MTA urges opting out of DESE survey

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is asking educators to respond to a teacher survey about the implementation of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, educator evaluation, professional development and personalized and digital learning tools.

The MTA has reviewed the survey and is recommending that locals not participate. Click here for a summary of MTA’s concerns about the survey and responses to DESE’s rebuttal to our concerns. A DESE document sent to superintendents in January makes it clear that participation is voluntary.

This survey does not accurately or authentically capture educators’ views and should not be used to affect or inform education policy.

In particular, the MTA has concluded that, given the techniques, questions and background of the project, the survey is not a legitimate tool for gauging what is happening in K-12 classrooms and in no way will benefit students or educators.

  • The survey is a product of two outside interests that the DESE has engaged to assist in data collection. One of the DESE’s partners oversees a federal Department of Education grant-funded research project on college readiness, and the other is a company administering surveys in six other states.
  • The development of the survey has been anything but collaborative. Last October, the DESE shared some of the survey questions with the MTA and asked for input. The MTA provided numerous suggestions on ways to change questions to allow for more honest and holistic responses. Most of the MTA’s suggestions were ignored in the final draft of the survey.
  • The survey is loaded with leading questions that will likely generate unrealistic responses or potentially self-critical answers. It is easy to see how this survey could inaccurately portray educators as doing a poor job or erroneously support current education policies concerning assessments and evaluations. The survey asks detailed questions about educators’ practice, but does not allow for providing any context to explain responses.
  • The survey directs educators who do not teach English language arts to answer questions about the ELA Frameworks and related classroom practices. While math and science teachers will respond to questions about their subjects, educators who teach subjects such as art, physical education or vocational or career education will be asked to respond to questions about the ELA Framework implementation. The same applies to educators who provide instructional support, such as guidance counselors.
  • The administration procedures raise considerable concerns about confidentiality and anonymity. Districts will provide educators’ names, e-mail addresses and Massachusetts educator ID numbers — their MEPIDs. Each teacher will receive a personalized link to a survey that contains questions based in part on the data submitted annually to the DESE on roles and assignments. While the DESE has stated that all identifying information will be removed before any data is provided by the survey vendor to the department, the data will not be submitted anonymously.

A DESE website about the survey has been created that includes a link to the survey instruments — www.doe.mass.edu/research/vista.

  • The survey will be available until March 18.
  • Teachers, principals and superintendents will be asked to complete the survey. Respondents will be eligible to receive a gift certificate.
  • The DESE will offer schools and districts a monetary incentive for participation.
  • If response rates are sufficient, school and district reports will be available. The DESE has not provided sample reports.

The MTA fully supports — and strongly advocates for — the inclusion of educators’ perspectives in analyzing and establishing policies and practices. In our view, however, this survey does not accurately or authentically capture educators’ views and should not be used to affect or inform education policy in Massachusetts.

If you have questions about the survey project, please e-mail Beverly Miyares at bmiyares@massteacher.org.