Retaining Effective Teachers Policy
The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal remains unchanged in 2021.
Link to Evidence of Effectiveness: Massachusetts requires teachers to earn ratings of proficient or exemplary on each Performance Standard and on the overall evaluation. A principal considering an employment decision leading to professional teacher status for any educator who does not meet these criteria must confer with the superintendent. The principal's decision is subject to review and approval by the superintendent.
Basis for Tenure: Massachusetts's teacher evaluation ratings include objective measures of student growth; therefore, classroom effectiveness is considered when making tenure decisions.
Massachusetts General Law Title XII, Ch. 71, Sec. 41 603 CMR 35.08(6)
Reconsider waiver of effectiveness requirements at principal request.
It is not unreasonable that Massachusetts wants to build some principal discretion into its tenure process. But rather than waive the effectiveness requirements, the state should consider allowing principals to extend the probationary period for teachers they think warrant further time to develop. This would prevent the dismissal of probationary teachers against a principal's judgment while still holding all teachers to the state's standards of effective performance.
Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career. The decision to give teachers tenure (or permanent status) is usually made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual performance. State policy should reflect the fact that initial certification is temporary and probationary, and that tenure is intended to be a significant reward for teachers who have consistently shown effectiveness and commitment. Tenure and advanced certification are not rights implied by the conferring of an initial teaching certificate. No other profession, including higher education, offers practitioners tenure after only a few years of working in the field.
States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions. Most states confer tenure at a point that is too early for the collection of sufficient and adequate data that reflect teacher performance. Ideally, states would accumulate such data for four to five years. This robust data set would prevent effective teachers from being unfairly denied tenure based on too little data and ineffective teachers from being granted tenure.