MALDEN, MASS., NOV. 29, 2016…Education officials on Tuesday began seeking feedback on a proposal to change the way teachers are evaluated in Massachusetts and eliminate a controversial separate rating tied to student test scores.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education released for public comment proposed regulatory amendments encompassing changes that Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said he was “anxious to move ahead” on.
The current regulations around educator evaluations, adopted in 2011, set up a system where teachers and administrators earn two separate ratings — one gauging “summative performance” and one gauging “student impact,” which includes assessment scores. In place of the student impact rating, the proposed changes would incorporate a measure of student learning as one piece of an educator’s overall rating.
Chester said the recommended changes take into account calls from educators and other stakeholders to scrap the impact rating but still keep evidence of learning as a factor in some form.
“Central to the argument that we heard from administrators and teachers alike in the spring was that the requirement that we have an independent, a separate, discrete rating of impact on student learning, whatever value-add it was providing, the cost of that — the distraction of that — far outweighed the benefit of it,” Chester said.
The public comment window will be open until January 27, with the amendments and any changes to them set to come back before the board in February.
Chester said he has received “very clear signals” from groups representing superintendents and principals that they support the amendments, while the two teachers’ unions “have signaled that they do not.”
“I don’t know whether we’ll ever bridge that gap,” Chester told the board. He said, “I don’t know whether in fact there’s a possibility of reaching an agreement that everybody can sign onto.”
Teachers unions have fought the concept of evaluating educators based on test scores.
Board member Ed Doherty, the special assistant to the president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, said he opposes the proposal because the scores will still play a role in the overall evaluation.
“Teachers do not want to be evaluated based on student test scores,” said Doherty, a former high school English teacher who said he saw his students’ scores vary year-to-year. “Student tests…were designed to measure student achievement. They were not designed to measure teacher effectiveness.”
Chester said the concept of measuring student impact “often gets shorthanded as test scores,” the regulations leave room for local districts to make their own decisions about what metrics to use in certain instances The regulations require student growth information from state assessments to be used when available, and in other cases, districts can use their own tests or student portfolios, Chester said.
Education Secretary James Peyser said measuring student learning is a way to help teachers improve and place students “at the center of what educators do.” He said he was in some ways sad to see the student impact rating go.
“On the other hand, I think if it actually leads to more use of student data, more engagement with student learning, information about student learning, it will have a more positive effect than sort of the resistance we have seen to try and do that in the form in which it was originally presented,” he said.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service