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Close look: Teacher evaluation provisions

The “tenure bills” signed into law by Gov. Snyder on 19 July captured a great deal of attention. But one aspect of the bills, and arguably the most important, was rarely discussed: a radical re-writing of the rules on teacher evaluation, including state mandates that require value-added models of student “growth” to make up a majority of a teacher’s effectiveness rating.

The bills, now Public Acts 100-103 of 2011, make important changes to the rules for teacher tenure in Michigan and for how teachers are hired and dismissed. While tenure remains, its importance is dramatically reduced. The legal standard for dismissing a teacher with tenure was significantly weakened, from requiring a “fair and just” cause to one that is simply “not arbitrary or capricious.” Seniority and tenure status may no longer be used to determine which teachers are laid off or called back to work, except as a tie-breaker. Instead, all decisions about hiring and laying off or dismissing teachers are now to be based primarily on their “effectiveness.”

All school districts (including ISDs and charter schools) must now give their teachers and administrators one of four ratings: “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective,” or “ineffective.” These ratings determine priority in layoffs and recall; educators with low ratings may be subject to dismissal at any time. In fact, teachers or administrative who receive three annual “ineffective” ratings must be dismissed under the law.

The focus on teacher effectiveness clearly makes the evaluation system of critical importance. While there is a wide range of opinions on how best to evaluate teachers, in this legislation Michigan lawmakers made a decisive choice: to give pride of place to “objective” measures of “student growth,” commonly understood to mean standardized testing. In particular, the legislation requires that this student growth data is to be used in a “teacher value-added” model, which in ideal form is a complicated statistical model estimating a particular teacher’s contribution to a student’s progress on tests while controlling for many other factors. The real-world application of value-added models faces many difficulties, however, because so many important factors (parent income & education, class cohort effects, the involvement of other instructors, etc) can be difficult to measure and are not normally collected by schools. [For more information about value added models, please see the end of this article.]

These provisions received less attention because they were added to the original bill (HB 4627) in the Senate Education Committee, long after the original hearings had been held in the House. Inserted just eight days before the bills passed on the floor of the Senate (and were rapidly sent to the Governor), the evaluation provisions were drawn from a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Tim Melton (D-Pontiac), HB 4796. The Senate made important changes to that language, however: nearly all changes gave local districts less leeway to develop their own evaluation system, reduced the impact a teacher could have on the process, and tightened political control over the choice of evaluation model.

The timeline set by the legislature is tight: districts must start assigning one of the four ratings to teachers and administrators by this September; a new body, the Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness, must recommend an evaluation model for educators by next spring; districts must begin using the new tool in the 2013-14 school year.

Key provisions of the evaluation legislation:

  • seniority or tenure status may no longer be used to determine layoff or recall priority;
  • with some exceptions, all teachers and administrators must be evaluated annually;
  • new educator evaluation tools must be adopted by local districts and used to assign effectiveness ratings;
  • a “Governor’s Council,” controlled by nominees of the Governor and the House and Senate leadership, will recommend the evaluation tool which districts state-wide must use (with few exceptions);
  • that Council will also recommend a tool to measure student growth, and the tool must use value-added modeling;
  • only districts which have a functioning evaluation system in place as of 19 July 2011, that also meets the requirements in the new law, may keep a local evaluation model – others must adopt the state model or one of the approved existing alternatives;
  • by the 2015-16 school year, at least 50% of an educator’s effectiveness rating must depend on student growth and assessment data;
  • educators who receive three annual “ineffective” ratings in a row must be dismissed, but districts are free to dismiss ineffective educators at any time (tenure status notwithstanding).

In a separate bill, HB 4628 (now PA 103), the teacher evaluation system and its use for performance-based compensation (“merit pay”) were added to the list of topics which shall not be the subject of collective bargaining. This takes away most of the leverage teachers might have had over how the system was implemented locally.


The following is a breakdown of the key provisions in PA 102 regarding teacher evaluation, compared with the original bill on evaluation. Provisions we consider critical for school policy are marked in red; other provisions that were changed substantially for political or policy reasons are marked in yellow.

HB 4627 reference HB 4796 reference

Teacher and Administrator evaluation provisions of HB 4627 as enrolled, now PA 102 of 2011 (based on HB 4796, at right)
This bill is now law.

