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Michigan's Teacher Evaluation Law Sets New Standards

Michigan school districts will implement a new teacher-evaluation system under a bipartisan bill signed last week by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The law follows an education reform package, the Teacher Quality and Tenure Reform bill, passed in 2011. That legislation extended the period of time needed for teachers to gain tenure from four to five years. Teachers could also easily be dismissed for a broader slew of offenses, while ineffective teachers could easily be placed back on probation; teacher evaluation negotiation was also limited.

The new law evaluates both teachers' and administrators' performance through the use of multiple rating categories, based on student growth and assessment results. It seeks to promote, retain, and develop teachers and administratorsthrough consistent and extensive support—as well as professional development. The bill can be viewed here.

Previously, 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation was rooted in student growth. The 2015-16 school year will now commit 25 percent of the annual year-end evaluation to student growth and assessment performance. The 2018-19 school year will increase this to 40 percent.  

The law requires an annual year-end evaluationincluding classroom observationsfor all teachers. Observations require prompt feedback, within 30 days.

At the start of the 2016-17 school year, school districts and charter schools are to adopt and implement one or more of the evaluation tools for teachers uniformly across the district. Districts will be allowed to use their own evaluation tools or make modifications to recommendations by the state, but will be required to use the same tool across all schools within their region. The list of evaluation tools must demonstrate evidence of efficacy and be submitted and reviewed.

Annual teacher evaluations would be required as well as mid-year reports for new teachers in the first year of their five-year probationary period. Mid-year reports would be regarded as a supplemental tool in evaluating teachers in their first-year probationary period or those who received ineffective ratings on his or her most recent year-end evaluation.

Teachers who do not receive effective or highly effective ratings on two of their latest end-of-year evaluations will be required to go under at least two classroom observations. Students will not be assigned to a teacher who has received ineffective ratings twice in a row.  

According to the Senate's analysis of the act, it would have a minimal fiscal impact on the Department of Education, but locally, it could result in additional school costs.

The law also makes adjustments to the teacher certification process. Three years of satisfactory performance was the requirement to receive a provisional teaching certificate, however, the new law requires three years of effective or highly effective rated performance.

The removal of the Educator Evaluation Reserve fund would allow for the re-appropriation of the fund's $14.8 million. The fund was a component of the State School Aid Act and was initially established to aid the implementation of the tenure reform package.

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