RELEASE: More Than a Test Score: New CAP Report Offers a Deep Dive Into Massachusetts’ Teacher Evaluation System

Massachusetts’ teacher evaluation system, which was developed in close partnership with teachers, uses test scores as a check on the system rather than as the deciding factor.

Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress offers a deep dive into the current teacher evaluation model in Massachusetts and suggests that other states can look to Massachusetts’ system as a model for how to use student test scores in teacher evaluations. In Massachusetts, test scores are only a check on a teacher’s evaluation rather than a component of an algorithm. Evaluation ratings are used to promote educator learning and positive changes to schools as opposed to using ratings as a punitive metric. As a result, teachers in Massachusetts cannot be let go because of their students’ test scores. This approach, the CAP report notes, puts educator growth and improvement at the heart of its evaluation system.

“Massachusetts’ approach respects the professionalism of educators: Instead of having their performance determined by plugging different data points into a calculator, Massachusetts empowers evaluators to use their judgement,” said Catherine Brown, Vice President, Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. “By developing its model in close partnership with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, its evaluation system was more accepted by teachers and less controversial than the systems developed in many other states. Now that states have been granted additional flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act, other states can look to Massachusetts’ system as model for how to use test scores—not as part of a formula but as a separate, and less consequential, piece of information.”

CAP’s report looks at the history of Massachusetts’ teacher evaluation system, including the creation of a task force assembled by Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, as well as the eventual creation of an evaluation framework that included three categories of evidence and a five-step evaluation cycle, which incorporated educator self-assessment. This evaluation framework eventually informed the new educator evaluation framework adopted by the state board in 2011—a unique model that empowers evaluators and educators to be able to determine their own growth plans if they are high-performing and embeds the evaluation system within a broader system of feedback and professional development. Such a model supports the continuous improvement of educators.

CAP’s report then delves into what makes Massachusetts’ system different from others across the country. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015, states now have additional flexibility when it comes to developing their educator evaluation systems, and CAP’s report notes that Massachusetts’ model offers potentially useful lessons for other states across the United States. The report highlights that the state uses test scores as a check on the rating instead of a component of the rating—teachers cannot be dismissed on test scores alone—and puts the judgement of evaluators, who work closely with the educators, front and center.

Click here to read “Educator Evaluation: A Case Study of Massachusetts’ Approach” by Catherine Brown, Lisette Partelow, and Annette Konoske-Graf.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at or 202.478.6331.