MCAS Scores To Count In New Teacher Evaluations

By Sarah Birnbaum

June 28, 2011

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Board of Education has voted to make student test scores play a bigger role in teacher evalution.

The new process, approved with a 9-2 vote Tuesday morning rewards teachers whose students make progress on the tests would be rewarded. Those with poorly performing students could eventually be fired. It represents a marked change from previous evaluation procedures, which recommended — but did not require — the use of test scores.

Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester  says student learning is reflected in test scores and must play a part in rating teachers. 

“Getting teacher and administrator evaluation right is essential. And a core component on this is the impact on learning.  What evidence do we have as to where students are learning well and where they’re straggling?” Chester said.

But Monty Neal, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Fair Test, says standardized tests aren't an accurate metric of teacher effectiveness.

"There’s a lot of error in any given test. So the use of the MCAS or any other single test will inevitably produce many incorrect results," Neal said. "And so when you judge a teacher by incorrect results, you may either let not very good teachers go ahead or you will take a good teacher and declare them not to be good, which is very unfair and will be harmful to the kids."

Since the MCAS isn't given in every grade and in every subject, the Board of Education proposal calls for local school districts to develop their own tests to measure progress. Officials in some districts worry this approach would be too expensive, while some parents worry it forces their kids to take too many tests.

The new evaluations will also include student feedback on teachers.


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