Massachusetts Teachers Association leads the way

by Steve Bowen on December 21, 2010

in Education

Yesterday, I wondered whether the Maine Education Association, fresh off the Election Day shellacking of its gubernatorial candidate, Libby Mitchell, wold take a long look at itself in the mirror and decide to become part of the solution with regard to school reform, rather than part of the problem.  There seems to be some indication that they plan to at least propose reforms of their own rather than continue to deny that there is anything about Maine’s schools that needs fixing.

I suggested in that post that there are reform-minded unions out there, and, lo and behold, today’s Boston Globe contains a story about how the Massachusetts Teachers Association has stepped forward with its own performance-based teacher evaluation model.  The model is not ideal, but it does use multiple years of data from the state’s standardized achievement test to at least confirm the findings of classroom evaluations done by school and district administrators. “Teachers with the highest marks would have the opportunity to earn more money by mentoring and performing other special jobs,” reports the Globe, while “those that do poorly would be put on a one-year improvement plan and be dismissed if they fail to improve.”

Again, not the most ideal model – New Haven, Connecticut’s new evaluation system (which was also developed with and supported by its teachers’ union, by the way) is a much better approach – but for a union to step forward and agree that underperforming teachers should be forced to find other work is a big step.

To be fair, the MEA did step forward and propose the barest outline of a performance-based evaluation system for teachers back in May, when such a model was needed for Maine’s ill-fated Race to the Top application, but little has been done since then to move the ball down the field.

It will be interesting to see, in the days and weeks ahead, whether the MEA follows the lead of reform-minded unions both here in New England and elsewhere.

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