Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy
The state should ensure that teachers receive feedback about their performance and should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations. This goal remained consistent between 2017 and 2019.
Evaluation Feedback: Massachusetts specifies that its evaluation cycle must include goal setting and development for teachers, who all receive "Educator Plans." Such plans are designed to "provide educators with feedback for improvement, professional growth, and leadership; and to ensure educator effectiveness."
Professional Development: Massachusetts requires that "Educator Plans" developed by evaluators "shall use evidence of educator performance and impact on student learning, growth, and achievement in goal setting with the educator."
Improvement Plans: Massachusetts requires improvement plans for all teachers rated unsatisfactory. Teachers rated needs improvement are placed on directed growth plans. All plans must "outline actions the educator must take to attain these goals, including but not limited to specified professional development activities...as well as other supports that may be suggested by the evaluator or provided by the school or district."
Evaluation Rating Categories: Massachusetts requires four rating categories: exemplary, proficient, needs improvement and unsatisfactory.
603 CMR 35.00, -.06
As a result of Massachusetts's strong policy linking evaluation to professional growth policies, no recommendations are provided.
Massachusetts noted that in addition to "Educator Plans," the Standards for Effective Administrative Leadership on which school and district leaders are evaluated define proficient practice as that which includes "frequent unannounced visits to classrooms and gives targeted and constructive feedback to teachers." The state added that educators rated "needs improvement" are placed on a Directed Growth Plan and "must either earn at least a proficient rating in the summative evaluation, or shall be rated unsatisfactory, and shall be placed on an improvement plan," which effectively accelerates timelines for improvement.
7D: Linking Evaluation to Professional Growth
Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations. The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve. Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers' strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities. Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers. Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.
Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad. Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings.
To further increase the utility and validity of evaluation systems, states should require that evaluation instruments differentiate among various levels of teacher performance rather than only giving binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings. Binary rating systems often offer little meaning because virtually all teachers receive satisfactory ratings. More rating categories allow for more nuanced distinctions between levels of teacher performance.