Frequently Asked Questions

What is calibration?

Calibration is the result of ongoing, frequent collaboration of groups of educators to (1) come to a common, shared understanding of what practice looks like at different performance levels, and (2) establish and maintain consistency in aspects of the evaluation process including analyzing evidence, providing feedback, and using professional judgment to determine ratings.

Is this an observation tool?

No. OPTIC supports teams of educators to calibrate their understanding of high-quality practice and feedback using snapshots of instruction.  This is not a tool or protocol for conducting actual observations or evaluations of teachers.  In the platform, participants “score” practice on a 1-10 scale in order to discern differences in perceptions of practice among observers and to engage in rich discussions of evidence. The platform is not intended to reinforce the act of scoring classroom observations, nor does DESE recommend providing an evaluation rating for a teacher based on a single observation. The goal of the platform is to help groups of observers work together to refine a common understanding of high quality practice and feedback, such that they can better identify effective instruction and support educators in their continual growth through high quality feedback.

Why is calibration training important?

Research suggests that most educators in Massachusetts perceive their own evaluator's assessment of their performance to be fair. However, when asked about the process overall, many educators perceive there to be inconsistencies both within and across schools in how evaluators perceive practice. Inconsistency leads to questions of fairness. Engaging in calibration activities can help evaluators, supervisors, and educators norm their expectations around high quality instructional practice and feedback, and work to ensure that all educators receive targeted support.

How does OPTIC work?

When using OPTIC, facilitators assign groups of educators to a calibration task focused on a specific grade-level, content area, or element of the rubric.  To complete a calibration task, participants view a video of classroom instruction or other artifact of teaching and learning, score practice based on evidence, and draft written feedback to the teacher.  Participants can then view real-time data displays of the scores and feedback provided by others in the group, as well as by role, school, district, or across the state. Groups can use this information to facilitate a discussion of evidence, perceptions of practice, and the characteristics of high-quality feedback.

Who can use OPTIC?

OPTIC is available for use by educators in Massachusetts PK-12 districts and educator preparation organizations. Users typically include district and school administrators, evaluators, teachers, instructional coaches, teacher leaders, educator preparation supervisors, faculty, or teacher candidates.

How can educators use OPTIC?

OPTIC supports professional development across a wide variety of settings, such as:

  • Evaluator training
  • New teacher or principal induction programs
  • Mentor training
  • Educator Preparation supervisor training
  • Partnership calibration

PK-12 districts and educator preparation organizations can use OPTIC to facilitate calibration training focused on topics such as:

  • How do educators in your district/organization interpret proficient practice? Does that interpretation differ from school to school, or from program to program?
  • Do educators in your district/organization interpret proficient practice differently from others across the state?
  • As a district or organization, what do you expect to see in any classroom as evidence of a given element of the rubric, regardless of that teacher’s experience level, grade, or content area?
  • What is high-quality feedback?

Are the videos in OPTIC exemplars?

No, the videos in OPTIC represent a range of performance levels.

Are the educators in the videos from Massachusetts?

The teachers represented in this video library come from all around the country, including but not limited to Massachusetts.

Why does OPTIC use a 10-point scale when the educator evaluation framework includes only four performance levels?

OPTIC is a training and professional development resource, not a tool for conducting actual observations or evaluations. The 10-point scale allows for greater nuance in responses, which promotes richer discussions on the evidence that may differentiate one score from another.

How do participants know what the “right” scores are?

OPTIC does not include “master scores” and instead aims to helps educators build consensus. Data displays disaggregated by group, role, district/school, and organization help participants reflect on the ways in which their interpretations of proficient practice may or may not differ from others.

Which elements from the Classroom Teacher Rubric are included in OPTIC?

OPTIC currently includes calibration tasks focused on:

  • I-A-1. Subject Matter Knowledge
  • I-A-3. Well-Structured Unit and Lesson Design
  • I-B-2. Adjustments to Practice
  • II-A-3. Meeting Diverse Needs
  • II-B-1. Safe Learning Environment
  • II-E-1. High Expectations

Why are calibration tasks associated with only seven elements from the Classroom Teacher Rubric?

The elements included in OPTIC system represent those practices that are (a) observable, and (b) considered fundamental in ensuring impact on student learning, growth, and achievement regardless of teacher role or experience. Five of the seven are included in the Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP) Rubric (the performance assessment used for teacher candidates). Limiting content on the platform to a subset of elements also allows users to more easily access comparison data across roles, schools, and the state. DESE and TeachForward anticipate requests to expand the library of elements, however, and are exploring options to make this function available in the future.

Are districts required to use OPTIC to train their evaluators?

No. OPTIC is provided as an optional resource for districts and educator preparation providers to use at their discretion. It may serve as a helpful tool for evaluator or supervisor training, but this is at the discretion of district and organization leaders.

How do I get started with using OPTIC?

On the Home page of this web site, you may click on the Register Now button to register for the system. See the TeachForward Administrator Guide in the Resources section for step-by-step instructions for creating a group, assigning a task, and using the platform.

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Have a general question that wasn’t answered here?  Click on the Submit a Question button below.

Have a question for the help desk?  Click TeachForward Support Team to contact them directly via email.