Noting that “no other school-based factor has as great an influence on student achievement as an effective teacher” but that “across the Commonwealth today, the state of evaluation systems in public schools is inconsistent and underdeveloped,” Dr. Mitchell D. Chester, the state’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, last week proposed new educator evaluation regulations that place significant emphasis on student outcomes. The Commissioner’s proposal, which is subject to approval by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, goes beyond the recommendations put forward by the Statewide Task Force on the Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators in its rather disappointing report last month.
The Commissioner’s approach focuses on five areas:
- Reward Excellence: require that districts celebrate excellence in teaching and administration;
- Promote Growth and Development: provide educators with feedback and opportunities for development that support continuous growth and improvement;
- Set a High Bar for Tenure: entrants to the teaching force must demonstrate proficient performance within three years to earn Professional Teacher Status;
- Shorten Timelines for Improvement: Professional Teacher Status teachers who are not proficient have one year to demonstrate the ability to improve; and
- Place Student Learning at the Center: student learning is central to the evaluation and development of the Commonwealth’s administrators and teachers.
While we might have liked to see an even more aggressive proposal, we are aware that the evaluative processes and instruments that will be required are not fully in place – nor is the established trust essential to successful implementation of a plan that after all depends upon the participation of the educators themselves. Indeed, the Commissioner’s three-year implementation timetable is ambitious in light of the limited current capacity of school districts in the field of evaluation. His plan to “take advantage of the expertise of our best teachers through new teacher-led roles” in the process will be a key to success.
We are very pleased that Dr. Chester is explicit that his proposal is a first step. When “the new evaluation system called for in these regulations is fully implemented in districts across the Commonwealth and confidence in its fairness and transparency is warranted,” he notes, then we can move on to considering its use transfer, assignment, and lay-off decisions, and in group and individual compensation decisions based on performance.
The Commissioner’s proposal will be presented to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on April 27. It is expected that a period of public comment will run through June 10, with final action by the Board due June 28.
AIM and Denterlein Worldwide yesterday wrapped up a series of forums with the candidates for governor with Republican candidate, Charlie Baker. The forum series gave candidates the opportunity to discuss their approaches to business and economic issues with a small audience of executives from throughout the commonwealth.
Mr. Baker yesterday covered topics ranging from the regulatory process and budgetary planning to health care reform, education and taxes. AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord introduced the program.
AIM has posted segments of candidate remarks at these forums to give employers an opportunity to hear directly how each intends to steer Massachusetts out of the deepest recession in 80 years. Please share on our blog, your questions for any of the gubernatorial candidates, and AIM will attempt to secure a response.
Governor Deval Patrick visited the forum in March. State Treasurer and Independent candidate Timothy Cahill visited the forum in April. Click the links below to hear their remarks.
One item passed during the Senate budget debate highlights the dilemma and challenge facing lawmakers in these trying economic and fiscal times.
On the one hand, the Senate has made controlling health care costs for small businesses a top legislative priority for this session. On the other hand, they continue to advance policies that add new costs for the very businesses they seek to help.
Budget Amendment #628 excludes early intervention services from being subject to co-payments or deductibles for coverage offered through a licensed carrier. Early Intervention services are provided to young children from birth until their third birthday. By excluding early intervention services from any type of cost-sharing mechanism, including co-payments and deductibles, employers have less ability to control their health care costs and keep monthly premiums at a minimum through use of innovative benefit design.
While we recognize the value of early intervention services, AIM is not supportive of this measure as it increases monthly premiums at a time when employers are struggling with the high cost of health care, and sets a bad precedent as the Senate works to provide relief to small businesses.
Small- and medium-sized businesses will largely bear this new cost since large, self-insured employers that are governed by the Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are not subject to this new mandate.
We cannot make the cost of health care "free" to consumers while thinking we can keep costs down for businesses at the same time. Someone has to pay for the health care consumed.
If patients do not have out-of-pocket expenses, they consume more health care services than they need. This does not lower costs. If businesses must shoulder more of the cost of a particular service, as proposed by this amendment, there will be less money available for other types of health care benefit; less for compensation to employees; and less for investment in the business.
Lawmakers can no longer shield consumers from the true costs of health care. Consumers are key to transforming out health care system into a more rational and efficient one. The policy to disallow cost sharing for early intervention services is a step in the wrong direction and at odds with the Senate goal of reducing health care costs for small businesses.
We hope this language is not adopted in the final budget approved by the Budget Conference Committee and sent to the Governor
We hope this language is not adopted in the final budget approved by the Budget Conference Committee and sent to the Governor
The debate over health care and health insurance costs in Massachusetts intensified last week as state regulators held three days of hearings to identify the factors causing prices to skyrocket for employers and consumers. Senate President Therese Murray, meanwhile, suggested that lawmakers will pass caps on payments to doctors and hospitals before the end of the legislative session.
The first annual Health Care Provider and Payer Costs and Cost Trends hearing was held by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy ("DHCFP") in conjunction with the Attorney General's office. The three-day hearing, more closely resembling a policy conference than a "grilling under oath," was required by Chapter 305 of the Acts of 2008.
The hearings came less than a week after Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced a comprehensive proposal to control soaring health insurance costs for small employers while business, government and health care providers develop long-term solutions to the problem. Much of the testimony at the DHFCP hearings underscored the objectives of the AIM proposal, which calls for regulators to limit - temporarily - reimbursements to doctors and hospitals to the median cost for individual medical services in 2009.
DHCFP Commissioner David Morales kicked off the hearings, after which there were introductory remarks by the Senate president, the governor and the legislative chairs of the Health Care Financing Committee, Senator Richard Moore and Representative Harriett Stanley. Each made the economic development case for addressing health care costs, particularly for small businesses. Senate President Murray implored that once the hearings were over, "we act quickly and decisively."
