Michigan News
11:24 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Statewide Teacher Evaluations Debated in Lansing

Bipartisan legislation in Lansing would create a statewide system to evaluate teachers and school administrators. The evaluations would be based partly on student growth and standardized tests.

Debate over statewide teacher evaluations underway in Lansing

By Jake Neher

Bipartisan legislation in Lansing would create a statewide system to evaluate teachers and school administrators. The evaluations would be based partly on student growth and standardized tests.

House Bills 5223 and 5224 are modeled largely on a detailed recommendation that was released last year by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness (MCEE). The independent commission was created by the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to look into what a teacher evaluation system should look like in Michigan.

The state House Education Committee held its first hearing on the bills Wednesday.

“Teachers want to grow, they want to be high-preforming,” said state Rep. Margaret O’Brien - R-Portage - who sponsored one of the bills. “They are begging for consistent feedback that helps them develop, whether they’re great or struggling.”

O’Brien says the goal is to help educators get better, not punish them.

But teachers and administrators would be fired under the bills if they persistently score low on evaluations. Those high stakes have some lawmakers worried about local control and tying the evaluations to standardized tests.

“Can Lansing decide what is best for every school in Escanaba and Detroit and Troy and Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo? I mean, is this the type of thing that we should be doing from Lansing?” asked Rep. Tom McMillin - R-Rochester Hills.

Bill sponsors responded by saying the legislation gives local schools a lot of leeway to tailor the evaluations to their needs.

McMillin suggested it might also be a bad idea to tie evaluations to standardized tests while the state is in the process of replacing the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

The legislation would not tie teacher’s pay to their performance in the classroom. Lawmakers are considering separate legislation that would create a so-called “merit-pay” system. That bill, House Bill 4625, has been stalled on the state House floor since last May.