MTA member input helps shape evaluation regulations

MTA member advocacy helped improve the state’s evaluation regulations. More than 300 MTA members contacted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by e-mail during the public comment period, and more than 700 educators from across the state attended DESE forums to learn about the regulations, ask questions and express their views.

MTA President Paul Toner and Kathleen Skinner, director of MTA’s Center for Education Policy and Practice, served on the DESE's Educator Evaluation Task Force. They, along with other MTA staff and leaders, collectively spent hundreds of hours communicating with state education officials and suggesting revisions.

The end result of all this effort was a set of regulations that Toner says "are much better than they would have been without MTA member involvement." The new Massachusetts regulations are considered superior to many that other Race to the Top states are adopting and are a model for a statement of principles about evaluation being proposed at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago.

The DESE acknowledged receiving an extraordinary level of comment from the field and prepared several documents showing what those comments were and how the DESE responded to them.

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The following are some of the provisions in the final regulations that were better as a result of MTA and member input:

  • Student learning measures will not constitute a specific percentage of the evaluation, as had been advocated by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and others. Other states have adopted a specific precentage and now are having trouble figuring out how to implement it.
  • Collective bargaining over the local implementation of the new systems is protected: “Nothing in these regulations shall abridge the provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, including M.G.L. c. 69, c. 71 and c. 150E.” The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents testified the organization would have liked more decisions taken out of collective bargaining, but the MTA position prevailed.
  • High-stakes decisions, such as termination decisions, are based on the evaluation – mainly observation – and not on test scores. MTA took this position from the start and critiqued earlier drafts of the regulations that appeared to give too much weight to student learning measures. The final version of the regulations places limits on the use of these measures.
  • Multiple measures, not just MCAS, must be used so that there is not an over-reliance on MCAS. The entire Educator Evaluation Task Force was in agreement that one measure is not enough.
  • Trends in MCAS growth measures must be used. Previous drafts of the regulations would have allowed decisions to be made based on data from just one year. After MTA and member advocacy, the final regulations call for “at least” two years of data. MTA will be urging local associations to bargain for at least three years of data in their local systems since less than three is too prone to error.
  • MCAS and any other student learning outcomes that are part of a teacher’s evaluation are part of the private personnel record and may not be released to the public. MTA pushed for this after learning that the Los Angeles Times received teacher-specific test score data pursuant to a public records request and then ranked teachers by student test scores.
  • In 2013, districts will require staff surveys about administrator effectiveness.