Massachusetts adopted new regulations in 2010 requiring districts to use District-Determined Measures and state test score data to create Student Impact Ratings for all licensed educators as part of the educator evaluation system. These state regulations stemmed from federal mandates that evidence of student growth be a “significant” factor in educator evaluations.
After strong opposition, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which repealed the requirement. However, state regulations linking test scores to evaluations still remain.
District-Determined Measures and MCAS growth scores in the educator evaluation system was initiated in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s application for federal Race to the Top grant funds. The DESE’s commitment to this strategy was reinforced in the state’s successful 2012 application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Under the 2013 educator evaluation regulations, which include DDMs, at least two measures of educator effectiveness based on student outcomes were to be developed for every licensed educator.
For those who taught English language arts and/or math in MCAS-tested grades, one of these DDMs must measure trends and patterns in in their students’ Student Growth Percentiles. A trend would consist of at least two years of data.
DDMs were to be used to determine an educator’s Student Impact Rating of low, moderate or high. That rating informed the length and content of the educator’s plan, most notably whether it would be a one- or two-year self-directed growth plan.
After strong opposition to this federal mandate across the country, Congress passed in 2015 the Every Student Succeeds Act which repealed the requirement. However, state regulations linking test scores to evaluations still remain.
The MTA maintains that the selection or creation of DDMs is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Some districts have bargained DDMs, in others it’s ongoing. Some districts and locals are in agreement that this effort is time-consuming and unproductive, so they have sought to minimize the requirement.
DDM Mandate Repeal Effort
MTA and AFT Massachusetts worked to eliminate the Student Impact Rating mandate and DDM requirements included in educator evaluation regulations. When the federal Every Student Succeeds Act was passed, eliminating federal requirements on educator evaluations, MTA and AFT MA prepared a position paper, presented the critique to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and worked to include a provision in the FY17 budget to remove the mandate from evaluation requirements.
After a BESE meeting in June 2016, the state education commissioner developed proposals for regulatory changes. The MTA received the proposals in September, 2016. MTA and AFT MA disagreed with the proposed regulatory changes because they failed to address the most significant problems caused by the invalid Student Impact Rating system and continued the misguided practice of judging educators based on student test scores. MTA members submitted public comments against the proposed changes to the educator evaluation system.
From September to November, 2016, MTA and AFT MA worked to develop alternative proposals that could be accepted by all stakeholders.
While some progress toward a solution came out of discussions with associations representing superintendents and principals, the commissioner’s insistence on identifying each teacher’s impact on student learning and using it to inform a rating made it impossible to come to a resolution. The superintendents’ and principals’ associations were now supporting the commissioner’s proposed changes.
The BESE introduced their proposed amendments to the regulations on November 29, 2016.
Rather than just eliminate the impact rating, the Commissioner proposed replacing it with a nearly identical “Student Learning Indicator,” which would become one of the indicators in Standard 2 and part of an educator’s summative rating. This would increase the impact of student test scores on an educator’s evaluation. The MTA and AFT Massachusetts opposed both the current system and the proposed amendments. A better solution would have been to simply eliminate the Student Impact Rating.
In most instances, the flawed elements of the previous regulations have been replicated in the new regulations – just with different names.
MTA and AFT-MA believe that the new regulations adopted on February 28, 2017, do not address the problems with the Student Impact Rating that have been identified by educators. In most instances, the flawed elements of the previous regulations have been replicated in the new regulations — just with different names. The new regulations allow invalid and unreliable student learning measures to count even more than they did. While the Student Impact Rating was separate from the summative rating, the new Student Learning Indicator is placed directly in Standard 2, where it can have a disproportionate impact on the educator’s summative evaluation. A rating below Proficient on Standard 2 prevents an educator from receiving an overall Proficient rating. Using student test scores as the basis for such high-stakes ratings is methodologically unsound and educationally harmful. Further, the new regulations do not explain how the Student Learning Indicator relates to the existing Student Learning Goal, an ambiguity that will lead to confusion and implementation headaches.
The MTA maintains that the new regulations are a mandatory subject of bargaining.
DESE Regulation 603 CMR 35.07 identifies three categories of evidence to be used in the course of an educator’s five-step evaluation cycle. These include:
- Products of practice
- Multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement
- Other evidence related to standards of practice
The third category of evidence includes the use of student and staff feedback. School districts are to collect feedback from students and staff for use in educator evaluation.
DESE regulations allow for significant flexibility regarding the method of collection and use of this feedback. This flexibility includes:
- The determination of the tools used to collect feedback information and whether the method of collecting feedback will be established at the district, school, department and/or individual educator level.
- The manner by which information gathered will be integrated into the educator’s evaluation cycle.
It is important to note that the DESE does not require that a particular instrument be used to gather feedback. While it has published suggested surveys as one possible approach, surveys of any kind are not mandated. Rather, districts may employ a variety of approaches to gather student input. The decision about which method to use for feedback is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Under no circumstances can a district make this decision unilaterally.
DESE regulations do not require feedback to be used to any specific phase of the five-step evaluation cycle. This leaves the manner of integration entirely up to the local school district, subject to collective bargaining. Key things to remember are:
- Feedback should be meaningful and actionable.
- Feedback collection can take many forms, and no particular form is dictated by the DESE.
- The MTA recommends the use of "Exit Tickets."
Suggested for Locals: Student & Staff Feedback
The educator shall establish an age-appropriate method for seeking student feedback prior to the end of the current educator plan. The educator will inform students that identifying themselves on the feedback mechanism is optional. The feedback will be used solely by the educator to inform his/her self-assessment and goal setting for the subsequent educator plan. Upon request, the educator will explain how the feedback has informed his/her self-assessment and goal-setting.
All educators are ensured the opportunity to provide feedback on Administrators in a manner that assures the confidentiality of identity of the educator.
The administrator shall establish an age-appropriate method for seeking student feedback prior to the end of the current educator plan. The administrator will inform students that identifying themselves on the feedback mechanism is optional. The feedback will be used solely by the administrator to inform his/her self-assessment and goal setting for the subsequent educator plan. Upon request, the administrator will explain how the feedback has informed his/her self-assessment and goal-setting.
The administrator shall establish a feedback mechanism for all educators under her/his supervision prior to the end of the current educator plan. No educator will be required to provide her/his identity in the feedback mechanism. The feedback will be used solely by the administrator to inform his/her self-assessment and goal setting for the subsequent educator plan. Upon request, the administrator will explain how the feedback has informed his/her self-assessment and goal setting.