Among Teachers, Qualified Support For Use Of MCAS In Evaluations

By Andrea Smardon

June 29, 2011

BOSTON — The state's Education Board has approved new regulations that use students' MCAS scores as one of criteria to evaluate teachers. It's a change many teachers welcome — but they want to make sure it's implemented alongside a series of other changes.

Many teachers, including the Massachusetts Teachers' Association — the state's largest teacher's union — supported the change. But the MTA's Cathy Skinner says there needs to be other tolls used to assess teacher performance, like classroom observation, self-assessment and peer review.

"These regulations ensure that no one’s job performance will be based solely on MCAS or any one measure," Skinner said.

Both the MTA and the state's second-largest teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, expressed concerns about the capacity of the districts to implement these the full gamut of changes that need to come with the use of test scores. Tom Gosnell, of the AFT, says evaluators are going to need training.   

“Whether this initiative succeeds or fails will hinge to a large degree on the quality of implementation. But this means evaluators must be well trained. Will there be support for this from the state and the department? This will be absolutely crucial,” Gosnell said.

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is committed to training evaluators and providing support to districts. He said the department plans to use federal Race to the Top funds to put the new system in place.

The changes will be phased in over the next three years.

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