Teacher and Administrator evaluation provisions of HB 4796, as introduced
Revised School Code, Section 1248
(MCL 380.1248)
  The original emphasis of the bill, this added section forbids school districts from implementing any policy which uses teacher tenure status or length of service (seniority) to make staffing decisions during a reduction in force, recall from a RIF, or any other time a position is eliminated. No provision.

Section 1249(1) existing provisions as amended 2010

same

Added to the law as part of Michigan’s failed application for Federal funds under the Race to the Top program in early 2010, this subsection requires that, by September 1, 2011, all districts must implement a "rigorous, transparent, and fair" performance evaluation system for all teachers and school administrators. The system must

  • evaluate the teacher’s/administrator’s job performance annually while also "providing timely and constructive feedback"
  • "establish clear approaches to measuring student growth" and provide educators with "relevant data" on student growth
  • evaluate the educator’s job performance using "multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth as a significant factor." [This was the language used in the Federal grant application guidelines.] Student growth is to be measured by "national, state, or local assessments and other objective criteria," commonly interpreted to mean standardized tests.
1249(1)(c)   Adds to this section that districts have 60 days from the effective date of this legislation (19 July 2011) to begin rating teachers using the four categories "highly effective," "effective," "minimally effective," or "ineffective." No provision
Teacher evaluations
  1249(2)(a) see 1249(2)(b) below Requires mid-year reports on probationary teachers and those with low ratings on their most recent evaluation.
1249(2)(a) 1249(2)(b) Both bills phase in the weight to be given to "student growth and assessment data" in an evaluation system: such data must account for 25% of the evaluation in 2013-14, 40% in 2014-15, and at least 50% for 2015-16 and after.
1249(2)(a) 1249(2)(b)(i) Growth and assessment data used for evaluations "shall be measured using the student growth assessment tool that is required under legislation enacted by the Legislature under subsection (6) after review of the recommendations contained in the report of the Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness…." [emphasis added] Growth and assessment data used in an evaluation is to be measured by "a tool adopted or developed by" a district or the "tool recommended by the Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness." [See §(5)]
1249(2)(a)(ii) 1249(2)(b)(ii) Ratings of teachers will be based on the most recent three years of growth and assessment data or, failing that, all available data.
1249(2)(a)(iii) 1249(2)(b)(iii) The annual evaluation must include "specific performance goals" developed by "the school administrator or his or her designee conducting the evaluation" and recommendations for training (if any), "in consultation with" the teacher. First year teachers and those who have received low ratings must also receive an individualized development plan, again developed by the administrator "in consultation with" the teacher. [emphasis added] The annual evaluation must include specific performance goals that will help improve effectiveness which are developed "with input from" the school principal doing the evaluation and the teacher, along with any recommended training "agreed to" by the principal and teacher. First year teachers and those who have received low ratings must "agree" with the principal on an individualized development plan including goals and training. [emphasis added]
1249(2)(b) 1249(2)(c) Requires mid-year evaluation of a first year or low-rated teacher. Must be based at least in part on "student achievement," aligned with teacher’s IDP, and include performance goals for the rest of the year developed by the administrator. Requires mid-year evaluation of a probationary or low-rated teacher, using same evaluation tool, including performance goals for the rest of the year "agreed to" by principal and teacher.
1249(2)(c) 1249(2)(d) The evaluation system must include classroom observations as part of the evaluation. Classroom observations are to be conducted as specified by the teacher evaluation tool, except: a classroom observation does not have to be for an entire class period; and teachers who have not received a rating of "effective" or "highly effective" on his or her last two annual evaluations must be observed in the classroom multiple times during the school year.
1249(2)(c)(ii) 1249(2)(d)(ii) Classroom observations must include a review of the teacher’s lesson plan "and the state curriculum standard being used in the lesson," as well as "pupil engagement" in the lesson. Classroom observations must include a review of the teacher’s lesson plans and attendance.
1249(2)(d) 1249(2)(e) School districts "shall adopt" and implement "the state evaluation tool for teachers that is required under legislation enacted by the legislature" under §(6) below. If a district "has" a local evaluation too that is "consistent" with the state evaluation tool, the district may use that local tool. [But see §(7) below.] Evaluations must be conducted using an evaluation tool "developed or adopted by the district" that meets the criteria set forth in this subsection [§(2)] OR the "state voluntary default evaluation tool" recommended by Governor’s Council.
1249(2)(e) 1249(2)(f) The evaluation system must assign an effectiveness rating to each teacher ("highly effective, "effective," "minimally effective," or "ineffective") based on their score on the evaluation tool.
1249(2)(f) 1249(2)(g) In addition to any other requirements, a school district is "encouraged" to assign a mentor or coach to first year/probationary teachers and those who have received poor ratings.
1249(2)(g) 1249(2)(h) The evaluation system may exclude growth data for a particular student if recommended by the evaluating administrator and approved by the district superintendent. The evaluation system "shall exempt" from a teacher’s evaluation growth data for pupils who are absent for 15% or more of the time from the teachers’ class. Data from a particular student may also be excluded if recommended and approved as in HB 4627.
1249(2)(h)   A teacher rated ineffective on three consecutive annual evaluations "shall" be dismissed from employment. This provision does not limit the ability of a district to dismiss an ineffective teacher even in the absence of three negative evaluations. No provision.
1249(2)(i)   A teacher who receives three consecutive annual evaluations of "highly effective" may thereafter be evaluated every two years. If that teacher is rated as simply "effective" in one of those reviews, they revert to annual evaluations. No provision.
1249(2)(j)   [Senate floor amendment to committee version] If a non-probationary teacher is rated "ineffective," the teacher may request a review of the evaluation by the district superintendent, if they request such a review within 20 days of learning of their score. The district superintendent may make any modifications felt necessary after reviewing the evaluation. Such reviews may not be requested more than twice in any 3-year period. No provision.
School administrator evaluations
1249(3) 1249(3) Beginning in 2013-14, districts must implement an evaluation system for building-level school administrators and central office administrators "who are regularly involved in instructional matters." Same provisions, except applies only to building-level school administrators.
1249(3)(a) 1249(3)(a) Administrators are to be evaluated at least annually by the superintendent, though superintendents are to be evaluated by the Board of Education. Same, applied to building-level administrators.
1249(3)(b) 1249(3)(b) For the 2013-14 evaluation, at least 25% of the evaluation must be based on student growth and assessment data. For 2014-15, 40%, and for 2015-16 and beyond, at least 50% must be based on student growth and assessment data. The data used for these evaluations will be the aggregated student data for the school where the administrator works, or for the entire district, as applicable.

