Frequency of Evaluations : Massachusetts

2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Frequency of Evaluations : Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Frequency-of-Evaluations--8

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Regrettably, Massachusetts does not ensure that all teachers are evaluated annually.

Veteran teachers who receive a rating of "exemplary" or "proficient" coupled with a moderate or high impact on student learning must only be evaluated once every two years. All other teachers, including probationary teachers, must be evaluated annually. 

Further, the state's policy does not include any guidelines on when evaluations for new teachers should occur.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Require annual formal evaluations for all teachers.
All teachers in Massachusetts should be evaluated annually, even those who score "proficient" or above with at least a moderate impact on student learning on the state's summative evaluation. Rather than treated as mere formalities, these teacher evaluations should serve as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance.

Base evaluations on multiple observations.
To guarantee that annual evaluations are based on an adequate collection of information, Massachusetts should require multiple observations for all teachers, even those who have nonprobationary status. 

Ensure that new teachers are observed and receive feedback early in the school year.
It is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers. Massachusetts should ensure that its new teachers get the support they need and that supervisors know early on which new teachers may be struggling or at risk for unacceptable levels of performance.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts asserted that under its newly adopted evaluation regulations, every teacher receives an evaluation every year, consistent with Race to the Top requirements. The state pointed out that "Exemplary" and "Proficient" teachers with moderate or high student growth receive a formative evaluation mid-cycle in their two-year evaluation plan, but that formative evaluation is designed to ensure that practice and impact remain at the appropriate levels. If an educator receives a formative evaluation that differs from the prior summative rating, the evaluator may place the educator on a different plan, appropriate to the new rating.  

Massachusetts also contended that its new regulations set a higher bar for professional teacher status, or tenure. Professional teacher status may be granted only to educators rated proficient or exemplary on each performance standard. Further, all educator evaluations require multiple classroom observations, including unannounced observation. The five-step evaluation cycle required in the regulations engages all educators in early conferencing and goal setting with their evaluators, as well as a mid-cycle review to ensure that all educators—including novice teachers, in particular—receive early and regular feedback on their performance.  

Last word

According to the state's new evaluation regulations, the mid-cycle formative evaluation is used to arrive at a rating on progress toward attaining the goals set forth in the education plans or performance on performance standards, or both. None of these articulated options ensures that student growth data will be required during that interim year. 

How we graded

Annual evaluations are standard practice in most professional jobs.

Although there has been much progress on this front recently, about half of the states still do not mandate annual evaluations of teachers who have reached permanent or tenured status. The lack of regular evaluations is unique to the teaching profession and does little to advance the notion that teachers are professionals.

Further, teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously.

Evaluations are especially important for new teachers.

Individuals new to a profession frequently have reduced responsibilities coupled with increased oversight. As competencies are demonstrated, new responsibilities are added and supervision decreases. Such is seldom the case for new teachers, who generally have the same classroom responsibilities as veteran teachers, including responsibility for the academic progress of their students, but may receive limited feedback on their performance. In the absence of good metrics for determining who will be an effective teacher before he or she begins to teach, it is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers.

The state should specifically require that districts observe new teachers early in the school year. This policy would help ensure that new teachers get the support they need early and that supervisors know from the beginning of the school year which new teachers (and which students) may be at risk. Subsequent observations provide important data about the teacher's ability to improve. Data from evaluations from the teacher's early years of teaching can then be used as part of the performance-based evidence to make a decision about tenure.

Research rationale

For the frequency of evaluations in government and private industry, see survey results from Hudson Employment Index's report: "Pay and Performance in America: 2005 Compensation and Benefits Report" Hudson Highlands Group (2005).

For research emphasizing the importance of evaluation and observations for new teachers in predicting future success and providing support for teachers see, D. Staiger and J. Rockoff, "Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information." The Journal of Economic Perspectives. (24:3) American Economic Association (2010).