The lineup of non-elected testifiers included national health-care policy experts who set the stage by providing data, statistics and context for the hearings. The consultants used by DHCFP presented data on health insurance premium trends as well as an analysis of claims data. Attorney General Martha Coakley presented the findings of her report on cost drivers. The most noteworthy finding, and the subject of much discussion over the course of the hearings was the fact that the primary driver of rate reimbursement disparity was the market power of providers.
Are your employees texting behind the wheel while on company business? The Massachusetts House of Representatives recently approved a ban on texting while driving and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that operators of commercial vehicles are prohibited from texting on the road.
Employers may wish to set similar rules.
The Massachusetts House bill states that "no operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile telephone, mobile electronic device, or other device capable of accessing the Internet to compose, send, or read an electronic message while operating'' a vehicle. Drivers could only text "if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the roadway intended for travel."
It's a good time for your organization to consider implementing a cell phone policy for employees who drive on company business. A 2008 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 83 percent of survey respondents rated distracted drivers and drivers using cell phones as a "serious" or "extremely serious" problem. Drunk driving was the only issue viewed as more serious.
In addition to prohibiting employees driving on company business from talking or texting on cell phones, you may want to consider the following:
- If you provide a cell phone for employees, do you have a monthly allowance?
- Do you have a plan to collect company cell phones upon an employee's termination?
- Do employees know that all communications made with a company cell phone are the property of the company and the company reserves the right to access, read, and disclose information sent to or received from its system(s)?
- Do you have a policy notifying employees that electronic media cannot be used for knowingly transmitting, retrieving, or storing any communication that is:
Discriminatory or harassing;
Derogatory to any individual or group;
Defamatory or threatening; or
Engaged in for any purpose that is illegal or contrary to company policies.
- Do you have a policy limiting applications from being installed or deleted from company phones without prior management approval?
Visit the AIM Online Resource Center or call the Employer Hotline for a sample cell phone policy.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts knows better than anyone the frustration felt by Massachusetts employers with inexorably rising health insurance premiums that restrict job growth and economic opportunity. We therefore commend Governor Deval Patrick for his willingness to address the issue - the governor today announced that the state would essentially limit health insurance rate increases for small business to the 3.2 percent rate of medical inflation.
Governor Patrick is also seeking the limit rate increases for hospitals, physicians, medical imaging centers and other health-care providers. The governor has the authority to control insurance premium rates administratively, but needs legislative approval to review rates for providers.
There are positive and innovative elements to the governor's proposal, including a suspension of new mandated health insurance benefit requirements until July 12, 2012. Another provision would require carriers in the small group market to offer at least one reduced network plan with premiums that are at least 10 percent lower than the premiums for the full network product.
But good intentions will not solve the health insurance cost problem in the long term and neither will an arbitrary cap on premium increases. AIM's longstanding involvement in trying to break the choke hold of rising health costs on employers has taught us that any lasting resolution will involve a mix of structural payment reform and a comprehensive long-term strategy for improving the health care outcomes through an efficient and valuable health care delivery system.
While AIM does not support rate setting generally, we do agree with the governor's goal of creating a sense of urgency and making sure that all stakeholders earnestly work to achieve a more efficient, rational health care delivery system. For too long the discussion has focused on all the reasons to not change our health care system and this inertia has cost employers greatly. To the extent that the administration is putting pressure on insurers and providers to be part of the solution, we support his efforts.
Massachusetts employers will find plenty to like about the Economic Development Plan filed today by Senate President Therese Murray and Senator Karen Spilka. The bill is long on the kind of common sense management discipline needed to make state government run more like a business. It's an approach that is desperately needed as the Massachusetts economy struggles to recover from the global recession.
Employers should read a summary of the bill posted on AIM's Web site.
The plan contains measures that employers use every day. It creates a process to eliminate state agencies that are no longer needed. It requires the establishment of a performance management system for state officials who work in economic development. It consolidates agencies and eliminates redundancies. It strengthens the current requirement that agencies seeking to adopt new regulations file a statement showing the impact those regulations will have on small business. And it expands the definition of a small business to include manufacturing companies with fewer than 500 employees.
The ultimate objective is to eliminate miles of red tape for employers who currently confront a complex labyrinth of alphabet-soup bureaucracies when trying to obtain services or information from the commonwealth.
AIM has supported many of the ideas in the bill as part of our Common Wealth agenda to create jobs and economic opportunity in Massachusetts. Common Wealth calls, among other things, for predictable and responsible state fiscal policy:
"We do not ask state government to do anything that every Massachusetts employer or family does not do every day - develop a multi-year budgeting plan, live within your means, reduce expenses during downturns, find efficiencies and develop new and creative ways to deliver services."
AIM commends Senate President Murray and Senator Spilka for working diligently to come up with a bill that appears to "get it right." We look forward to working with the Legislature to finalize a plan that paves the way for economic recovery in the commonwealth.
Policymakers in Boston and Washington love to paint new-economy jobs as an economic panacea, immune to high taxes, staggering electricity costs and bureaucratic regulation. But AIM President Richard C. Lord argues that business costs matter just as much in the new economy as they did in the old. His comments came in a Sunday Boston Globe Op-Ed piece describing AIM's Common Wealth 2010 policy objectives.
High-technology, biotechnology, and clean-technology jobs respond to the same economic influences that determine whether any job will provide economic opportunity to citizens of Massachusetts - or to citizens of Michigan or citizens of China. Innovation remains critical to economic growth, but government must also commit to supporting commercialization and the employment opportunities it will create.
Our economic future depends upon the ability of the Commonwealth to create a favorable business environment across all industries. The alternative is an "invented here, made elsewhere'' economy that provides opportunity for doctoral-level researchers, but leaves other citizens out in the cold.