AIMBlog_Logo_Resized

Massachusetts Business Leaders Push Teacher Evaluation System

Posted by Andre Mayer on Mar 22, 2011 9:57:00 AM

Business leaders and teachers unions appear to agree broadly on the need to establish a reliable method to evaluate educators, providing hope that the two sides will be able to resolve their many differences and improve the prospects of Massachusetts students, panelists at a recent AIM Public Affairs Council meeting said.

Education reformThe meeting featured a discussion between Linda M. Noonan, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), and Paul Toner, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. MBAE is the principal business voice on school reform in the commonwealth, and has been AIM’s partner on k-12 education issues for two decades. The MTA is the state’s largest teachers’ union with 107,000 members (including retirees) in communities of all kinds.

AIM and employers throughout Massachusetts have long advocated for improvement of the public schools as a key element of growing the state economy. But many employers accustomed to evaluating business processes and employees with strict, evidence-based systems have been puzzled by the lack of a coherent system to rate teachers.

MBAE has called for a robust statewide educator-evaluation system to produce valuable data and achieve efficiencies in training and implementation, weeding out or remediating ineffective teachers and rewarding effective ones.

The MTA, while protective of its members’ rights and of the collective bargaining process, has supported participation in Race to the Top and issued a report acknowledging the need for an improved educator evaluation system with a student performance component.

MBAE and MTA both participate, along with AIM and other groups, in the Working Group for Educator Excellence, which advocates for a research-based approach to professional teaching.

Educator evaluation is a hot issue – hot in terms of both urgency and controversy.  Recent reports highlight the inadequacy (and sometimes absence) of evaluation in our schools, even at the point of tenure; the irrelevance of seniority and advanced degrees, the factors currently rewarded in compensation systems, as measures of effectiveness; and the lack of support for teachers seeking to improve their skills. The costs of sub-par teaching are estimated in the trillions of dollars. Race to the Top and other federal initiatives compel development of evaluations based in part on student achievement, and compensation reform lurks in the background.

Both Noonan and Toner served on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Task Force on Educator Evaluation. Toner voted for the commission’s just-released report; Noonan did not, primarily because she considers the report too weak on the issue of including student achievement in teacher evaluation.

The most striking element of the discussion was the broad agreement between the two discussants on a range of key issues, offering substantial hope that meaningful progress is possible.  There are evident differences, but not diametric opposition on the most important points. The devil will surely be in the details, but they may well be susceptible to negotiation and resolution.

The Education Reform Act of 1993 focused on inputs (funding), outputs (student achievement – MCAS) and to some extent leadership (strengthening administrative autonomy), treating the classroom itself as a “black box.”  The subsequent years have brought increasing awareness of the centrality of teaching, and teachers, to educational effectiveness.

The time is right to develop and implement statewide evaluation system closely tied to ever-improving measures of student achievement. Because those measures are still evolving, and districts are starting in different places, and credibility takes time to build, this is not something that can be done overnight. There will have to be extensive negotiations, in which teachers (and their organizations) must be participants. Some important issues, notably ties to compensation, may come later. But an agreed-upon foundation for meaningful and much-needed reform appears to be in place. 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Education, Race to the Top

Baker Would Remove State from National Education Consortium

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 22, 2010 3:03:00 PM

Republican candidate for governor Charles Baker today forcefully affirmed his intention to remove Massachusetts from federal education standards and, if necessary, give up $250 million in Race to the Top money to preserve the commonwealth’s own successful education reform.

Charles Baker“If that’s the price we have to pay, I think that’s a price worth paying to retain our independence. This should belong to Massachusetts,” Baker said at a forum in Boston sponsored by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE).

Baker wasted no time in addressing an issue that has put him at odds with AIM, MBAE and other business groups that endorsed the recent shift to national Common Core standards.

“If I get elected governor, I will work to remove Massachusetts from participation in that national program. I think Massachusetts should own, manage and control education standards, its testing policies and its curriculum development,” Baker said.

“I don’t believe that handing the keys to this particular initiative to a soon-to-be-developed federal program involving 20-plus other states is the way to ensure that Massachusetts controls its own destiny when it comes to educating the kids here in Massachusetts.”

Baker maintained that two decades of bipartisan education reform have put Massachusetts at the head of the class in public education, and that the Patrick administration’s decision to adopt federal standards will deprive the Bay State of one of its only economic advantages over competing states. He called the   Common Core standards a distraction that will force Massachusetts to work with other states in various stages of education reform.

“The way to go forward on this one is to continue together to grow and expand upon what we have achieved as a state, as local communities, as teachers, parents and students over the past 16 years. We must strive, not to be better than we were yesterday, but to be the best, anywhere, any time.”

Baker’s comments came at the second of three forums sponsored by AIM and MBAE providing the candidates for governor an opportunity to outline their views on education and the economy.

Independent candidate and state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who has also opposed the move to federal standards, told a forum audience last week that he would support the Common Core as governor.

“I’m not here to fight old fights,” Cahill said.

Incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick will discuss his views on education during the final forum on September 29. The Baker forum took place at Nutter, McClennen & Fish.

Baker said charter schools hold the key to improving education in Massachusetts and closing the often wide achievement gap between affluent suburban schools and those located in urban areas. He noted that state policymakers did not raise the cap on new charter schools until forced to do so by the federal Race to the Top competition and that it would take 80 years to work off the current waiting list of students seeking admission to charter schools.

“I won’t be satisfied until we don’t have lotteries anymore,” he said in an emotional response to a question.

Baker also said the state Board of Education needs more independence and that all elements of the state higher education system – the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community college – should expand efforts to work together to address economic needs in the various regions of the commonwealth.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Education, Charlie Baker, Race to the Top

Massachusetts Wins $250 Million to Improve Public Schools

Posted by Andre Mayer on Aug 24, 2010 3:27:00 PM

Massachusetts is a winner in the second phase of the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program for school improvement.

