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.