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December 2021

Welcome to Educator Effectiveness News. As we head into the holidays for a well-deserved break, many of us do so with trepidation over rising COVID-19 cases and uncertainty around what lies ahead for our students, our educators, and our communities. We are battling multiple epidemics and public health crises, from the sudden spread of the Omicron variant to our ongoing fight against systemic racism. But... there are also over 130,000 reasons to be enormously proud as we close out 2021, and here at the Center for Instructional Support, we want to extend our deepest appreciation and gratitude to all the teachers, administrators, faculty, and support staff who have welcomed students back into classrooms this year with love, patience, strength, and resilience. Whether providing exciting spaces for new Kindergarteners to build friendships and explore ideas, stable guidance to young adults as they navigate a challenging social and political climate, or support to novice teachers entering a new and unpredictable environment, you—each and every Massachusetts educator—have made our schools once again the bedrock of our communities. In this final newsletter of 2021, we share moments of gratitude, inspirational stories of teachers and leaders, exciting opportunities for professional learning and growth in 2022, new team members, and concrete tools and resources to help you tackle continued challenges and come out ahead. We wish you a wonderful holiday and thank you for all that you do.
In this newsletter you will find: 

Spotlight

Moment of Gratitude
As her year as the 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year draws to a close, we want to once again highlight Jen Hedrington. Jen was incredibly impactful during her year: providing professional development to district educators and teacher candidates; starring in a public service announcement featuring her family; serving on numerous panels; and developing a course that she’s now teaching at Merrimack College. She is now bringing her many talents to Cambridge as the Assistant Principal of Peabody Elementary School. We are honored to have had Jen represent the educators of Massachusetts this year, and privileged to share one of the most powerful moments from her year, a TEDxBoston talk titled “I Am BLACK”.
“What drives me every day is that I want to become the teacher that I needed when I was in school.”
-Jennifer Hendrington

PK-12 Corner

#CurriuculumMattersMA

Massachusetts educators have been sharing powerful stories of their shift away from balanced literacy curriculum and towards evidence-based early literacy practices as part of the #KnowledgeMatters Tour. UP Academy Holland educators  make a compelling case for high-quality curriculum, and the Salem team clearly explained the shortcomings of their balanced literacy programs. Teachers’ stories were often deeply moving: Ashley Clerge describes the impact of high-quality curriculum on her students in Boston, while Pentucket’s team continues to blog about their curriculum journey - read about their experience teaching vocabulary in context since shifting to high-quality materials.

Check out the #CurriculumMattersMA conversation and view the Mass Literacy Guide for more!
New Resource! - IMplement MA Guide: Selecting and Implementing High-Quality Core Instructional Materials
Introducing the NEW IMplement MA Guide, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) high-quality instructional materials adoption process! Grounded in equity for students, the IMplement MA Guide outlines an inclusive four-phase process to select and implement the high-quality instructional materials that best meet each district's local needs. 

Educator Spotlight on the Blog: Ashley Clerge and Erica Kouka

The latest Educator Spotlight is now posted on the Equity & Instruction in Massachusetts blog, featuring Ashley Clerge and Erica Kouka, two 2020-21 elementary school teachers in Boston Public Schools. Ashley and Erica describe their informed, culturally responsive implementation of high-quality instructional materials and ongoing personal and systemic work towards culturally responsive practice. Check out a video clip from the post.

