Teaching Profession

Mass. Commissioner Moves to Keep Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

By Emmanuel Felton — December 01, 2016 1 min read

Following the lead of states across the country, perennial top performer Massachusetts is reconsidering what role students’ test scores should play in evaluating teachers. But while many states have pulled back from the practice, a new proposal by the Bay State’s education commissioner would continue the contentious policy, though with some alterations.

The state’s long-serving education commissioner, Mitchell Chester, has proposed lifting a controversial 2011 state rule that requires school districts to give every teacher a student-impact rating, based solely on his or her students’ performance on standardized tests, reports The Boston Globe.

Currently, districts are required to give two scores, one solely based on test scores and one based on classroom observations and artifacts like lesson plans. Chester’s proposal would have districts combine those two systems, keeping test scores as part of the evaluation systems, but not forcing districts to calculate separate ratings based just on test scores.

“Central to the argument that we heard from administrators and teachers alike in the spring was that the requirement that we have an independent, a separate, discrete rating of impact on student learning, whatever value-add it was providing, the cost of that—the distraction of that—far outweighed the benefit of it,” Chester told State House News Service, a wire service.

Chester’s proposal has drawn mixed reactions.

Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, praised the measure, deeming it a skillful compromise: "[I]t gives people what they want—not having to go through the hoops and developing the algorithms on how to do a student-impact rating.”

But Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, argues that the practice of using test scores to evaluate teachers is based on faulty science and should be ended.

“The commissioner’s plan fails to address the reality that there is no way to fairly and effectively judge teachers based on student test scores,” she told the Globe.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.