WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — The Massachusetts public school system will see sweeping changes to its teacher evaluation methods next year, but Westborough is out in front, implementing the new changes early.
"The goal is to give teachers a greater opportunity to self-reflect on their own practices," said Westborough Superintendent Marianne O'Connor.
The Massachusetts Model System for Educator Evaluation is being implemented in select Mass. schools. Since Westborough accepted funds from the Race to the Top program last year, they are going to be one of the model school systems for the state.
Ann Benbenek, a seventh grade teacher at Gibbons Middle School, said she is excited that Westborough is out on the forefront of the new system.
"We're not going to be told what to do next year, we can kind of craft the system ourselves," Benbenek said.
The biggest change will come in terms of how teachers and evaluators' roles are defined. Ed Belbin, the social studies department head at Westborough High School, defined the environment as more collegial, where the evaluator is viewed as a coach.
"Thiis encourages a constant dialogue with teachers in a non-evaluative way," Belbin said. "I think we'll be able to provide a lot more meaningful feedback."
The system requires teachers to develop what are called SMART goals, an acronym that stands for specific and strategic, measurable, action oriented, rigorous, realist and results-focused, time tracked. There are then dates set for teachers to implement new methods for goal attainment and adjustment.
O'Connor said the plan is meant to be a "living document" that can be amended and changed as is necessary.
"We going to have to continue to refine [the plan] as we go through this process," O'Connor said.
"The ultimate goal is always to improve student performance."
With any new system, there is an inherent risk as a feeling-out process is required before everything becomes comfortable, said Belbin. However, he said the consensus amongst the teachers is positive.
"I really appreciate that people care so much about something we see such real value in," Belbin said.