Professional Development and Engagement Opportunities
  • Professional Learning on Family Engagement: The Department’s Office of Student and Family Support, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Statewide Family Engagement Center, is excited to offer a series of networking and professional development opportunities focused on building authentic and effective relationships with all families. The 2021-22 series will be virtual unless otherwise noted and will include webinars, networking sessions, and book discussion groups. See the online calendar for details, including information about available Professional Development Points (PDPs). The calendar is posted on DESE’s family engagement page and will be updated as additional information is confirmed. Events range from Tuesday, December 14 through May.
  • Coming in 2022 - Early Literacy PD: DESE is working to provide free professional development on early literacy to any interested MA educator this spring. DESE is currently seeking qualified providers who offer high-quality professional development on evidence-based, culturally responsive early literacy practices. Selected providers will offer a range of PD options, both synchronous and asynchronous, with all costs subsidized by DESE. Stay tuned for additional information about this PD opportunity.
  • Educators Sought for Upcoming MTEL Item Review Committees: We’re looking for educators to serve as members of the upcoming MTEL Item Review Committees (IRC). IRC members will review, approve, and/or revise draft test items as necessary. The Department is committed to centering voices who have been historically marginalized in public education, and is seeking participants who are committed to centering racial equity in their teaching and/or leadership, hold a license in one of the fields below, and have recently worked in classrooms or are faculty members of educator preparation programs. We have two upcoming committees which will meet virtually over the course of the days noted below, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day: 
    • Early Childhood: February 3-4th 
    • Middle School Humanities: February 7-9th
If you’re interested in serving on one of the committees, please complete an application. If you have questions, please email Robyn Kaczowka at  evaluationsystemscrg@pearson.com.

Ed Prep Corner

Register now for the Spring 2022 Early Literacy Classroom Observation Tool Pilot!

Join the statewide effort to empower educators with the evidence-based practices for literacy that all students need and help pilot the new Early Literacy Observation and Feedback Tool! The Early Literacy Observation and Feedback Tool supports CAP supervisors with identifying and providing feedback on evidence-based, culturally responsive practices for early literacy instruction aligned to Mass Literacy

The Spring 2022 pilot is open to all Sponsoring Organizations preparing teacher candidates in Early Childhood PK–2, Elementary 1–6, and Moderate Disabilities PK–8. 

During the pilot, participating supervisors will: 

  • Receive training on use of the tool;
  • Use the tool in an observation of at least one teacher candidate during a full core literacy block; and 
  • Complete a feedback survey on their experience using the tool and their recommendations for future training and support.

Visit our website for more information about the tool, and register here to participate in the pilot!

Welcome, Siobhan Allen and Kenzie Chin! 

Join us in welcoming Siobhan Allen to the Educator Effectiveness team as a Literacy Program Specialist. Siobhan will be supporting our work to advance evidence-based early literacy in educator preparation. For the last 12 years, Siobhan has taught ELA and Social Studies in Brockton and Hull, developing district-wide assessments and curriculum, supporting fellow teachers in their use of curricular materials, and serving as a TeachPlus Fellow focused on effective teacher preparation. Siobhan has her M.A.T. in English from Boston College, B.A. in English Literature from St. Anselm College, and CAGS as a Reading Specialist from American International College.
 
We’re also grateful to welcome Kenzie Chin to the Educator Effectiveness team. Kenzie will be coordinating all formal reviews for educator preparation programs. A proud product of Massachusetts public schools, Kenzie attended Middlebury College in Vermont, received her Master’s Degree in General and Special Education from Bank Street College, and taught third grade in several different schools. After earning her MA in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from Boston University, she joined DESE’s Office of Public School Monitoring before moving over to the Center for Instructional Support. Kenzie lives in Salem with her fiancé, Nate, and their mini Bernedoodle, Skipper. 

