“The Massachusetts Teachers Association districts are working over time with their school systems to put forward thoughtful evaluation systems,” Toner said. “There are a couple of places at odds on one or two points, but they are working on it. . . . I think we will be in good shape mid-September or early October.”
In Boston, the School Department and the union have clashed over six key areas, such as whether teachers should be able to grieve and arbitrate each element of their improvement plan, whether specific deadlines for evaluating teachers should be in the contract, and whether an evaluator would need to show just cause for downgrading a teacher’s rating. “The union is trying to take away some of the authority of our evaluators” granted to them under the state regulations, said Ross Wilson, Boston’s assistant superintendent for educator effectiveness. “It’s unfortunate.”
But Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said the union is trying to protect the rights of teachers and that unions and districts statewide are both presented with the challenge of trying to decipher regulations that are little more than a year old.
The Boston union is part of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, which has been more apprehensive about use of student achievement to measure teacher performance.
“It’s new uncharted territory,” Stutman said. “Everyone is working on it diligently.”
The rift has already cost Boston a $9 million federal grant this spring that was aimed at providing teachers with performance bonuses, but was contingent on early adoption of evaluation regulations.
Chester, the state education commissioner, said he is reluctant to take financial sanctions against districts that fail to comply with the revised regulations.
“Financial sanctions — I view those as a last resort,” he said. “My expectation is we will get there without those sanctions.”