Michigan lawmakers approve teacher evaluation framework
Lansing — The Legislature on Tuesday finalized a new state framework for evaluating Michigan’s teachers and schools administrators, with annual evaluations based partly on state standardized test scores and students’ improvement over time.
The legislation, which the Senate approved by an overwhelming 35-2 vote after the House passed it last week, was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder for his expected signature. It is a follow-up to a 2011 law that overhauled teacher tenure rules but deferred decisions on establishing a statewide evaluation system until later.
The system was supposed to be in place for the 2013-14 school year but was delayed pending legislative action.
The bill requires school districts and charter schools, starting this school year, to base at least 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on assessment and student growth data, which is half of what would have been required under current law. The component will rise to 40 percent in 2018-19.
Starting in 2016-17, the rest of the evaluation will be based primarily on performance as measured by an evaluation tool chosen from a state list or developed locally, including a classroom observation component.
Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, said the legislation creates a “system of effective teacher accountability.”
He said the bill includes a greater reliance on 2013 recommendations from a panel of experts than when the Senate passed it in May and that the measure also allows for more flexibility in determining students’ achievement.
“Measuring student growth based upon multiple factors rather than just test results provides a more accurate picture of student learning and teacher effectiveness,” Knezek said.
At least two classroom observations would have to be conducted of teachers not rated as effective or highly effective on their two most recent year-end evaluations. Teachers would have to be trained on the evaluation tool being used.
A district or charter could not 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.
Under current law, teachers rated as ineffective for three straight years must be fired. About 2.3 percent of teachers were rated minimally effective and 0.5 percent rated ineffective in 2013-14, according to the state Education Department.
The House Fiscal Agency estimates that the associated costs would range from $16 million to $42 million. Last fiscal year’s budget included nearly $15 million that was set aside in a reserve fund in case the bill was enacted.
The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the legislation is a “major improvement over the present haphazard process.” President Steven Cook said that while it does not include all of the suggestions from the Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness, the legislation changes the focus of evaluation from “punishment” to “improving classroom instruction.”
Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, an education policy and research organization in Royal Oak, also welcomed the bill.
“Unlike leading education states, Michigan has not invested in nor developed new systems to better train and support Michigan’s existing teachers,” she said.
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