By: Ryan Saunders, Program Associate, Education Workforce, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

In 2015, The Department of Education, under the Excellent Educators for All initiative, required states to submit plans demonstrating their efforts to address the growing achievement and equity gaps in schools and districts across the country. Massachusetts responded to the Department’s mandate to develop a plan to ensure equitable student access state-wide to excellent teachers and principals by targeting the preparation of educators as a key strategy. The Massachusetts Equity Plan, developed alongside a diverse group of stakeholders, including teachers, principals, district leaders, parents, and representatives of English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities, outlined a set of changes that would raise the standards by which educator preparation programs were evaluated and approved. At the same time, the plan further elevated the state’s current efforts as part of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) aligned action network, the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP), and established a set of continued priorities for the future in preparing the education workforce.

Guided by policy recommendations outlined in CCSSOs taskforce report Our Responsibility, Our Promise, Massachusetts has sought to provide a more comprehensive program review, improvement and approval model that includes outcome measures alongside the more traditional review of program inputs. In the Guidelines for Program Approval, released in July 2013 (and updated in November 2015), the state established higher expectations for approval and reaffirmed their expectation that programs, whether housed in traditional institutions of higher education or offered by alternative providers, actively pursue continuous improvement driven by outcome data. To facilitate the use of outcome data in program redesign and improvement, the state collected and reported on data from educator evaluation ratings, program graduates’ impact in producing growth in student learning, along with employment and survey data. The outcome-based measures in the guidelines also seek to shed light on whether programs are preparing graduates ready to assume positions in high-needs placements.

Massachusetts has also prioritized collaboration between educator preparation providers (EPPs) and the PK-12 system as they embrace the opportunity to create experiences for educator candidates that will ensure the success of all PK-12 students. The Guidelines were designed with the goal of developing and deepening these partnerships between EPPs and school districts and charter schools.  In addition, they recently released an Advisory in support of the development of deep and interactive partnerships between providers and districts in Massachusetts. This shared responsibility for candidate success increases the likelihood that effective, qualified, and dynamic individuals will seek educator licensure and employment as educators in Massachusetts.

In their work to raise the standards for educators entering the profession, Massachusetts developed and implemented the use of performance-based assessments for both PK-12 school leaders and teachers. The Performance Assessment for Leaders (PAL) is aligned with the Professional Standards for Administrative Leadership and requires candidates to demonstrate their leadership skills and knowledge through experiences within schools. The Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP) will replace the Pre-Service Performance Assessment and measures candidates’ practice across a range of key indicators as outlined in the Guidelines for the Professional Standards of Teachers and in alignment with the Educator Evaluation Framework. The CAP is being piloted in the 2015-2016 academic year, but will become a requirement for program completion from all teacher preparation programs beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year. Both performance assessments provide opportunities for educator candidates to demonstrate the skills that more closely reflect authentic work in schools.

As Massachusetts enters its third year with NTEP, it will further its efforts to increase equitable access to a quality education across the Commonwealth by increasing its reporting capacity through updates to the Edwin Analytic Reports that are accessible to the state, districts and EPPs. Current efforts are also underway to improve the state’s data collection mechanisms including the systems around reporting results from the CAP and PAL. Ultimately, the work of NTEP states, like Massachusetts, will offer models for all states moving forward as state and local agencies recognize their capacity to positively impact the quality of the education workforce and ensure achievement for all students.