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MTA President Toner's response to Boston Globe article on educator evaluation

Responding to an article in the April 17 Boston Sunday Globe, MTA President Paul Toner reiterated that the MTA and the Educator Evaluation Task Force agree that multiple measures of student learning, including MCAS student growth scores where available, should be part of educators’ evaluations, but that no high-stakes decisions for teachers and administrators should be based on those outcomes alone.

The Globe article – headlined “Rating Teachers on MCAS Growth” – focused on draft evaluation regulations that Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester sent to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on April 16 and subsequently provided to the task force, which includes representatives of the MTA.

MTA attorneys and other staff members will closely analyze the draft regulations and comment on them during the public comment period, which is likely to last until shortly before the June 28 BESE meeting.

The lead paragraph of the Globe article states that Commissioner Chester’s regulations would “make student MCAS results central to judging” the performance of teachers and administrators.

Shortly after the article was published, Chester expressed concern about how the issue was reported and released his own statement seeking to clarify his stance. His statement begins: “Both the headline and initial paragraphs of today’s Globe story do not provide an accurate summary of my recommendations as they relate to the use of student performance measures. I have proposed that student learning be central to the evaluation and development of the Commonwealth’s educators. My recommendations require that for every grade and subject, at least two measures of student learning gains be employed.”

The Globe article also states that the MTA “supports using MCAS and other testing data in evaluations.”

Toner said that the organization’s position, detailed in a report titled Reinventing Educator Evaluation, is that multiple measures of student learning outcomes, not just test scores, may inform an educator’s evaluation, but not determine it.

“We have said from the start that the observation of educators at work and human judgment must still be the central components of an educator evaluation system, as they are for virtually all professionals,” Toner said. “We have also said from the start that student learning outcomes at the classroom, district and state levels should also be reviewed and considered in the evaluation process because, at the end of the day, our main job as teachers and administrators is to improve student learning. However, we and 90 percent of the other task force members are also clear that there is no single measure, including MCAS, that fully, fairly and accurately identifies the effectiveness of any individual teacher. These measures are all prone to error. Therefore, while they should be considered, they must not supersede evaluator judgment.”

Toner also stated once again that MCAS growth scores must never be “central” to a comprehensive teacher evaluation, since those scores can be computed for only an estimated 16 percent of all teachers. The vast majority of educators teach grades or subjects for which no MCAS growth scores exist. For those for whom MCAS growth scores can be calculated, he said, “MCAS should not trump other measures of learning, just as no measures of student learning should trump evaluator judgment.

“There is near universal agreement that the evaluation system must be changed,” Toner continued. “Our recommendations on what changes to make were embraced by a majority of task force members. A small number of business representatives on the task force wanted MCAS to account for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. The task force soundly rejected using that or any other specific percentage. Our comments on the regulations will reflect our consistent position: Consider student learning, but reject any plan that would give too much weight to test scores since there are many factors beyond teacher effectiveness that determine those scores.”

The following is Commissioner Chester’s complete statement in response to the Globe article:

“Both the headline and initial paragraphs of today's Globe story do not provide an accurate summary of my recommendations as they relate to the use of student performance measures. I have proposed that student learning be central to the evaluation and development of the Commonwealth’s educators. My recommendations require that for every grade and subject, at least two measures of student learning gains be employed. At the grades and subjects where MCAS growth measures are available, they must be one of the measures – but cannot be the sole measure. Further, I have not specified the manner by which the multiple measures of student learning are to be combined. Each district will develop and document the manner by which they will utilize the multiple student learning measures to determine whether students are making at least a year’s, less than a year’s, or more than a year’s gain.”

MTA's Report: Reinventing Educator Evaluation  

Evaluation FAQs

Evaluation Policy Brief

Boston Globe article