2013-14: 22%
2014-15: 44%
2015-16 onwards: at least 66%
Otherwise the same, applied to building administrators.

1249(3)(c) 1249(3)(c)

The remaining part of administrator evaluations should include the following:

  • the administrator’s training and proficiency in using the evaluation tool for teachers, including a review of a random sampling of teacher performance evaluations;
  • the progress made by the school [or district] in meeting the goals set forth in the school improvement plan(s);
  • pupil attendance;
  • [special recognition and awards – HB 4796 only]
  • student, parent and teacher feedback and other information considered pertinent.
1249(3)(d) 1249(3)(d) same as §(2)(d) above, applied to administrators and an administrator evaluation tool same as §(2)(e) above, applied to administrators and an administrator evaluation tool
1249(3)(e) 1249(3)(e) Administrators must be ranked as "highly effective"… based on the evaluation tool score.
1249(3)(f) 1249(3)(f) An administrator rated as minimally effective or ineffective must be required to implement an improvement plan developed by the superintendent, including professional development and other relevant measures designed to improve performance.
1249(3)(g) 1249(3)(g) If an administrator is rated as ineffective on 3 consecutive annual evaluations, they must be dismissed. This does not limit the district’s power to dismiss ineffective administrators in any case. Administrators rated as ineffective on 2 consecutive annual evaluations must be dismissed.
1249(3)(h)   Same as §(2)(i) above, applied to administrators No provision.
Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness
1249(4) 1249(4) Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness is created as a temporary commission under Article V of the state constitution.
1249(4)(a) 1249(4) The council shall have 5 voting members: 3 appointed by the Governor; 1 appointed by the Senate Majority Leader; and 1 appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ex officio voting members include the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a designee of the Governor, a designee of the Senate Majority Leader, and a designee of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
1249(4)(b) 1249(4)(a) through (k) The Superintendent of Public Instruction or a designee serves as a nonvoting member.

No later than 9/30/2011, the Governor must appoint to the Council, with the advice and consent of the Senate, these voting members:

  • 2 members who are current teachers in Michigan
  • 2 members who are current school administrators in Michigan;
  • 1 member who is a current district superintendent in Michigan;
  • 1 member who is currently serving on a local school board;
  • 2 parents of current public school students;
  • 1 member of the general public

These are to be selected with the advice of "statewide associations" of teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents, and in all cases "student advocacy organizations." If none of these come from a charter school, 1 teacher or administrator of a charter school will be made a member.

