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Recommendations for state-wide teacher evaluations have been issued

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How should the job performance of Michigan teachers be evaluated? What should the standard be? Should there be a state-wide common standard used to evaluate teachers?

Those were some of the key questions tackled by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The temporary body recently came out with its recommendations for a new statewide teacher evaluation tool.

The Council is recommending that by 2015-16, half of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on classroom practices and the other half on student growth as determined by scores on tests.

The panel also is recommending that a teacher be dismissed after two years of ineffective ratings.

“While we have wonderful teacher preparation programs in the state of Michigan, there isn’t a common standard or expectation for teaching,” said Jennifer Hammond, a member of the Council for Educator Effectiveness and the Principal at Grand Blanc High School.

“Also, nationwide there has been a ground swell of interest in this topic, and a few states across the country are a few years ahead of Michigan in terms of also holding educators accountable for student achievement.”

Most school districts have made their own evaluation models and have their own expectations for teachers. According to Hammond, these new recommended standards would provide a common framework for Michigan schools, but there will still be some flexibility for districts to make their own decisions.

One issue with this is that teachers only have a certain amount of time with a student each day. There are several other factors that affect student performance that are outside of the teacher’s control, such as home life.

“We know with any given student who comes through the door, 50% of the learning is out of our control,” said Robert Stephenson, principal of Donley Elementary School and 2010 finalist for Teacher of the Year.  "As far as the assessment piece . . . [a statistic] is run to try to control those variables."

The Council agreed that certain factors need to be accounted for, such as poverty and student attendance.

There has also been an issue with the “highly effective” rating.

“There’s something that is implied by telling someone they’re highly effective. It almost sounds as though you’ve made it, you’ve achieved, there’s nothing more for you to do,” said Stephenson. “If we’re truly about growth and professional learning we should call it something else, because we want to send the message that educators never stop learning.”

The Council was clear that these evaluations should not be used to determine merit pay, but there is a bill in the state Legislature right now that would do exactly that.

Both Hammond and Stephenson feel that giving teachers a monetary incentive would be ineffective.

“People go into education because we are intrinsically motivated to do so, and we want to help the next generation be the best, most successful group of societal members that we can,” Stephenson said. “You don’t really go into education to get rich.”

Moving forward, the next step is for the Legislature to decide which parts of the Council’s recommendations will be made into law.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.

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