COVID Corner

Student Teachers & Staffing Challenges

Labor shortages continue to plague schools and districts struggling with staffing challenges and a hiring crunch. A recent U.S. Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letter about the shortage of educators highlights important strategies to confront this issue, including building a strong pool of high quality substitute teachers, and increasing the availability of qualified adults and personnel to support educators. We agree – these are critical to a comprehensive effort to address staffing shortages – and you may be one of the many schools turning to institutions of higher ed and student teachers to fill critical short- and long-term substitute positions. This can be an effective solution, but it can also have unanticipated consequences if not managed thoughtfully and carefully. We’ve updated the Talent Guide’s Student Teachers module with the following key considerations when approaching a student teacher for a short- or long-term substitute position:
  • Is this position in the student teacher’s licensure area? 
    • If yes, this could be an ideal opportunity. A student teacher brings that critical content knowledge to the classroom, and it affords them an opportunity to experience a different classroom or group of students as they work to further develop and deepen their practice.
    • If no, consider other educators that have more experience in that role, or work to ensure that the placement is temporary in order to limit disruptions to the student teacher’s required practicum and related field-based experience. 
  • Will you be able to provide the supervision and feedback required for a student teacher to complete their field-based experience? 
    • If a student teacher takes on a substitute role, work closely with their preparation provider to ensure that appropriate supervision and feedback remains available to the candidate, along with the required observations of practice that are part of their field-based experience.
    • If no, work to ensure that any substitute role outside of a student teacher’s designated field-based placement is temporary, such that they can continue to meet the requirements for a high quality pre-practicum or practicum placement. 
  • Is the student teacher ready to assume full responsibility within a classroom? 
    • If considering a student teacher for a substitute position of any duration, consider their readiness for full responsibility. Speak with their current host teacher/supervising practitioner, as well as your prep program liaison, to ensure that appropriate supports and resources are available. 
Visit the Student Teacher module for additional promising practices and benefits to leveraging student teachers in the unique context of the 21-22 year.
 
Emergency Licensed Educators & MTEL Vouchers

Do you have educators on an emergency license in your building? Did you know that they may be eligible for an MTEL voucher? Over 2,200 emergency licensed educators employed in 2021 recently received direct communication from DESE to support their advancement to a provisional or initial license, including MTEL voucher support. Reach out and offer your support – now is the time to ensure that these promising educators receive the necessary assistance to build a long-term career in MA public schools.
Educator Evaluation in 2021-22: Recommendations & Considerations

As schools continue to address multiple and competing priorities related to teaching and learning this year, educator evaluation may be a place to eliminate unnecessary tasks or activities. To streamline or better focus efforts this year, consider the following strategies:  
  • For educators with Professional Teaching Status (PTS) on two-year plans (i.e., two-year self-directed growth plans): 
    • Consider scaling back the number of observations while maintaining regular visits to classrooms to provide support and feedback. 
    • Apply their most recent summative performance rating to their formative evaluation (unless evidence demonstrates a significant change in performance). This removes the need for an additional conference or evaluation at the mid-point of their two-year cycle.  
  • Focus supports and feedback on novice, non-PTS educators – especially those in their first or second year, or those on emergency licenses who may not have preparation or experience. 
    • Focus the evaluation and feedback on what matters most this year – don’t tackle the entire rubric. The Department has released a set of Focus Indicators that emphasize practice specific to this year. Schools or districts may select one from each Standard to focus on this year and apply it to all educators. 
As a reminder, educator evaluation remains a mandatory subject of collective bargaining, so be sure to discuss at the local level. For additional reference: Educator Evaluation regulations, 603 CMR 35.00 

Research Corner

Disappearing Diversity and the Probability of Hiring a Nonwhite Teacher: Evidence from Texas

The 2020-21 school year marked the fifth consecutive year in which the percentage of newly hired teachers in Massachusetts who are Black or Hispanic/Latinx increased, almost doubling from 7.6% in 2015-2016 to 13.8% in 2020-2021 (from Teacher Workforce Policy Brief). While this is great news (and a testament to concerted efforts to not only recruit but to retain educators of color), this trend is most prominent among schools serving high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students, as well as schools serving high concentrations of Black or Hispanic/Latinx students. We are not seeing comparable gains in schools serving predominantly affluent or white students, and recent research is starting to shed light on this gap in diverse hiring. In this Ed Working Paper from the Annenberg Institute, researchers find evidence that “teacher hires are not only sensitive to the principal’s race but also to the racial composition of the student body. Specifically, as the diversity of the student body disappears, so too does the principal’s likelihood of hiring a teacher of color.” Although the study is based in Texas, the results can inspire school leaders in Massachusetts to examine race-based hiring patterns in our districts. We have linked two actionable DESE resources below that can support efforts to confront and reverse this pattern:
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