today, the availability and effectiveness of both initial preparation and professional development programs for teachers and leaders vary dramatically. The goal should be to have high-quality initial preparation programs that are research-driven and classroom-based, as well as ongoing professional development opportunities for in-service educators that are rigorous, relevant, and directed, as much as possible, by real-time data on the needs of both learners and educators. The state’s recent struggles with learner outcomes in reading, for example, might be addressed by strengthening pre-service and in-service educator training in evidence-based reading instruction and implementing the other recommendations of Maine’s forthcoming comprehensive state literacy plan.

Such training opportunities should take place, as often as is practical, in the schools where educators do their work. Effective preparation and ongoing training for Maine’s early childhood educators are especially critical needs.

Providing leadership training and development has been a challenge as well. While preparation programs for school leaders tend to focus on administration and management, a more pressing need in an era of real change is training and support related to leadership in executing transformations. Moving from a century-old model of schooling to a proficiency-based, learner-centered model of education will require fundamental change, and such change will require training in change leadership.

Making high-quality training and support for teachers and leaders more readily available will almost certainly require building some regional capacity to deliver it. The state should pursue the creation of regional teacher development centers as a means of maximizing training and professional development resources, while still connecting such opportunities to the specific instructional needs of local teachers and school leaders.

Goal: Maine educators are consistently supported through high-quality training and professional development.

Objective: Expand access to high-quality initial and ongoing training and professional development for teachers and school leaders, with a specific emphasis on transformation leadership and on effectively and efficiently meeting the training and support needs of all educators.

Action Steps:

Initial Action Steps

Progress on Action Steps

Response/Next Steps

2.2.a Teacher preparation programs
Amend the Chapter 114 rules governing state approval of teacher preparation programs, with the goal of improving the rigor and relevance of such programs.

The Chapter 114 rule was adopted and effective May 23, 2012.

The Department will work with teacher preparation programs to help them understand and meet the new standards set forth in the rule.

2.2.b State literacy plan
Complete Maine’s comprehensive state literacy plan and implement its recommendations.

The Literacy for ME plan was launched in the fall of 2012. Community-based literacy teams have been established and work is progressing.

The work of Literacy for ME and the state literacy team continues. Efforts to integrate this work into other Department initiatives will be ongoing.

2.2.c Regional professional development
Develop and provide support for regional teacher development centers to coordinate and conduct regional professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders.

The Department intended to provide financial support for development of regional centers and programs through the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES).  Funding was attained, but swept to close a budget gap.  The most recent enacted budget did not contain FEDES funding.

Despite the lack of FEDES funding, the DOE will continue to highlight regional efforts and will support, to the extent possible, development of new efforts.  The Department is also working to deliver services using a regional approach.

2.2.d Leadership academy
Develop an annual state-level “leadership academy” for school and district leaders, with a specific focus on change leadership.

The DOE did not conduct a separate leadership academy in 2012, but did pilot an approach combining the Commissioner’s Conference with the Maine Principal’s Association’s (MPA) summer conference in 2013.

The DOE will develop a strategy for enhanced support of school and district leaders, and continue work with MPA on the leadership academy concept. Support and training possibilities will be provided for principals of Title I schools identified as “priority” or “focus” under the ESEA accountability standards.  The DOE will continue to explore ways to expand this work to include all principals.

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3. Next-generation evaluation systems for teachers and leaders

In its landmark 2009 study of educator evaluation systems, The Widget Effect, The New Teacher Project concluded that current educator evaluation systems “fail to differentiate performance among teachers,” with the result that “a teacher’s effectiveness - the most important factor for schools in improving student achievement - is not measured, recorded, or used to inform decision-making in any meaningful way.” The same could be said for the evaluation of school and district leaders.

Effective teaching and school leadership require meaningful evaluation of teachers and school leaders. This in turn requires high-quality evaluation systems, administered by trained evaluators, that are fair and that provide clear and constructive feedback, which is then used to improve professional practice. Consistent with the principles outlined in the U.S. Department of Education’s ESEA waiver framework, the State should adopt a common set of guidelines that inform the development, at the district level, of teacher and leader evaluation systems.

The state should also work with districts to develop regional teacher development centers that not only support the training of the evaluators themselves, but make use of evaluation data to design and implement targeted professional development.

Goal: Highly effective educator evaluation systems are in place in every Maine school district.

