2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy
The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Massachusetts does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.
Under the state's newly adopted regulations, "multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement" must be one category of evidence in teacher evaluations. Massachusetts defines these measures as student progress on classroom assessments that are aligned with the state's Curriculum Frameworks; student progress on learning goals; statewide growth measures, including the MCAS Student Growth Percentile and the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment (MEPS); and district-determined measures of student learning across grade or subject. The evaluation rating must be based on multiple measures; MCAS growth scores cannot be the sole basis for the rating.
Classroom observations are required. Further, Massachusetts now also articulates the following multiple rating categories that are to be used for each performance standard: exemplary, proficient, needs improvement and unsatisfactory. To be rated proficient overall, teachers must at least be rated proficient on the "Curriculum, Planning and Assessment" and "Teaching All Students" standards.
Further, Massachusetts's winning bid for Race to the Top funds includes a significant focus on teacher evaluation. However, the state's proposal fails to articulate the extent to which student achievement will count in teacher evaluations.
603 CMR 35.00
Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Although Massachusetts's new evaluation system is a step in the right direction, it falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. The state should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom.
Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Massachusetts commendably requires classroom observations, the state should articulate guidelines that ensure that the observations focus on effectiveness of instruction. The primary component of a classroom observation should be the quality of instruction, as measured by student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective and efficient use of class time.
Massachusetts asserted that under its newly adopted evaluation regulations, a separate judgment must be made on the educator's impact on student learning, growth and achievement. "Impact on student performance is also prioritized in the standards of practice referenced above and in required goal setting, which must include, at a minimum, separate goals for the improvement of standards-based practice and student learning."
The state added that it sets forth the purposes of evaluation under statute and regulation as: (a) to promote student learning, growth, and achievement by providing educators with feedback for improvement, enhanced opportunities for professional growth, and clear structures of accountability, and (b) to provide a record of facts and assessments for personnel decisions.
Unfortunately, the state's guidelines do not describe how the separate judgment for student learning relates to the rest of the evaluation. It may well be Massachusetts's intent for student learning to be a significant component of teacher evaluation, but this is not clearly set out in the state's requirements.