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Volume 27, Number 1
January/February 2011

A Union Takes the Lead

Paul Toner on the MTA’s controversial plan to include student scores in teacher evaluations


Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), rattled the teacher-union establishment last month with the union’s plan to include results from statewide standardized tests in teacher evaluations. In this interview Toner, a former elementary school teacher and lawyer, explains why student growth outcomes on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System—or MCAS—should be among the criteria used to judge teacher performance.

What is the MTA’s proposal to use test scores to evaluate teachers?
The MTA plan is what’s called a “Triangulated Standards-based Evaluation Framework.” The three parts of the framework include observation of practice and examination of artifacts, such as student projects; evidence of professional contributions; and measures of student learning and outcomes to produce a final rating for a teacher. For the 17 percent of Massachusetts teachers who teach subjects covered by the MCAS, that would include three-year trends in MCAS student growth scores.

The key to the MTA plan is triangulation, which acknowledges the richness and complexity of teaching and administration by evaluating each from more than one vantage point.

Multiple measures of student learning and outcomes can include district-based pre and post assessments tied to learning standards; classroom observations and discussions; projects and portfolios; other standardized tests; and the three-year trends in MCAS student growth scores.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.