The educator evaluation data that Massachusetts released last week doesn’t include all of the state’s teachers or districts, nor does it include all of the components of the new evaluation system (like students’ test scores). But there are still some useful lessons to be gleaned from the data:

  1. Compared with recent state results in places like Florida or Delaware, a slightly larger percent of teachers — roughly 7 percent — were identified as needing improvement. This number is particularly important, as several states have virtually no teachers in this category. It may be true that a relatively small number of our teaching force is truly ineffective (though my suspicion is that it is still higher than the 0.7 percent identified this year in Massachusetts). However, it seems likely that relatively significant numbers of teachers should be in need of improvement at this point in time, especially when we consider the shift to new college- and career-ready standards and the caliber of teaching required under that shift. I would venture that even Massachusetts’ number of teachers needing improvement should be larger than what this initial release indicates.
  2. Only 7 percent of teachers received the top rating of exemplary — a select percent, especially compared to how readily equivalent ratings have been doled out in other states. This is also promising, in that it delineates that category as a meaningful indicator of true excellence.
  3. Massachusetts provided aggregate teacher evaluation ratings at the school level. This is really important for understanding key questions about where the strongest and weakest teachers may be concentrated within a district, which students are benefiting from great instruction, and which students are most at-risk of having to endure subpar teaching. More states should share information at this level so parents and other stakeholders can access and learn from the data.