
Testing Math Teachers
Posted:
Apr 25, 2000 5:11 PM


Below are excerpts from an "Alert" that was sent to Massachusetts Teachers Association local presidents during school vacation week regarding the plan by Gov. Cellucci and subsequent proposed regulations to test all mathematics teachers in socalled "low performing schools." The MTA is strongly opposed to these regulations, which are scheduled to be voted on at the May 23 Board of Education meeting. Information in the "Alert" tells educators how they can register their thoughts on these proposed regulations.
Alert: Board of Education Proposes to Test Math Teachers
The Massachusetts Board of Education has put out for public comment a proposal to test Âmathematics teachers in middle and high schools with low student performance on the MCAS mathematics test.Â In order to accomplish this intent, the Board of Education is proposing amendments to both the Recertification Regulations and the Regulations on UnderPerforming Schools and Districts. Complete copies of the proposals and other related documents are available on the Department of Education web site, especially at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/mailings/2000/405/regs_memo.html, http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/proposed/p603cmr2.html, and http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/proposed/p603cmr44.html.
The Board of Education currently intends to vote on these proposals at its meeting on May 23, 2000, currently scheduled to be held in Monson, MA.
The Department of Education has announced that it will be holding regional forums on Âstrategies for improving student performance in mathematics,Â as well as on the mathematics teacher testing regulations. As of today (April 25), dates and locations of only two of the forums have been announced.
 The first will be held on May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Junior High School in Brockton, located at 271 West Street (5085807381).  The second will be held on May 11 in Shrewsbury at the Regional Science Resource Center, UMass Medical School, 222 Maple Street. (We will post information about the other forums on the MTA Web site at www.massteacher.org as they are announced.)
The deadline for written comments on the proposed regulations is May 5, 2000. Written comments may be sent to Ann Duffy, Associate Commissioner of Educator Quality, 350 Main St., Malden, MA 02148, by fax at 7813383392, or by email to TeachMath@doe.mass.edu. In addition to comments submitted by your members, comments will be submitted by MTA on behalf of all teachers.
A call to action!
While math teachers are the current target, these proposals present a threat to all educators. Therefore, all educators must be heard:
1. Large numbers of educators should attend the regional forums and make their opposition loud and clear.
2. A multitude of written comments should be submitted by practicing educators.
3. Large numbers of educators should attend the Board of Education meeting on May 23, should testify, and make their displeasure known. Your MTA Field Representative will contact you about further actions and further developments.
Math Teacher Test Q&A
These are some preliminary questions and answers:
Who would be tested? 1. Any teacher who teaches (for any part of the day) any mathematics course in Âany middle or high school where 30% or more of the students fail the MCAS mathematics test and where the school fails to meet or exceed its improvement expectation on the MCAS mathematics test, as established through the School Performance Rating Process.Â
2. Any teacher who teaches (for any part of the day) any mathematics course in any middle or high school that has been referred for review under 603 CMR 2.03(7), the existing Regulations on UnderPerforming Schools and Districts.
3. Any teacher who teaches (for any part of the day) any mathematics course and who is not specifically certified in mathematics in any middle or high school with a 30% or greater failure rate on the 1999 mathematics MCAS.
4. Any teacher who teaches (for any part of the day) any mathematics course in any other middle or high school which the Commissioner determines to be referred for review in addition to those required under the current Regulations on UnderPerforming Schools and Districts.
How many teachers would be tested? Department of Education staff predicts that math teachers in 80% of all middle schools and high schools in the state would fall under these proposals.
What will the test be? The decision about what the math test would be has not been announced. Among the possibilities not yet ruled out are: the Massachusetts Educator Certification Test (the Ânew teacher testÂ); Department of Education designed test; and Accuplacer (a test used for placement of college students).
What if teachers ÂfailÂ the test? 1. In approving Individual Professional Plans, supervisors Âmust determine that the professional development plan addresses the weaknesses identified by the Mathematics Content Assessment.Â 2. Supervisors must Âwithdraw approval of any professional development plan that fails to address weaknesses identified by the Mathematics Content Assessment.Â
What if teachers refuse to take the test? Once the test is available, supervisors will be prohibited from approving Individual Professional Development Plans for impacted teachers who have not taken the test.
Below is testimony that was submitted by MTA President Stephen E. Gorrie on these proposed regulations.
Testimony by MTA President Stephen E. Gorrie Submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Education March 28, 2000
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today regarding the proposed regulations to test mathematics teachers who teach in middle and high schools with socalled LowPerforming Mathematics Programs.
For the record, let me repeat that the MTA strongly believes that only qualified, certified teachers should be hired in our public schools, that all teachers should be held to high standards, and that the most effective way to determine if teachers are doing a good job is to evaluate their performance in the classroom.
That said, we strongly oppose these regulations on several grounds. First, the Legislature has never granted this Board authority to impose a testing requirement on any teachers and in fact has rejected teacher testing legislation twice in the past two years. Second, we believe that the criterion for determining which teachers must be tested under this plan is arbitrary and misguided. Third, and most importantly, we believe this proposal will do a disservice to the very students it is purported help because it will drive good math teachers away from our inner city schools. Let me address each point briefly.
As you know, in 1998 and again in 1999 Gov. Cellucci filed legislation to require all teachers to be tested in subject area knowledge and literacy skills. That poorly conceived proposal was rightly rejected by the Legislature. This time, the governor has decided to bypass the Legislature and impose a teacher testing proposal administratively by regulation. In our opinion, the governor did not have authority to test all teachers without explicit legislative authorization and likewise he does not have authority to test a subset of teachers without such authorization. We are currently exploring our legal options in opposing this test.
A second concern is that the test score cutoff used to determine which schools have socalled LowPerforming Mathematics Programs is arbitrary and defies common sense. The 30 percent failure rate has no relationship to any designation of Underperformance in your recently adopted regulations. Indeed, as you know, a large majority of the stateÂs middle and high schools have failure rates of 30 percent or more on the mathematics MCAS tests, including many that are considered excellent schools by other measures of achievement. Once again, this disconnect between student MCAS scores and student success on other assessments casts a shadow on the validity of the MCAS tests themselves. Identifying such a large percentage of our schools as ÂlowperformingÂ in math is part and parcel with other recent rhetoric and actions by this Board that unjustly undermine public confidence in our public schools and the teachers who work in them.
Last but not least, this proposal is poor public policy that will not result in the desired ends. There is a presumption built into these proposed regulations that teachers who work with disadvantaged students are probably less competent than their peers who teach affluent students. This is both untrue and insulting, and is precisely the wrong message to send if this Board of Education is serious about attracting and retaining excellent math teachers in our urban schools. Imagine a certified teacher named Jane Doe who is highlyqualified in mathematics. Imagine that she has two job offers, one from Lexington High School and the other from Durfee High School in Fall River. If she teaches in Lexington, she will be in a school that is deemed to be highperforming. She will not be subjected to humiliating articles in the media about the Âlow performanceÂ of her students. Her qualifications to teach will not be questioned by politicians. She will not be subjected to the burden and insult of having to take a math test. If she chooses to work at Durfee High School, however, she will indeed face those burdens, and will be paid less for her efforts. Members of the Board, I ask you: If you were in Jane DoeÂs shoes, which job would you accept?
I hope you will give serious consideration to the potentially serious negative consequences of this proposal and will vote to reject these proposed regulations.
Thank you.

