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Teacher evaluation decision goes to Michigan house as deadline looms

Advocates lined up last month to address the Michigan House education committee about the role of test scores in teacher evaluation.
Advocates lined up last month to address the Michigan House education committee about the role of test scores in teacher evaluation.
Koby Levin

Responding to objections of teachers, the Michigan Senate voted unanimously to delay a scheduled change that would have boosted the role of test scores in teacher evaluations.

Current law requires districts to base 40 percent of evaluations on test-based measures of student growth starting this year.

The bill passed by the Senate would keep the role of test scores at last year’s level — 25 percent — until next school year. Senators have said they’d like more time to discuss the change in light of teachers’ concerns.

The legislation now moves to the state House, which will have to act within weeks to ensure that the changes take effect before most school districts begin work on annual end-of-year teacher evaluations. The bill also needs Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature.

The unanimous vote in the Republican-controlled Senate suggests that the bill has a chance in the Republican-controlled House. Pamela Hornberger, chair of the House committee on education that held a hearing on the matter last month, and she has said she is open to delaying the scheduled change in the role of test scores in evaluations.

Teachers will be watching closely: Educators can lose their jobs if they are are repeatedly rated “ineffective.”

Many Michigan teachers are sharply critical of the use of test scores to measure their abilities in the classroom. They point out that test scores are influenced by factors outside their control, like poverty.

Those backing the shift to more test scores in evaluations argue that the current system offers no coherent statewide picture of teacher quality, which they say could be used to move the best teachers to lower-performing districts. Almost all teachers in the state are currently rated “effective” or “highly effective,” and some districts are more likely than others to give teachers a high rating.

The bill passed by the Senate wouldn’t change other teacher-review provisions that are supposed to kick in this year. That could mean that for the first time, evaluations of math, English, and social studies teachers will be partly based on the M-STEP, Michigan’s statewide exam. Districts are currently allowed to use other tests, such as iReady, a test used by the Detroit district, to evaluate teachers.

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