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State Seeks More Time On Teacher Evaluation System

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is seeking the authority to change the timeline for implementing new teacher evaluations regulations in some school districts.

The Board of Education voted Tuesday to seek public comment on a regulatory amendment giving Chester ability to modify the dates set in existing regulations, and establish new schedules when necessary, according to a spokeswoman for DESE.

For many school districts, the 2013-2014 school year is their first foray into measuring teachers’ performance based on student achievements. Some schools, which are part of the Race to the Top federal grant program, began implementing the new educator evaluation system last year. Districts not in the Race to the Top program begin this year.

State education officials want to give schools that are using the evaluations an additional year to pilot the system, Education Secretary Matt Malone said Tuesday.

Last fall, state education officials and teachers’ unions disagreed over the number of hours needed to train teachers and administrators on the new evaluation system. Malone said the extra time to pilot the system will allow education officials to get the evaluations right.

“There is tremendous pressure in the field on this issue,” he said.

DESE Board member Harneen Chernow said she has heard concerns about how administrators will be trained to measure teachers’ performance. Teachers unions had suggested 16 hours of training for those in charge of evaluations; DESE settled on 11 hours.

“For the majority of educators it is going to be about growth and development, it is not going to be a gotcha for teachers and administrators,” Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said during a board meeting in Malden.

A June 2012 law gives teacher performance and evaluations greater weight in public school personnel decisions. The law forged between lawmakers, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Stand For Children — backers of a ballot question — avoided a more encompassing initiative petition which was on track for the November election, but dropped.

This program aired on September 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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