Hearings begin on teacher evaluation legislation

“My hope is that these recommendations can be quickly advanced through legislation that will help all Michigan educators improve their craft, and enhance student learning and achievement.”

Those were the comments by John Austin, president of the State Board of Education when the Michigan Educator Effectiveness Council (MEEC) made its recommendations on a statewide teacher evaluation system last July.

This week, the House Education Committee began taking testimony on two bills related to those recommendations. HB 5223 and 5224 establish performance and practice evaluation requirements for teachers and administrators beginning with the 2014-15 school year. While they don’t exactly mirror MCEE recommendations, thanks to the efforts of MEA lobbyists, these bills are much better than the evaluation requirements set forth in 2011 legislation.

To begin with, the bills allow for the usage of four proven evaluation tools, but a district could use a locally-developed tool if it meets strict standards spelled out in the bills.

Both bills are requiring that 25 percent of the evaluation for both teachers and administrators be based on student growth and 75 percent on teacher practice until the 2017-18 school year, when the student growth percentage would increase to 50 percent.  2011 legislation required that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student test scores without any test being identified.

In these bills, student growth would be based on scores from a state growth assessment and a local growth assessment.

Unless they’re rated effective or highly effective, teachers would be observed two times a year. The bills require that evaluations be based on practice with 80 percent coming from those observations. MCEE recommended multiple observations at intervals of 30 days, with one of the observations being unscheduled.

Administrator evaluations would be done yearly and based on student growth and a practice component. MCEE recommended that other variables such as evaluation process proficiency, progress in a school’s improvement plan, attendance rates and student and parent feedback be a part of an administrator’s evaluation.

Just as MCEE recommends, the bills state that both teachers and administrators should be fired after three consecutive ineffective ratings.

MCEE also recommended evaluation tools for both teachers and administrators, along with training for observers. The two bills not only agree with the recommendations, but they also put a price tag on them--$16 to $42 million for the purchase of a tool and the training. Bill sponsors, Rep. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) and Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) suggest using the budget surplus to cover the one-time costs.

MEA lobbyists have been instrumental in helping craft this critical piece of legislation. Their efforts helped soften the very harsh evaluation requirements of the 2011 legislation that are scheduled to go into effect next year. Not only did they regularly meet with legislators to make sure these bills support our members, they also met with some of the districts that piloted the recommended evaluation tools.  

In addition, MEA was part of a workgroup established by Rep. O’Brien and Zemke to examine the issue of teacher evaluation.

The lobbyists will continue to work to preserve and strengthen the language to ensure a valid teacher evaluation tool and evaluation process is part of any legislation passed.