The most significant piece of education legislation this year.” That’s how Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen described passage earlier this month of An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership.

The bill is part of Gov. Paul LePage’s larger education reform package to build an education system around students’ needs though expanded choice, effective teaching, and incentives for school districts to save money.

The effective teaching act would require school districts fully phase in by the 2015-16 school year teacher evaluation systems that are standards-based; use multiple effectiveness measures, with student achievement and growth as a significant factor; and rate teachers according to four effectiveness levels. Teachers rated ineffective for two consecutive years could be dismissed, and the evaluation outcomes could not be appealed.

The state’s teachers’ union, the Maine Education Association, opposed the effective teachers act, as well as other reforms, calling them “bad for students, educators and public education.”

“The research is clear that the effectiveness of teachers and education leaders is the most important school-based factor in influencing student achievement and success,” countered Education Commissioner Bowen. “This legislation will set standards for educator effectiveness, improve teacher and principal evaluation systems, and give educators the tools they need to be as effective as they can be. The ultimate winners are our students.”

As other states fight to improve teacher effectiveness, including Iowa and New Jersey, Maine will be a state to watch.