Objective: Adopt statewide guidelines for locally developed teacher and leader evaluation systems, and support the development of a network of trained evaluators based in regional teacher development centers.

Action Steps:

Initial Action Steps

Progress on Action Steps

Response/Next Steps

2.3.a Statewide guidelines
In consultation with stakeholders, adopt statewide guidelines for teacher and leader evaluation systems, consistent with ESEA flexibility guidance from the US DOE.

Statutory language setting forth the framework for performance evaluation and professional growth systems (PE/PG) was enacted. Rules to flesh out the details of the required PE/PG systems, in accordance with the Maine law, were not approved by the Legislature.

The Department has restarted the rulemaking process, and will submit revised provisionally adopted rules to the Legislature for approval. The Department will work to attain authority to finally adopt rules fleshing out the requirements for PE/PG systems.

2.3.b Evaluation models
Develop teacher and principal evaluation models consistent with adopted state guidelines and post to the DOE website.

State guidelines (rules) are not yet finalized.  However, the Department is working to identify models – and components of models – that are in use in Maine districts and that are consistent with the proposed rules. 

Once the rules are finalized, the Department will identify and post models – and components of models – that comply with the requirements of the law and rule. 

2.3.c Regional professional development
Develop and provide support for regional teacher development centers to coordinate and conduct training of teacher and leader evaluators, and to design and implement training and professional development activities.

The Department intended to provide financial support for development of regional centers and programs through the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES).  Funding was attained, but swept to close a budget gap.  The most recent enacted budget did not contain FEDES funding.

Despite the lack of FEDES funding, the DOE will continue to highlight regional efforts and will support, to the extent possible, development of new efforts.  The Department is also working to deliver services using a regional approach.

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4. Communities of practice designed to foster continuous improvement

As Harvard’s Tony Wagner argues in his book The Global Achievement Gap, teaching has been and continues to be a largely solitary practice providing few opportunities for collaboration and sharing of best practices. With the advent of the Internet, the sharing of new ideas and new approaches to teaching can be far more readily facilitated. Instructional materials, research on best practices, and even videos of effective instructional methods can be shared instantly across the state and around the world. Today, though, no single statewide library of such materials exists. At the same time, large volumes of materials are available, but the absence of “curation,” context and discussion make it extremely challenging to professionals seeking the right resource.

The Department is already at work developing an online “Communities of Practice” collaboration platform that will allow the state’s educators to post instructional resources of various kinds, indexed to the state’s Learning Results, and available anytime, day or night. The online collaboration platform will allow visitors to browse the work of various practice groups, participate in conversations about the materials and educational practice challenges, and join practice groups where they can more actively participate in ongoing development of education solutions. The platform could facilitate the development of a resource directory of best practices and become home to a collection of webinars and videos on effective instructional practices, while also connecting educators to like sites and resources centers in other states and around the globe. While in development at the moment, an early version of the site should be developed and deployed soon. Growing the platform to allow an unlimited number of self-formed and managed practice groups is the goal of this effort.

Additionally, the state should pursue development of “best practice schools” that can be centers both for research on best practices and for the sharing of effective instructional practices with visiting educators.

Goal: Maine’s educators participate easily and often in statewide sharing of instructional best practices and professional development opportunities.

Objective: Develop a state-level, online resource center devoted to the sharing of effective educational practices and professional development resources. Form a network of regional “best practice” schools that develop, implement and promote effective practices.

Action Steps:

Initial Action Steps

Progress on Action Steps

Response/Next Steps

2.4.a Resource directory
Use the online Communities of Practice to facilitate the development of a resource directory for instructional resources and professional development materials.

Launched a pilot for eight initial practice teams. Currently developing additional capabilities related to sharing digital learning resources, consistent with recommendations of digital learning task force.

The site needs to be expanded beyond the pilot and connected to school improvement efforts. The DOE will review in partnership with educators the OCP for effectiveness and to determine next steps. Staff will work with educators across the state to develop digital resources.

2.4.b “Best Practice School”
Develop a “Best Practice School” designation for schools undertaking research and development on effective instructional practices.

The DOE did launch the Center for Best Practice, but has not developed a process by which schools could secure some type of designation.

The DOE will revisit this concept to determine whether such an effort would achieve the goal of supporting innovative practices, or whether a different approach might work better.

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