Massachusetts employers accustomed to using measurable results to evaluate employee performance and improve quality will find much to like about a proposed new approach to measuring teachers here in the commonwealth.
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote June 28 on new educator evaluation regulations that place significant emphasis on student outcomes. The proposal put forward by Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester focuses on recognizing and rewarding excellence; promoting professional growth and development; setting a higher bar for tenure; shortening timelines for improvement; and placing student learning at the center of educator evaluation.
AIM this week endorsed the evaluation proposal. While employers would have preferred a more aggressive approach, the commissioner’s proposal goes beyond the recommendations of a rather disappointing task force report released in March, and would constitute a great improvement over the current situation of uneven and often lax standards – when evaluation is done at all.
“I write on behalf of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 6,000 employer members across the commonwealth to urge you and your fellow board members to support, or go beyond, Commissioner Chester’s proposal for the weighting of student achievement in such assessments,” AIM President Richard C. Lord said in a letter to Board of Education President Maura O. Banta.
“As employers, our members know that their own futures, and their ability to contribute to the broader well-being of the commonwealth, depend upon the quality of our public schools; and they know that school quality depends above all on the expertise of teachers and administrators.”
The proposed system would require at least two measures of student learning when evaluating teachers. One would be student gains on the statewide MCAS exams. Others could include samples of student work, other commercially available assessments, or tests designed by individual districts or academic departments.
Massachusetts employers maintain some of the most sophisticated continuous-improvement and employee-evaluation systems in the world and have shared some of their expertise with state education officials. Some of those officials recently visited the Hudson plant of computer chip maker Intel to learn how the company uses its quality system to compete worldwide.
“Student achievement should be the primary factor in evaluating educators – and only in part because the expenditure of taxpayer dollars should be justified by measurable results. The more important reason is that it puts the emphasis where it should be, on students and their success. Aligning educator evaluation criteria with student outcomes will lead to better schools; whereas traditional considerations such as credentials and credits are not about students, and have little demonstrable relationship to educational effectiveness,” Lord wrote.
Employers acknowledge that the instruments, processes and institutional culture that will be required for full implementation are not yet in place in our schools, but we are confident that they will develop over time – if a firm commitment to high goals is made up front.