The policy is unworkable, unnecessary, and harmful to teaching and learning, many educators say
The Boston Teachers Union has been involved in discussions with the school department for the last three years, on and off, on the subject of “impact on student learning ratings,” which are required by state regulations that were passed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in 2011. The regulations require that every educator in the state receive a rating of low, moderate, or high that is separate from his/her summative rating of exemplary, proficient, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. According to regulations, an educator’s student impact rating is to be based on student growth percentiles derived from student scores on the MCAS (where available) and/or district-determined measures (DDMs). DDMs are tests created at the district or school level for the purpose of evaluating educators.
While this mandate has been on the books for five years, few (if any) districts in MA have made progress in developing a process to derive impact ratings, given the virtual impossibility of teasing out an individual teacher’s contribution to student test scores in any fair, valid, or reliable way. What’s more, the BTU and AFT Massachusetts, along with many school officials including a good many superintendents across the state, see the mandate as counterproductive and harmful to teaching and learning because it requires districts to use student assessments for purposes for which they were never designed or intended. When good assessments are used improperly for the purpose of educator evaluation, the integrity of those tests becomes corrupted, generating data of little or no value and hindering classroom practice.
The issue has dragged on in communities throughout the state, and no district of any size has an operational program in place. In fact, given the unpopularity of the issue, the state has postponed implementation twice in the last few years.
The BTU has not reached an agreement with the school district, and we have voiced to them our serious concerns about the policy’s unfairness, unworkability, and negative impact on teaching and learning. To date, we have not received satisfactory answers to fundamental questions about how the process will work, including how educators and students will be protected from the harmful consequences of this policy.
Because we do not have an agreement, the school department has indicated it may implement the policy unilaterally. We hope the school department doesn’t go down this road; rather, we urge them to join us and other educators around the state in pushing back against this misguided policy. In fact, the timing for such a concerted push back could not be better because the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) eliminates the federal requirement that educator evaluations be tied to student test outcomes as a condition of states receiving federal education dollars. In other words, DESE’s DDM/impact rating mandate is now completely unnecessary as a route to satisfying federal requirements; it truly serves no purpose whatsoever, remaining on the books as an onerous bureaucratic requirement that is seen as having no value by most educators.
On the issue of student feedback, the state regulations also require that student feedback be incorporated into the performance evaluation process. We have been meeting with the school department on this as well, and we have made some progress. As this is independent from the issue of DDMs, we hope we can reach a satisfactory resolution. When we do, we will be in touch.