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Sweeping Reforms to Teacher Evaluations

FOX 47 News

Sweeping Reforms to Teacher Evaluations

CREATED Jul. 25, 2013

After 18 months of work, the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness (MCEE) has come out with its recommendations to improve classroom instruction in Michigan. The proposed reforms would dramatically change the way each teachers performance is determined.

"Every child needs to be career and college ready. I mean it's not even a question anymore it's something that's required for them to be able to have a meaningful life," said Jan Ellis, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education.

Currently, Michigan teachers are evaluated on their effectiveness based on subjective decisions, but the new evaluations would be objective and based in part on student performance.

The council recommends, half of teacher evaluations be based on student growth as shown through standardized test scores, student learning objectives, and other locally determined measures. That's a first for the state. In the past teacher evaluations have not measured student growth.

However the council recommends teacher compensation should not be tied to their evaluations because "there is insufficient evidence to support pay-for-performance programs."

The Michigan Education Association said that is a good thing.

"I have had students come and go throughout the school year, I have had students go through a traumatic time at home whether loss of a parent, tremendous illness of a parent, divorce, things like that and [the students] are not on their 'A game' when those things start to happen," said Nancy Strachan, the Vice President of MEA.

The second half of the proposed teacher evaluation's score would be based on classroom practices as determined by in-classroom evaluators. All evaluators would be trained through a statewide system. The evaluators would give teachers personalized guidance to help them improve their teaching.

Administrators would be evaluated differently. They would be rated "professional," "provisional," or "ineffective." Any administrator rated ineffective for two years would be terminated.

The driving influence behind the new teacher evaluations is to improve the education of the 1.5 million students in Michigan's K-12 classrooms.

Academic improvement is needed because roughly half of the students in the state are not proficient in math, and 35 percent are not proficient in reading.

"Student learning is directly tied with the quality of the teacher in a classroom, which ties student growth with teacher evaluations," said Ellis.

"We know there are a lot of people who need more professional development, and we want that to happen, we just want it to be fair," said Strachan.

The MCEE was created by Governor Snyder in 2011 as part of his teacher tenure reform effort. 

13 school districts participated in piloting the new recommendations, including Leslie School District. The superintendent of Leslie schools was unavailable for comment for this article.

While many agree teacher evaluations are important, how they are evaluated has been a topic of debate. Since 2009 almost every state in the country has considered reforming teacher evaluations.

In a statement emailed to us, David Hecker, the President of the American Federation of Teachers said the recommendations were "thoughtful." 

"The Council's recommendations leave room for important decisions about evaluation to be made at the district level," said Hecker.

"The most important thing is to help the teachers improve their teaching skills that will ultimately improve student growth," said Ellis.

The recommendations are now in the hands of Michigan lawmakers. The legislature will hold hearings on the recommendations after its summer break ends. If approved Michigan schools will be required to have educator evaluations fully in place by the 2015-16 school year.

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