Evaluations Deem Most Massachusetts Teachers ‘Proficient,’ but Boston Union Alleges Racial Bias

The majority of Massachusetts teachers are capable in their jobs, according to the first results of the state’s new educator evaluation system. The results – released today – show 85 percent of state elementary and secondary teachers are “proficient,” and another 7 percent “exemplary.” The rest were found unsatisfactory or in need of improvement.  Springfield superintendent Dan Warwick says school districts will work with teachers who receive low marks.

“This is not intended to be a ‘gotcha,’ it’s intended to be a system to improve the performance so we have better outcomes for kids,” says Warwick. “So we’re trying to approach it in a positive, instructive manner to allay those fears.”

Starting next year, student achievement results will be part of teacher evaluations. Tim Collins is the President of the Springfield teachers’ union. He says schools haven’t been given sufficient time and resources to implement the new evaluation system.

In Boston, the teachers’ union says the state’s new evaluation system is racially biased. 

Boston union officials say black teachers in Boston are 5 times more likely than white teachers to get an unsatisfactory evaluation – which could eventually lead to termination, and Hispanic teachers are more than twice as likely to get a poor rating.

Richard Stutman, the president of the union, says school officials and policy makers should be very concerned.

“There is no trust or confidence in the evaluations,” says Stutman, “but I think the larger issue is why would the school department rely on a system that is race biased.”

“I think the evaluation we’ve set up in and of itself has no bias in it,” says Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“The evaluation is set up on standards of practice that have been widely endorsed by educators across the commonwealth as well as across the nation,” Chester says.

The evaluations are conducted by principals and other administrators.

This has been a controversial issue in Massachusetts. Boston schools adopted the new evaluation system last school year after tense negotiations with the union that almost had to be settled by a state mediator.



New England Public Radio’s Sarah Birnbaum and Henry Epp contributed to this story.