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Report: Most Michigan Teachers Ace Reviews

Despite state laws updating teacher evaluations in Michigan, more than 99 percent of teachers from select districts in the state earned scores placing them in the top two categories on evaluations, according to a new report by research and advocacy group Education Trust Midwest.

Michigan passed laws in 2009 and 2011 that require new teacher reviews, including at least four categories of ratings and consideration of student-growth measures.

The report is based on survey responses from 10 districts in the state. It represents results in the 2011-12 school year for more than 8,600 teachers who teach about 140,000 students.

According to the results, 99.4 percent of the teachers were rated as "effective" or "highly effective." Only 0.2 percent received the lowest rating of "ineffective."

The cultural norms at work against differentiating teachers by performance continues to be strong, to the detriment of both teachers and students, the group contends.

"When nearly all teachers are told they are doing well, expectations are lowered or remain ill-defined, and teachers miss out on opportunities to help students learn," the report states.

Michigan officials are working on creating a state evaluation model, to be launched in 2013-14, that the group hopes will provide better guidance and support to locals on how to evaluate teachers.

Of course, one of the tensions going on here concerns the problem that there isn't an objectively "correct" percent of teachers that each year should be identified as needing remediation and/or dismissal under a teacher-evaluation system. Those judgments have to do with many factors, such as where the cutoffs are for each category, who performs the reviews, whether there are any appeals, and how the components are weighted. If 99 percent of teachers passing their reviews is too high, what would the breakdown under a better calibrated (and presumably more accurate) system look like?

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