Massachusetts Senate Passes Compromise Bill to Evaluate Teacher Performance

The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Thursday giving teacher performance evaluations greater weight in public school hiring decisions. The bill is intended to avert a state ballot question on the issue in this fall’s election.

The legislation is a compromise between teachers unions and advocacy groups. The organization Stand For Children, who also sponsored the ballot question, supports the measure. Director Jason Williams, says the existing evaluation system in the state doesn’t go far enough.  

“It did not create the linkage though, between the evaluations and key staffing decisions especially in our low-income urban school districts, Springfield being one of them, where those decisions are still driven primarily, or in many cases solely, by seniority and length of service.”
 
Williams says the new legislation will guarantee that teacher evaluations are linked to hiring decisions. Timothy Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, says even though the bill has union support, he remains disappointed by it. Collins says both the recently passed senate version of the bill and the proposed ballot question are unnecessary because the state Board of Education is already set to implement new evaluation systems.
 
“I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense. No business would operate that way. They usually have a five year plan, or a three year plan, if they’re going to do a massive change, and they assess, and they adjust on the way. We haven’t even implemented this thing yet, and they’re already going about changing it.”
 
But for that change to happen the measure must also pass in the house. If it does pass and is signed by Governor Deval Patrick by July 3rd,  Stand For Children says the organization will not pursue putting the more far-reaching referendum question on the state’s November ballot.