Whitmer OKs delay in teacher evaluation change

David Eggert
Associated Press
Gretchen Whitmer talks with teachers at Lewton Elementary School in Lansing in June.

Lansing — Michigan will delay a key change in its evaluation system for teachers and schools administrators under measures approved Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The two bills will halt, at least for a year, a requirement that student growth and assessment data be given greater weight in educators’ year-end performance evaluations. Such information now accounts for 25% of an evaluation but was scheduled to rise to 40% this academic year under a 2015 law.

The change will be delayed until the 2019-20 school year.

“As I continue to visit schools across the state, nearly every educator says the same thing: They are forced to spend more time on testing than actually teaching their students how to learn,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“We know that test scores are only one piece of the puzzle and not the whole story. I’ve put forth a real solution in the budget to boost student performance, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get it done.”

The bills earlier cleared a final procedural step after previously winning overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the Republican-led Legislature.

The legislation was supported by teachers unions, school districts and groups representing administrators. Legislators said Michigan’s main standardized test, the M-STEP, does not adequately measure students’ learning over time.

“The feedback is not coming back quickly. So when teachers don’t have those tools to look at their feedback to see how they can improve – we’re not getting this feedback for months – then it’s really not helping us out,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri, a former high school social studies teacher.

The Democrat from Wayne County’s Brownstown Township said he hopes there is a “broader conversation” about the evaluation system and state testing, not just a one-year delay.

Under the evaluation law, the remainder of an educator’s annual review centers primarily on their performance as measured by a scoring tool chosen from a state list or developed locally, including a classroom observation component.

At least two classroom observations must be conducted of teachers not rated as effective or highly effective on their two most recent evaluations.

A district or charter cannot assign a student to be taught in the same subject area for two consecutive years by a teacher rated as ineffective on his or her two previous annual evaluations. Teachers rated as ineffective for three straight years must be fired.

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, applauded lawmakers for delaying the “drastic” increase in the weight that test scores have on evaluations.

“Based on feedback about evaluations from front-line educators, this delay only keeps a big problem from getting worse,” president Paula Herbart said.

“We look forward to working with the governor and legislators from both parties to fix this system so it helps deliver the highest quality education for every student.”