Race to the TopThe commonwealth stands to receive $250 million, half for participating school districts and half for statewide initiatives. The money will support reform efforts in four areas: standards and assessments; statewide data systems; effective educators; and turning around low-performing schools. These priorities are consonant with those of AIM in its ongoing advocacy for education reform.

The timing of the announcement from the U.S. Department of Education was something of a surprise, as most observers had not expected a decision until after Labor Day.

Massachusetts gained the top score among 19 state applicants, 10 of which won grants. Other winners in this round were the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.  Each winner will receive between $75 million and $700 million, based on population.

Delaware and Tennessee received grants in the first round of competition.

The award of federal money and the high evaluation score reflect the success of education reform in Massachusetts, new steps taken to strengthen our competitive posture, and the efforts of those who prepared the state’s RTTT submission, effectively revised to address weaknesses identified in the first round.

Governor Deval Patrick, who traveled to Washington to make the case for funding, together with Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, and all of those who put together the application deserve congratulations for its success.

AIM worked with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education to ensure that Massachusetts submitted a competitive application embodying the priorities of the employer community:

  • We advocated for legislative enactment of a bill raising the charter school cap and facilitating state intervention in low-performing schools;
  • We also advocated for adoption of the Common Core standards by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education;
  • We hosted meetings of business leaders with Commissioner Chester; and
  • We urged member employers to work in their local communities for district approval of the RTTT memorandum of understanding.

“The most important part of this win is not the money, welcome as that surely is,” said Richard C. Lord, AIM’s President and CEO. 

“Rather, it is the demonstrated commitment to ongoing improvement of our schools, and the willingness to take controversial positive steps, that made our victory possible. AIM will continue its activity in the field of education to ensure that our commonwealth and our students enjoy the full benefits of this unique opportunity.”

Topics: Employers, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Education, Race to the Top

Business Supports Massachusetts 'Race' to Gain Education Funding

Posted by Andre Mayer on Aug 9, 2010 10:06:00 AM

Massachusetts is a finalist in the second phase of the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant program for school improvement. If successful, the state stands to gain $250 million, half for participating districts and half for statewide initiatives.

The money will support reform efforts in four areas: standards and assessments; statewide data systems; effective educators; and turning around low-performing schools. These priorities are consonant with those of AIM in its ongoing advocacy for education reform.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia, half the applicants, advanced to the final round and will make their cases to evaluators in Washington this month. About half of their total dollar requests will be funded; the number of winning states to be announced in early September will depend on the size of the higher-ranked states.

Massachusetts was also a finalist in the first phase of RTTT, when only two states (Delaware and Tennessee) emerged as winners. The most serious weakness in the earlier submission, failure to commit to the Common Core standards developed by state-based national groups, has now been addressed. The revised application focuses on expected results and on educator excellence, in response to evaluators’ comments.

AIM has worked with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education to ensure that the commonwealth submits a competitive RTTT application that reflects the priorities of the employer community. We advocated for legislative enactment of a bill raising the charter school cap and facilitating state intervention in low-performing schools, and for adoption of the Common Core standards by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Our participation in the application process included hosting meetings of business leaders with Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. We urged our members to work in their local communities for district approval of the RTTT memorandum of understanding (276 signed on).

“Massachusetts has, by some measures, the best public schools in the country – but in education as in business, complacency is the enemy of success, and competition is increasingly global,” said Richard C. Lord, AIM’s President and CEO. “We hope to win, of course, but win or lose this contest has already produced constructive debate, better plans, important policy changes, and new alliances that will help maintain and reinforce our position of leadership.”

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Education, Race to the Top

Employer Support Key as Massachusetts Seeks Federal Education Money

Posted by Andre Mayer on Apr 14, 2010 11:56:00 AM

One of the key reasons that Massachusetts lost out in Round 1 of the Race to the Top (RTTT) contest for federal K-12 education funds was that only 60 percent of Bay State school districts supported a plan to improve the performance of the public schools. The two winning states submitted applications supported by 100 percent of their school districts.

Now local districts have a second chance to participate by signing the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  Has your district signed on? (Map | List )

Please use any influence you may have to get your city or town's schools on board, with all three signatories: the superintendent, the school committee, and the teachers' union.  Districts that do not sign on by the May 14 deadline cannot opt in later.  

Involvement by employers became imperative over the weekend when the American Federation of Teachers, Massachusetts, representing teachers in most of the state's largest cities, urged its affiliates not to sign on to MOUs and to withdraw their commitments from Round 1.

The financial stakes are significant - $250 million for Massachusetts, with at least half going directly to qualifying districts.  Even more important, the MOU commits districts to goals that are strongly supported by employers:

  • Improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.
  • Ensure effective teachers and leaders in every school and classroom.
  • Use data to improve instruction.
  • Turn around the lowest-achieving schools.

Participating districts are also encouraged to join in a statewide P-12 Teaching and Learning System, and to partner with the state to develop and implement new programs, supports and incentives to improve students' preparation for college and careers.

The MOU allows considerable flexibility, and commits the state to supporting and working with districts. It takes effect only if RTTT funds are awarded.  It advances goals Massachusetts has already embraced.  And its underlying principles, such as student performance as a component of educator evaluation, have been agreed to on the state level not only by business associations but by groups representing school committees, school administrators and teachers - including both teachers' unions.

Massachusetts has some of the best schools anywhere, but the competition - national and global - is not standing still.  Help keep our state, and your district, at the forefront of educational excellence. 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts Education Reform, Race to the Top

Subscribe to our blog

Browse by Tag