Professional Development: Massachusetts

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Professional Development: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Professional-Development-9

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Massachusetts specifies that its new evaluation cycle must include goal setting and development for teachers, who will all receive "Educator Plans." Such plans are designed to "provide educators with feedback for improvement, professional growth, and leadership; and to ensure educator effectiveness." Teachers are to be placed on "Educator Plans" based on the evaluation rating and impact on student learning. However, the state does not specify that professional development activities must be aligned with findings from teacher evaluations.   

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teacher evaluations.
Professional development that is not informed by evaluation results may be of little value to teachers' professional growth and aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. Massachusetts should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts was helpful in providing facts that enhanced this analysis.  The state added that Educator Plans must specify the actions that must be taken to attain specified goals, including but not limited to professional development, self-study and coursework. Plans must be drawn up in accordance with district and school goals. They will result in a much more customized approach to professional development that is aligned to the findings of educator evaluations.  

How we graded

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.  

Research rationale

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next. Vol 11, No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (2011).

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Institute of Education Sciences (2011).

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see "The Deliver, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training." The Finance Project (2003).