The state should articulate consequences for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations, including specifying that teachers with multiple unsatisfactory evaluations should be eligible for dismissal.
Massachusetts requires that any educator who receives an unsatisfactory evaluation rating will be placed on an Improvement Plan for no less than 30 days and no more than one school year. While the state stipulates that results of evaluations may be used in dismissal decisions (see Goal 5-C), Massachusetts does not set specific criteria for a teacher's eligibility for dismissal, such as that a particular number of unsatisfactory evaluations would make a teacher automatically eligible for dismissal.
603 CMR 35.06; General Laws of Massachusetts, Title XII, Chapter 71, Section 38
Make eligibility for dismissal a consequence of unsatisfactory evaluations.
Teachers who receive two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations or have two unsatisfactory evaluations within five years should be formally eligible for dismissal, regardless of whether they have tenure. While Massachusetts has taken a step in the right direction by requiring improvement plans for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluation ratings and stipulating that the results of evaluations can be used in personnel decisions, the state should ensure that teachers who receive such unsatisfactory evaluations are eligible for dismissal.
Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also asserted that under the new evaluation framework, educators who fail to achieve the goals of their Improvement Plan may be dismissed, but dismissal is a personnel action reserved to districts under state statute. The state also referenced its dismissal law, which permits dismissal for "inefficiency, incompetency, incapacity, conduct unbecoming a teacher, insubordination or failure on the part of the teacher to satisfy teacher performance standards developed pursuant to section 38 of this chapter or other just cause." The state added that Massachusetts evaluation regulations and the standards of performance they set were developed under this authority, and failure to meet the performance standards they articulate would be grounds for dismissal. Further, one of the stated purposes of the teacher evaluation regulations is to "provide a record of facts and assessments for personnel decisions."
Although the statute the state cites does allow dismissal based on a teacher's failure to satisfy teacher performance standards, which in effect could result in eligibility for dismissal after two unsatisfactory evaluations, the state provides no guarantee that this will occur. Further, while hiring and firing of teachers is a local issue, the state can and should send an important message to local districts that there should be meaningful consequences to unsatisfactory evaluations. Teachers should be given the opportunity and support to improve, but those who cannot do so should not be allowed to remain in the classroom, placing students at risk.
To review the process and types of personnel evaluations observed in other job sectors, including the problems inherent to some evaluation systems see, for example, Gliddon, David (October 2004). Effective Performance Management Systems, Current Criticisms and New Ideas for Employee Evaluation in Performance Improvement 43(9), 27-36.