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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Educator Evaluation: The Need for Evaluation Overhaul

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
December 10, 2010

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In October 2010 the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education received an update on the work of the Task Force on Educator Evaluation that the Board established on May 25, 2010 Download Word Document. Since that time separate work groups of the Task Force have been meeting to consider specific elements of the evaluation framework which the full Task Force will consider over the next two months as it formulates its recommendations to the Commissioner and Board.

Some of the critical challenges the Task Force will address in its recommendations were highlighted in the presentation provided to the Board in October:

  • Determining how to use multiple measures of student performance in evaluations;
  • Linking evaluations to professional growth opportunities;
  • Reaching agreement on how to use evaluations to inform key personnel decisions, such as:
    • professional teaching status
    • advancement/teacher leader career ladder
    • additional compensation opportunities
    • dismissal or demotion; and
  • Supporting effective implementation of new regulations.

Massachusetts is not alone in confronting these challenges. Strengthening evaluation was a central focus of the Great Teachers and Leaders section of the U.S. Education Department's Race to the Top Request for Proposal. Several recent research reports have critiqued current practices in evaluation around the nation and in Massachusetts, notably:

  • The Widget Effect
    • Reviewed data from 4 states and 12 districts
    • Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive specific feedback in improving performance in their last evaluation
    • Fewer than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, even in schools where students fail to meet basic academic standards
  • Human Capital in Boston Public Schools (2010)
    • Only half of all teachers received evaluations between 2007-2009
    • One quarter of schools did not turn in a single evaluation
    • Only 41 out of 4873 teachers were rated unsatisfactory-less than one percent

So Long Lake Wobegon? (2009) summarized similar concerns over educator evaluation, among them: evaluations often do not lead to meaningful improvement, pay inadequate attention to student learning and growth, are seldom coupled with adequate supervisor training, and too often rate teachers on a binary scale (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) resulting in overwhelmingly satisfactory ratings (the "Lake Wobegon" effect).

The lack of variability in educator ratings and failure to differentiate teacher effectiveness based on performance is a lost opportunity for: 1) providing improvement-oriented feedback that leads to professional growth; 2) identifying highly effective educators and distilling lessons from their practices; 3) tapping the expertise of outstanding educators for systematic support and improvement as teacher leaders and peer coaches; 4) providing struggling and developing educators (in the first years of practice) the support they need to improve or grow as professionals; and 5) linking compensation to performance. Perhaps most importantly, the failure of evaluation systems to identify weak performers and either secure instructional improvements or dismiss ineffective educators condemns successive cohorts of students to subpar instruction.

Massachusetts' current regulations on educator evaluation were adopted in 199 and have not been revised since then. In Task Force discussions, many knowledgeable educators from around the state have expressed the view, reflected in the Board's May 25th vote, that the regulations are in need of overhaul. A consistent theme in Task Force deliberations has been the need to match improved regulations and guidelines with effective support for their implementation. The Commonwealth's Race to the Top application contained a strategy and significant resources for providing such support, including:

  • Evaluation experts, located in each DSAC, who will work with districts to support their work;
  • The development of online training modules, targeted to teachers and administrators, that will outline the new regulations and provide a general overview on how they differ;
  • The posting of effective practices, so districts may observe and learn from the work of others;
  • The establishment of evaluation implementation working groups in RTTT districts to enable teams of educators and administrators to work together on implementation issues, consistent with collective bargaining.

The Department continues to review and refine these strategies. Moreover, the Task Force's report will include additional recommendations in this area. Some will require the kinds of resources provided through RTTT; others will depend on reallocation of existing resources, along with changes in existing practices, attitudes, and culture.

Timeline

The Task Force has been meeting since August 2010, with Working Group meetings informing the work of the larger Task Force. Meetings generally occur every other week, with Department staff supporting the work, providing Task Force members with research to support the critical examination of current practices and advance toward a fair, improvement-oriented evaluation framework for all educators. The Task Force will continue meeting through the end of January 2011. At that time, the group will present its recommendations to the Commissioner. I plan to discuss the recommendations with the Board at the February 2011 meeting and expect to present proposed regulations for initial review in February. The Board would promulgate the new regulations later in the spring.

Once new regulations are adopted, districts will need to identify changes in their evaluation procedures are needed to conform to the new state framework, and as necessary, enter into collective bargaining to make those changes. Districts will be asked to submit revised evaluation systems for state approval on the following timeline:

  • In the spring of 2011, the Department would provide model contract language for both principal and teacher supervision and evaluation that can serve as a starting point for local deliberations.
  • For Level 4 schools in Level 4 districts, the districts would be expected to submit a revised evaluation system by July 2011 (in time for implementation by the start of the 2011- 2012 school year).
  • For all RTTT districts and schools, the districts would be expected to submit a revised evaluation system by July 2012 (in time for implementation by the start of the 2012-2013 school year).
  • For remaining schools and districts, the districts would be expected to submit a revised evaluation system by July 2013 (in time for implementation by start of the 2013-2014 school year).

Conclusion

Improving evaluation is not simply an important end unto itself. Strengthening educator evaluation will help address equitable distribution of effective educators, and in so doing help close proficiency gaps. Improved evaluations will lead to more informed personnel decisions, and will provide educators with the support they need to improve their practice. With more accurate representations of educator effectiveness, we can begin to examine and strengthen practices in preparation, induction, professional development, and compensation.

In addition, districts will be able to identify and recognize highly effective educators and provide them with the opportunity for additional roles and responsibilities, supported by a new career ladder, to be developed through endorsements in the licensure system envisioned in our RTTT application. Collectively, such changes will help to develop the professional expertise of our educators and tap it systematically to improve outcomes for our students.

Enclosure:

Download PDF Document
The Widget Effect- Executive Summary
View HTML Page
603 CMR 35.00: Evaluation of Educators


Last Updated: December 13, 2010
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