Unsatisfactory Evaluations: Massachusetts

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should articulate consequences for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations, including specifying that teachers with multiple unsatisfactory evaluations should be eligible for dismissal.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Unsatisfactory Evaluations: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Unsatisfactory-Evaluations-10

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

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.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

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.

State response to our analysis

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."

Last word

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.

How we graded

Negative evaluations should have meaningful consequences.

Teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers to 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. Accordingly, states should articulate the consequences of negative evaluations. First, teachers that receive a negative evaluation should be placed on improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should list noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how progress will be measured. While teachers that receive negative evaluations should receive support and additional training, opportunities to improve should not be unlimited. States should articulate policies wherein two negative evaluations within five years are sufficient justification for dismissal.

Employment status should not determine the consequences of a negative evaluation.

Differentiating consequences of a negative evaluation based on whether a teacher has probationary or nonprobationary status puts the interests of adults before those of students. Ideally, weaknesses and deficiencies would be identified and corrected during the probationary period; if the deficiencies were found to be insurmountable, the teacher would not be awarded permanent status. However, in the absence of meaningful tenure processes based on teacher effectiveness, limiting significant consequences to the probationary period is insufficient. Any teacher who receives a negative evaluation, regardless of employment status, should be placed on an improvement plan, and any teacher who receives multiple negative evaluations, regardless of employment status, should be eligible for dismissal.

Research rationale

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.