Martha’s Vineyard fares well in statewide teacher evaluations

Martha’s Vineyard fares well in statewide teacher evaluations

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A majority of Island teachers ranked proficient in the first set of performance ratings released last Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Within those numbers, a small percentage of teachers in three Island schools earned exemplary ratings. At Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), 34 percent of the teachers evaluated ranked in the needs improvement category. In the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD), which includes West Tisbury School and Chilmark School, 7 percent of the teachers evaluated were rated unsatisfactory.

Under the state’s new educator evaluation system, teachers and administrators evaluated for the 2012-13 school year earned a performance rating of exemplary, proficient, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory.

About one-quarter to one-third of licensed staff in the Island public schools were selected for evaluation under the new system. They included all probationary teachers who are in their first three years of teaching, and a portion of other teachers, superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) James Weiss explained in a phone conversation with The Times on Monday. He said he was pleased with the results, overall.

Some district and school data was not included in last week’s report, in cases where all staff evaluated in a group received the same rating, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS). Director Bob Moore told The Times 11 teachers, about half of the school’s total, were evaluated and received a rating of proficient.

For confidentiality reasons, the DESE did not report data for individual educators, for schools or districts with less than six staff members, or in cases where all educators were evaluated and a single educator had a different rating than the rest.

The results are the first for a new evaluation system piloted by the DESE last year in 213 school districts that received state Race to the Top (RTT) funds. Massachusetts received a $250 million grant in 2010 as one of 12 winning states in the U.S. Department of Education’s RTT funds competition. Of that grant, Martha’s Vineyard public school districts will receive $118,129 over four years.

The funds are being used to promote educational reforms in grades K-12 in standards and assessment, teachers and leaders, school improvement, and data systems, which includes the development of a model system for educator evaluation.

Under the state’s rollout of the new evaluation framework, 234 school districts receiving RTT funds were required to implement the new system and evaluate at least 50 percent of licensed educators during the 2012-13 school year, according to a DESE press release.

The new evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

State and local results

Statewide, among 37,940 educators evaluated in 213 RTT districts in the 2012-13 school year, 7.4 percent were rated exemplary, 85.2 percent proficient, 6.8 in need of improvement, and 0.7 percent unsatisfactory.

“These initial results confirm what we know — the vast majority of Massachusetts educators are very good at what they do,” Paul Toner, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said in a DESE press release. “As we continue to roll out this new system, people should not draw conclusions about relative school quality based on these results since professional judgment and local context will inevitably lead to some differences in how administrators apply the new ratings. The goal of evaluation is to help identify educators’ strengths and weaknesses so we can improve teaching and learning in all schools.”

Mr. Weiss expressed similar sentiments in talking about teacher performance ratings among Island schools. He said it is important to remember that the results are affected by many factors, including how experienced a teacher or educator is.

Principals and assistant principals did the evaluations at the elementary school level. At the high school, the evaluators included the principal, two assistant principals, and directors of guidance, special education, and vocational education. The superintendent’s staff was involved in some of the educator evaluations, as well.

Among the results, 16.7 percent of the teachers evaluated at Edgartown School were rated as exemplary, 8.3 percent at Oak Bluffs School, and 9.4 percent at the regional high school.

At Edgartown School, 12 of 51 teachers were evaluated. Of those, 16.7 were ranked exemplary, 75 percent were proficient, 8.3 percent in need of improvement, and none unsatisfactory.

Oak Bluffs School evaluated 15 of 56 teachers. Of those, 6.7 percent were ranked exemplary, 86.7 percent proficient, 6.7 percent in need of improvement, and none unsatisfactory.

At Tisbury School evaluated 8 of 41 teachers. None were ranked exemplary, 87.5 percent proficient, 12.5 percent in need of improvement, and none unsatisfactory.

The UIRSD evaluated 14 of 49 teachers. Of those, none were ranked exemplary, 71.4 percent were proficient, 21.4 percent in need of improvement, and 7.1 unsatisfactory.

“I think you have to be very careful in that those are percentages,” Mr. Weiss said when asked about the unsatisfactory ratings. “I’m not going to talk about that, in terms of whether it’s one person or ten, but just because there’s a percentage there doesn’t mean we’re talking about large numbers of people. It could be one.”

At Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) 32 of 79 teachers were evaluated. Of those, 9.4 percent were rated exemplary, 56.3 percent proficient, 34.4 percent in need of improvement, and none unsatisfactory.

“The high school had a large number of new teachers last year,” Mr. Weiss noted in regard to the needs improvement percentage. “If you look at the ratings for all new teachers and some of the teachers with continuing contracts, well, the numbers look skewed. Many of the new teachers are in need of improvement because they’re brand new, and it takes time for them to learn the job and become more proficient.”

Mr. Moore said he was not surprised that all of Charter School teachers evaluated were rated as proficient. “They’re seasoned teachers who have worked hard at their practice over the years, and they all do a good job,” he said.

