Frequency of Evaluations: Massachusetts

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Frequency of Evaluations: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

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. 

Observations are required, but the state does not articulate how many are required or when they should occur. 


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 annual evaluations are required for all educators. While an experienced educator whose previous evaluation rating was proficient or exemplary and whose impact on student learning is rated as moderate or high will be placed on a two-year cycle, he or she must receive a formative evaluation at the end of the first year of the two-year cycle. Districts must report formative evaluation ratings, thus ensuring that all educators receive either a formative or summative evaluation rating annually.

Massachusetts also contended that the regulatory description of required evidence for each evaluator uses plural language when referring to observations, and it is also a clear expectation set in guidance: "Frequent observation of classroom practice—with feedback—is essential to improving practice...7-10 brief observations followed by focused feedback should be a sufficient number to secure a representative picture of practice and promote the reflection and discussion needed to support improving practice."

The state added that evaluations must result in a rating on each of the four standards: curriculum, planning and assessment; teaching all students; family and community engagement; and professional responsibilities. Given the range of areas of practice that fall under these standards, it is expected that multiple observations and analysis of evidence are required in order to have sufficient evidence from which to draw conclusions. 

Last word

Regulation defines formative evaluation as "an evaluation at the end of year one for educators on two-year self-directed plans used to arrive at a rating on progress towards attaining the goals set forth in the plans, performance on performance standards, or both." There is no assurance that this rating will reflect any student growth measures, or that it will result in valuable feedback. 

In addition, rather than rely on plural language when it comes to number of required observations, Massachusetts should explicitly require multiple observations for all teachers and ensure that new teachers especially are observed with feedback early in the school year. 

Research rationale

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.

Frequency of Evaluations: Supporting Research

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 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." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 24, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 97-118.