Terrell: Teacher evaluation bill is lacking

Brandon Terrell

Michigan politicians have touted Senate Bill 103 as a workable solution to the divisive political issue of teacher evaluation standards. Unfortunately, the bill does not provide the best solution for the most important stakeholders: students.

Senate Bill 103 would continue to allow local districts to decide how educators are being evaluated, rather than enacting statewide tools of measurements that have been tested and have proven effective in producing more quality teachers and successful students. Local districts that have been failing our students for years will be the same ones determining the fate of our children.

Amendments to the bill would seek to further distance teacher evaluations from student growth and assessment data, reducing the weight of those measures from 50 percent down to 25 percent in year-end evaluations. This would jump the next year, but only to 40 percent, leaving the majority of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on factors unilaterally chosen by the district.

Senate Bill 103 provides no rubric on what a quality teacher should be. S.B. 103 does not identify weak or poor educators to provide them with training to better craft their skills. It allows minimally effective and ineffective teachers, who are not being held at least 50 percent accountable for student growth and assessment data, to stay in classrooms.

To truly produce teacher effectiveness, statewide tools of measurement should be provided. Michigan should require every district to choose from a pool of measurement tools that are research-based and proven effective in evaluating and improving teacher performance.

As a graduate of Michigan’s K-12 public school system, I have witnessed the negative outcomes of self-enforcement and locally determined standards that don’t require state approval.

Far too many public school students graduate high school and get accepted into four-year institutions, but are required, like I was, to take remedial courses because of low math or writing scores, paying for the failures of districts.

A negative classroom experience and an ineffective teacher can diminish a student’s desire to learn, set them behind, or otherwise derail an academic career. But a quality teacher can change the trajectory of a student’s life.

If student achievement is the goal, then a statewide model for student growth based on a new state assessment system should be provided. This model will better assist educators in measuring student growth and provide the necessary resources for the student. To guarantee teachers are held fully accountable, at least 50 percent of student growth and assessment data should be included into teacher evaluations, not a measly 25 percent.

On behalf of every student whose dream depends on an effective teacher, I urge Gov. Rick Snyder not to sign Senate Bill 103 into law.

Brandon Terrell recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University and is interning at the Michigan office of Students for Education Reform.