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Education

Senate bill would suspend teacher evaluations for current school year

teacher kneeling at desk, showing students papers
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Year-end teacher evaluations would be paused for the 2021-22 school year, under a bill introduced in the Michigan Senate last week by Sen. Dayna Polehanki, (D-Livonia). It was immediately referred to the Committee on Education and Career Readiness.

"Definitely during this pandemic, these teachers should not be rated so significantly on student academic growth," said Polehanki.

Current law bases 40% of the year-end evaluation on student growth.

"To choose which teachers to lay off or recall based in really large measure on student growth during a pandemic, it's just unfair," Polehanki said.

"It is difficult to measure the standards of teaching when nothing about the past two years have been standardized for our teachers," said Polehanki.

Polehanki said student performance was negatively affected by pauses in in-person learning for lengths of time that varied across school districts and by pandemic-related student mental health issues.

"Because of the teacher shortage, because teachers had to quarantine," said Polehanki. "Many students didn't have continuity of instruction with their assigned teachers."

Sens. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) and Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) joined with nine Democratic senators to co-sponsor Polehanki's bill.

The Michigan Education Association is in favor of the bill, according to its spokesperson Thomas Morgan.

"We support suspending evaluations because they're based on unreliable data that was made even less reliable by the stop-start nature of the last couple of years," said Morgan.

Morgan said he hoped during the hiatus, state lawmakers will work on an entirely new evaluation system: "one that is more positive and encourages professional growth among educators, as opposed to fear and punishment."

Morgan said this is especially important in the face of serious teacher shortages.