How the process works

The new evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

The evaluation system includes four broad statewide standards for administrators and teachers. The process involves five steps.

Previously on Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere, teacher evaluations focused on classroom observation and a checklist of topics such as instruction, professionalism, and the classroom environment. Two significant changes in the new evaluation system are the requirement for evidence or documentation, and a set of very specific standards for teachers to follow.

Both teachers and administrators do self-assessments. They also gather evidence, then exchange and discuss it, Mr. Weiss explained to The Times in a previous interview. Evidence gathered by administrators includes reports on two kinds of classroom visits, formal observations, either announced or unannounced, and 5- to 10-minute visits on a regular basis.

The new evaluation system utilizes a chart that links impact on student learning to educator practice. If a teacher teaches an MCAS subject, it will be one of the determinants of his or her performance rating for impact on student learning.

An evaluation rating is not tied to compensation. However, a teacher or administrator with poor ratings in educator practice and/or student achievement who does not demonstrate improvement could lose his or her job. Boston Public School officials acknowledged 31 teachers were already fired, resigned or retired before the end of the past school year after receiving poor evaluations, the Boston Herald reported last Sunday.

According to the DESE regulations, a teacher with a low rating in impact on student learning would be put on a growth plan and be given one year to change his or her practice.

“It’s not just a performance rating, it’s a measure of growth over time,” Mr. Weiss said. “Teachers have four standards, and with each standard there are all these indicators and elements, 32 in all.”

Improving the system

Mr. Weiss told MVPS administrators, teachers and staff at a school opening program on September 3 that he wanted to help reduce the stress the new evaluation system may cause for Island educators this year.

“I’ve had what I call a listening tour to every building this fall, to get a sense of what educators and evaluators are feeling about this new system,” he said in a phone conversation with The Times on Monday. “Because we have some local options, we tried to keep the system intact but reduce the stress wherever we could.”

For example, every teacher won’t be expected to provide documentation from for all 32 indicators and elements, Mr. Weiss said.

“This year we might ask for some things in specific area, but not every year, all the time,” he explained. “We tried to target it to the things the individual really needs to work on. And we all have things we need to work on.”

In addition, Mr. Weiss said that a Joint Labor Management Committee, made of some administrators, teachers, and representatives from the Island’s two educator associations, meets monthly to discuss how the evaluation system is working and how to make it better.

“I think this is a very cumbersome system, so it’s a lot of work for educators, for evaluators, for everyone,” Mr. Weiss said. “On the other hand its intent is to connect what goes on in the classroom, what the teacher does, to student achievement. And that’s really what it’s all about. I think the intent is good; I am concerned about the level of work.”

Mr. Moore said he agrees that the evaluation process is involved, but thinks it is good, for the most part. “I think looking at those four standards of the teaching profession is good from both the perspective of the administrator as well as the teacher,” said. “It tends to lead to good discussions around topics that are important for our profession. I think after we’re gone through the process a couple of years, we’ll get some systems in place to make it more manageable.”

About 75 to 85 percent of MVPS teachers will undergo evaluation this year, and receive a mid-year preliminary “formative assessment” in February, Mr. Weiss said. The educator evaluation system also includes a built-in grievance procedure.

Website data

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website provides a wealth of data about Island public schools in the context of schools across the state.

For example, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School had the third highest total expenditures per pupil in the state ($25,125). Only Provincetown ($33,811) and Cambridge ($27,018) spent more on students. Grafton ($10,064) was ranked lowest.

Student to teacher ratios ranged between a low of 5.5 to 1 in Provincetown to a high of 24.4 to 1 at the Sabis International Charter district.

Salary

The average teacher salary in 2012 in Massachusetts was $70,962. The average salary in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district was $85,130.

Tisbury School was $80,891.

The Up-Island School district was $78,168.

Oak Bluffs was $76,608.

Edgartown was $74,807.

The Concord Carlisle district was tops at $93,712. The Florida district was lowest at $37,099.

Teacher/student ratio

The statewide average pupil to teacher ratio in Massachusetts was 13.5 to 1 in the 2012-2013 school year.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School pupil to teacher ratio was 9.2 to 1.

The Oak Bluffs School pupil to teacher ratio was 8.5 to 1.

The Edgartown School pupil to teacher ratio was 9 to 1.

The Tisbury School pupil to teacher ratio was 9.3 to 1.

The Up-Island Regional School District pupil to teacher ratio (an average of West Tisbury School and Chilmark School) was 8.4 to 1.

Cost per pupil

The average statewide expenditure per pupil was $13,636.

The Martha’s Vineyard High School per pupil expenditure was $25,125, ranked third highest in the state.

The Oak Bluffs per pupil expenditure was $19,437, ranked 30th in the state.

The Edgartown School per pupil expenditure was $20,887, ranked 15th in the state.

The Tisbury School per pupil expenditure was $20,212, ranked 20th in the state.

The Up-Island Regional School District per pupil expenditure was $23,753, sixth in the state.

(No information is provided for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.)