Sunday, April 28, 2013

Massachusetts New Teacher Evaluation System: Reflections

9/2/2013 Note: An updated collection of timely posts and information related to the MA evaluation system can be found on the TeachFocus website.

This year I've been part of a system-wide pilot with regard to the new Massachusetts' Teacher Evaluation system. As part of the pilot, I went through the many steps associated with this process. Also as part of the pilot, my pilot colleagues and I will support our colleagues as they go through the steps next year.

In the best light, the new evaluation process is a chance for teachers to develop a reflective, targeted, research-based professional practice. Teachers can stay one step ahead of this process by completing the following steps.

1. Read the Massachusetts Teachers' Association (MTA) New Evaluation Guide. This guide is succinct, and provides links to the Massachusetts' Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) evaluation forms and process outlines.

2. Organize your professional work online and off. I recommend the following:
  • Begin a reflective blog, journal, chart, website or document where you keep track of signature events, challenges, questions and efforts in words and images. This document can be private or public depending on your goals. A document like this will help you to build and develop your professional work. This is an example of my blog.
  • Create an online (public or private) ePortfolio with your resume, recertification chart and professional work/evaluation document. Here is my example
  • Understand your system's vehicle for documentation. The system I work for is trying out TeachPoint and as I work with it, the software seems simple and manageable. Interact with the chosen system to learn it well. 
3. Take the time to do a thoughtful self-assessment using state or system rubrics.  It's worth the effort to understand where you stand with regard to standards for excellence in our profession.  When you look at the Massachusetts' standards you will note that they are numerous, but they are also worthy teaching goals.

4. Write SMART goals that benefit your students, professional work and system.  Well-written SMART goals will leave you with work that matters. I outline that process in this post. My SMART goals really served to improve my practice and effect this year. 

4. Ask questions throughout the process so you understand the process, systems and expectations well. Use the summer months to prep your organization, documentation and understanding.

At first sight this new evaluation process seemed overwhelming as there was so much paperwork and so many new systems, yet now that we're heading towards the last month of the pilot, I feel much more comfortable with the process. Our pilot included the following components which helped to create this comfort level:
  • The elementary school principals worked with us to create a system of goal setting, evidence collection, and documentation. The collegial aspect of the pilot made it safe to ask questions, share concerns and develop understanding. During next year's roll-out we'll want to create that same safe space for teachers embarking on the system for the first time. We'll also want to create a time line for teachers so they know what to expect and what's expected.
  • An expert consultant worked with us so that we could understand the system well.  I outlined that effort in a blog post
  • We were introduced to the online software as a group and were able to benefit from each other's exploration and questions. 
How have you learned about or interacted with the new Massachusetts' Teacher Evaluation system?  What systems, processes or efforts have helped you to understand and interact with this system successfully?  What tips would you offer to teachers who are embarking on this system for the first time?

I believe it's essential for teachers to stay one step ahead of state and system-wide efforts and actions as that gives the teacher a comfortable starting point for collegial effort with respect to teaching children well.  I look forward to any advice, links or suggestions you may have as we move forward to assist our colleagues with this process.

Related Posts
TeachFocus is a website that illustrates the new Massachusetts Educator Evaluation expectations with depth. This website can be used to lead reflection and efforts to optimize your teaching practice.

MA Eval System

TeachFocus Website Introduction

The First Eval Meeting 

Chart Your Path: Navigating MA Teaching Initiatives

Teacher Evaluation: Lesson Planning

Teacher Evaluation Systems: Prepare