Wednesday April 07, 2010 | 03:41 PM

The Maine Attorney General's office is weighing in on the saga surrounding L.D. 1799, the bill meant to strike down Maine's legal barrier that prevents student achievement data from being used to evaluate teachers.

The legal opinion?

If lawmakers pass the bill as it was amended in the Senate, it still wouldn't do the trick for Maine as state education officials try to apply for up to $75 million in the national Race to the Top education among the states for billions in education reform dollars. Maine, of course, has to get rid of that barrier before it can even send in its application for the competitive grants.

The amendment would empanel a five-member task force that, by July 1, 2011, would approve a slate of evaluation models from which districts choosing to use student achievement data in teacher evaluations would have to pick.

In a letter to lawmakers, Chief Deputy Attorney General Linda Pistner says that move wouldn't constitute striking down that barrier between student achievement data and staff evaluations.

As amended, Pistner writes, the legislation still constitutes "a potential legal barrier to linking student achievement data to teacher/principal assessment; moreover, it leaves open the possibility that the stakeholder group will not approve any such model."

The amendment in question was a last-minute measure introduced Monday by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and favored by the state teachers' union, the Maine Education Association. Groups representing school boards and superintendents are still lobbying against it, saying it infringes on a local school district's policymaking powers.

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