Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law which makes significant changes to how local student achievement is evaluated.
According to the authors of Senate Bill 103, the new law will afford more local control over what is evaluated while also reducing the reliance on testing as the primary indicator of a student’s educational attainment.
“I like the fact that now we have conversations between principals and teachers about student achievement in the classroom… This legislation creates that conversation,” said Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss. “The problem is 25 percent (now) and eventually 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on student growth. Is this going to be an accurate and fair way to determine the success of the teacher?”
He added, “I don’t know if there’s data out there that supports evaluating teachers in this form.”
According to the governor’s office, the new law followed numerous recommendations of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, and was supported by a variety of education advocacy and professional groups, including the Michigan Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Michigan Association of School Boards and StudentsFirst.
Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, 40 percent of a teacher’s annual performance evaluation will rely on how well students perform on tests and how much they have learned in the calendar year.
Moss said the problem with such an evaluation system is that it ignores the numerous other factors that comprise a child’s ability or willingness to learn new material and excel on tests.
“There are a lot of factors that go into the success of a child,” Moss said. “Anyone who believes the teacher is solely responsible for their child’s success in school, I would probably have to debate that with them. It has always been a team effect. It needs to be teachers and parents working together.”
He added, “Parents need to emphasize the importance of education in their child’s life. Otherwise, you’re going to have very good teachers who are at the top of their game who perform very well but their student growth might not match their efforts.”
Other factors that can have significant impact on a child’s education include their health, strife at home, being bullied, hunger, poverty, disengaged parents, divorce and cognitive impairments.
Moss also said some children simply cannot learn at the same rate or volume as other students.
“There are so many pressures on students and those all have an impact,” Moss said. “If something goes wrong on a particular day when you are testing, does that show up as reflective of how well you learned the material? It’s just not a perfect science.”
He added, “I think we should have more local control in determining assessments and take the reliance off those single day occurrences, like testing and pop quizzes.”
Moss said his teachers and administrators want metrics which detail a trend of growth on a more frequent basis.
“I’m not advocating we have more testing,” he said. “And, one good thing the (U.S.) Department of Education is doing is looking for ways to reduce the amount of time spent on tests.”
This new law is actually an amendment to a law passed several years ago. When it was originally enacted, the plan was to eventually rely on student achievement as 50 percent of an educator’s effectiveness rating.
The new law also eliminates the Educator Evaluation Reserve Fund, which frees $14.8 million that may be allocated to the per pupil foundation allowance or “other programs.” The legislature will ultimately decide where the money goes.
Moss, who said the new legislation is an overall improvement, added that it can always be made better.
“Several of these changes were made as a result of ideas our professional organizations have suggested, and we do appreciate the legislature looking at this and making some adjustments,” he said. “We just need to continue looking at this and monitoring the success of this legislation because the whole process is to improve student learning.”
Performance Evaluation System
The Code requires the board of a school district or ISD or the board of directors of a PSA, with the involvement of teachers and school administrators, to adopt and implement for all teachers and administrators a rigorous, transparent, and fair performance evaluation system that does all of the following:
• Evaluates the teacher’s or administrator’s job performance at least annually while providing timely and constructive feedback.
• Establishes clear approaches to measuring student growth and provides teachers and administrators with relevant data on student growth.
• Evaluates a teacher’s or administrator’s job performance, using multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth as a significant factor.
• Uses the evaluations to inform decisions regarding the effectiveness of teachers and administrators; promotion, retention, and development of teachers and administrators; whether to grant tenure and/or full certification; and removing ineffective tenured and untenured teachers and administrators.
The Code requires the board of a school district, ISD, or PSA to ensure that the performance evaluation system for teachers meets the following conditions:
The system must include an annual year-end evaluation for all teachers; a mid-year progress report for a teacher who is in the first year of a five-year probationary period for new teachers or who received a rating of minimally effective or ineffective on his or her most recent annual evaluation; and classroom observations to assist in the evaluations.
• For the purposes of conducting the annual year-end evaluations, the school district, ISD, or PSA must adopt and implement the State evaluation tool for teachers that is required under legislation enacted after review of the recommendations contained in the report of the Council on Educator Effectiveness, or a local tool that is consistent with the State evaluation tool.
• The system must assign to each teacher an effectiveness rating of highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective, based on his or her score on the annual evaluation.
• A school district, ISD, or PSA is encouraged to assign a mentor or coach to each teacher who is subject to a mid-year progress report.
• The system may allow for exemption of student growth data for a particular pupil for a school year upon the recommendation of the school administrator conducting the annual evaluation or his or her designee and approval of the school district or ISD superintendent or PSA chief administrator and his or her designee.
• The system must require the school district, PSA, or ISD to dismiss a teacher from employment if he or she is rated as ineffective on three consecutive annual evaluations.
• The system must permit the school district, ISD, or PSA to conduct a year-end evaluation biennially instead of annually if a teacher is rated as highly effective on three consecutive evaluations.
• The system must permit a teacher to request a review of the evaluation and the rating by the school district or ISD superintendent or PSA chief administrator, as applicable, if the teacher is not in a probationary period and is rated as ineffective on an annual evaluation.
Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, the Code requires the board of a school district or ISD or board of directors of a PSA to ensure that the performance evaluation system for building-level school administrators and for central office-level school administrators who are regularly involved in instructional matters includes at least an annual evaluation for all school administrators by the school district or ISD superintendent or his or her designee, or chief administrator of the PSA, as applicable.
(A superintendent or chief administrator must be evaluated by the board or board of directors).
In addition, the applicable board must ensure that the administrator evaluation system meets all of the following conditions:
• A percentage of the evaluation must be based on student growth and assessment data, as required for teacher evaluations.
• The school district, ISD, or PSA must adopt and implement the State evaluation tool for school administrators, or a local tool consistent with the State tool.
• The system must assign to each school administrator an effectiveness rating of highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective.
• The system must ensure that if a school administrator is rated as minimally effective or ineffective, the person conducting the evaluation develops and requires the administrator to implement an improvement plan to correct the deficiencies.
• The system must provide that, if a school administrator is rated as ineffective on three consecutive annual evaluations, the school district, PSA, or ISD is required to dismiss the administrator from employment
• The system must provide that, if an administrator is rated as highly effective on three consecutive evaluations, the school district, ISD, or PSA may choose to conduct a year-end evaluation biennially instead of annually.