Questions Linger As State Moves Forward With Teacher Evaluation Overhaul

By Andrea Smardon

Apr. 28, 2011

BOSTON — The State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is moving forward with plans to overhaul its method for evaluating teachers, including the use of student test scores as a measure of teacher performance. The Board voted on Thursday to solicit public comment on the revised regulations. But the decision was not unanimous, and board members still have unanswered questions about the new regulations.

The regulations proposed by Commissioner Mitchell Chester would use MCAS scores among other measures as part of the assessment of teachers, a first for the state of Massachusetts.

A majority of the board voted to move forward and open up Chester’s proposal for public comment. But two board members voted against it and one abstained. Vice Chair Harneen Chernow refrained from voting, saying she’s concerned about using student test scores in poor urban districts.

“As a parent of children in the Boston Public Schools, I just question how much this is about attracting, developing, retaining high quality teachers to those districts, and how much a of a system we’re creating that is going to disincentive teachers from teaching the hardest to serve kids in some of the toughest areas,” Chernow said.

Other members raised concerns that the regulations are not clear about how student growth and learning would be measured – and that evaluations would rely too heavily on MCAS scores.

Chester’s proposal calls for each district to decide on at least two measures of student learning to be used in each grade and each subject, including MCAS scores where they exist.  State Secretary of Education Paul Reville said it’s a work in progress, but it’s important to move forward.

“We’re not finished. This is a developmental process. We have other conversations to follow this about the consequences that flow from these evaluations. I view us now us signaling the beginning of a 60-day conversation. So I’m happy to support the motion that puts these regulations out to comment,” Reville said.

The state Education Department will be soliciting public comment until June 28th, at which time the board will take a final vote.

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