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Education
Michigan Radio's special week-long series on teacher education in Michigan.There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how well students perform in school. So how are Michigan schools of education doing when it comes to turning out effective teachers?

How should teachers be evaluated in Michigan?

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As part of our “Learning to Teach” series this week, we’ve been talking about teacher effectiveness.

Paramount to that effectiveness are teacher evaluations.

“There’s nothing more powerful to move the needle in student learning gains than great teaching,” said John Austin, president of the State Board of Education.

Austin says evaluations must be improved on all levels of a teacher’s career. That includes supporting new teachers in their learning, professional development, and creating rewarding teacher career paths, so that teachers advancing in their careers don’t solely end up  in administration and out of the classrooms.

“We have the need of a solid teacher evaluation system that is supportive of improvement of their craft and helps them learn how to be better teachers,” he said. “And we particularly need that evaluation to be attentive to how teachers who are now being evaluated on their performance, so they can keep their ability to teach.”

The work toward a new teacher evaluation system began a few years ago, with teacher tenure reform.

“We want to make sure that we’re not letting any teachers keep teaching who aren’t effective in delivering student learning, and so we needed an evaluation system,” Austin said.

Deborah Ball, the dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Education, and a group of teachers created the foundation for the new system. It’s a technique that includes both student learning performance assessments and teacher instruction assessments. Austin called it a “supportive, round evaluation” and said teachers and their unions are in support of it.

“Which is why we need to actually pass this legislation to actually put this type of evaluation system in place, because we’re demanding that teachers be evaluated and it’s linked to their ability to keep teaching,” he said. “So we have to have a system that both works for them and works to improve learning for students.”