The BTU urges members to get informed, stand with educators across the state, and think twice before applying
In a move that defies a growing and nearly-unanimous body of educational research and common sense, the BPS has unilaterally begun to implement District-Determined Measures (DDMs), a provision of the state evaluation system that mandates evaluating teachers based on student MCAS and ACCESS scores.
In an email circulated Monday, the district began recruiting teachers for a “BTU Stipend Opportunity — District-Determined Measures Workgroup Applicants Sought!” in which it seeks “Teacher-Leaders and other exemplary educators in English Language Arts and Mathematics to be part of a team of teachers, school administrators, and central office content leaders that will develop the measures of student learning that will inform the new Impact on Student Learning rating.”
The district does not mention that, in addition to these common assessments, the widely-discredited student growth percentile (SGP) MUST be used as one measure in determining the complex and nebulous “Student Impact Rating” on your evaluation.
We encourage members to think twice before participating in this work. Common assessments and MCAS/PARCC tests were never designed to evaluate teachers, and using them this way will undermine teaching and learning. This is one stipend that is just not worth it.
Both AFT MA and the MTA, as well as superintendents across the state are vehemently opposed to the implementation of impact ratings derived from MCAS, PARCC and DDMs, finding them unworkable and educationally unsound.
GET INFORMED: READ the JOINT AFT MA and MTA WHITE PAPER on DDMs
The BTU is leading the way on the creation, implementation, and responsible use of assessments of student learning.
The BTU believes that good assessment practice is a critical component of teaching and learning. We further believe that there is great value in having teachers work together to deepen their understanding of assessment and improve practice in this area. We believe that looking together at student work and performance on worthwhile assessments can be one of the most valuable forms of professional learning.
Last month, our Less Testing More Learning Committee proposed, and the Superintendent agreed, that we would collaboratively join the Massachusetts Consortium on Innovative Educational Assessment. Composed of eight districts from across Massachusetts ranging from poor to wealthy, urban to suburban, and everything in between, this group of union and district leaders has come together to re-envision assessment and test-based accountability in Massachusetts. This group strongly believes that we can create and implement assessments that do justice to the complexity of teaching practice and student learning. We hope, eventually, to change our state accountability system as allowed under the new ESSA federal education law.
Though this work is still just beginning, you can learn more about a similar approach taken by the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of New York schools that operates under a waiver from the state’s high-stakes testing regime. Students who graduate from consortium schools dramatically outperform their bubble-test-assessed peers in college completion rates, which is more than we can say for some schools that do well on standardized tests. Read more in The Nation.
BPS Has To Make a Choice
On the one hand, the BPS has joined us in a collaborative effort to create and implement high-quality assessments that give us good information about our students and that inform teaching and learning. The Superintendent told the Boston Globe this is the right path.
On the other hand, the BPS has decided to move forward with an irresponsible, destructive, and outdated state policy to evaluate teachers based on student test scores—an approach to teacher evaluation that was essentially repudiated by the federal government through the passage of ESSA and that is no longer required to receive federal dollars.
Which is it, BPS? What do you believe is in the best interest of teachers and students?
Some History of DDMs in BPS
Last year, DESE temporarily withheld millions of dollars in federal funding from BPS due to a lack of implementation of DDMs, and it seemed for a time that BPS had successfully stood up to DESE and was able to have the funding released. In our April 12 BTU eBulletin, we announced that bargaining on this issue had reached an impasse. We were unable to reach an agreement because we did not want to subject our members and our students to this harmful policy.
Throughout our talks, BPS representatives also shared their own concerns about DESE’s DDM mandate and its likely negative consequences for teaching and learning, including the corruption of formative assessments that were never designed for the purpose of evaluating teachers. Now, for reasons that are unclear, and despite all research and best practice to the contrary, BPS has renewed its intent to evaluate our members based on student test scores. Why?
You will hear arguments that the Impact Rating can have only minimal effect on your overall evaluation. While this is currently true, it is important to note that, last year, DESE proposed making one’s ability to renew a license — and thus obtain employment as a teacher in a MA public school — dependent on your Student Impact Rating, a determination ultimately made by your school-based administrator based on his or her interpretation of your students’ test scores. DESE withdrew this proposal, but has recently reopened the question of teacher licensure. Will this again rear its head?
In the coming weeks and months, we will have more information about our plans to fight the school department’s implementation of this plan, and how you can get involved.
The bottom line is that we should all stand together – administrators, educators, parents, and students alike – to oppose the harmful DDM/impact rating mandate.