In addition, the Governor will appoint a member who represents a foundation or other philanthropic organization; three members who are "recognized experts in educational policy;" six members who are experts on the "design and implementation" of evaluations, including "members who can provide a national perspective;" and other technical experts at the discretion of the Governor.

1249(4)(c) Members appointed under §(4)(a) and (b) must have expertise on one or more of the following: "psychometrics, measurement, performance-based educator evaluation models, educator effectiveness, or the development of educator evaluation frameworks in other states."
1249(4)(d) No later than 10/31/2011, the Council "shall contract" with one or more additional experts in the fields listed above as considered necessary.
1249(4)(e) [Senate floor amendment added to committee version] The Governor must appoint an advisory committee for the Council to "provide input" on the Council’s recommendations. The advisory committee will consist of public school teachers, administrators and parents.
1249(4)(f) 1249(4) Staffing and support of the Council will be provided by the Governor’s office. Staffing and support will be provided by the Department of Education.
Governor’s Council deliverables
1249(5) 1249(5) By 4/30/2012, the Council must submit a report with its recommendations to the State Board of Education, the Governor and the Legislature. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must hold the first meeting of the Council by 10/31/2011. The Council must submit a report with its recommendations by 9/30/2012.
1249(5)(a) 1249(5)(a)

The Council must recommend a student growth assessment tool which meets the following:

  • in addition to measuring growth in the "core subject areas" of mathematics, science, English language arts, and history [social science], the tool must measure student growth in other subject areas
  • complies with state and federal law for students with a disability
  • has at least a pre- and post-test
  • can be used for "pupils of all achievement levels"
1249(5)(a)(i)   The student growth and assessment tool must be a "value added model" that takes into account "student achievement and assessment data" and has been determined to be reliable and valid as a measure of value added. Not included.
1249(5)(b) 1249(5)(b) The Council must also recommend "a state evaluation tool for all teachers." The Council must also recommend "a state voluntary default evaluation tool for teachers."
1249(5)(b)(i) 1249(5)(b)(i) In addition to student growth and assessment, the evaluation tool may include, inter alia, "instructional leadership abilities, teacher and pupil attendance, professional contributions, training, progress report achievement, school improvement plan progress, peer input, and pupil and parent feedback." In addition to student growth and assessment, the evaluation tool may include, inter alia, "professional contributions, training, progress report achievement, school improvement plan progress, peer input, and pupil and parent feedback."
1249(5)(b)(ii) 1249(5)(b)(ii) The Council must ensure that the evaluation tool will "allow all special education teachers to be rated." The Council must ensure that the "voluntary default evaluation tool" will allow all special education teachers to be "rated fairly" if their pupils are not required by law to be assessed. The Council must recommend an alternate model for student growth and assessment for such pupils.
  1249(5)(b)(iii)   The Council must recommend a process for the State to approve local teacher evaluation tools other than the voluntary default tool, along with a "minimum set of criteria and standards" which the local tool must meet.
1249(5)(b)(iii) 1249(5)(b)(iv) The Council must "seek input" from districts "that have already developed and implemented successful, effective performance evaluation systems." The Council must "seek input from leading school districts" in Michigan "that are already using evaluations."
1249(5)(c) 1249(5)(c)(i), (ii) and (iii) The Council must also recommend a "state evaluation tool for school administrators," which includes, inter alia, "teacher and pupil attendance, graduation rates, professional contributions, training, progress report achievement, school improvement plan progress, peer input, and pupil and parent feedback."

The Council must also recommend a state voluntary evaluation tool for principals and building-level administrators, which may include, inter alia, "professional contributions, training, progress report achievement, school improvement plan progress, peer input, and pupil and parent feedback."

The recommended tool must allow for adaptations if one or more special education teachers are under the supervision of the principal, to ensure that "student growth and assessment data is used fairly."

The Council must also recommend a process for approving local evaluation tools, and set minimum criteria and standards which the local tool must meet.

  1249(5)(d)   The Council must also recommend a voluntary default evaluation tool for central-office and other administrators, which must also incorporate student growth and assessment data.
Implementation
  1249(6) No provision The Legislature, State Board of Education, and the Michigan Dept. of Education must work to find 10 school districts willing to pilot the Council’s recommendations during 2012-13.
1249(5)(d)   The Council must recommend ranges for the evaluation tool scores to be translated to the four effectiveness categories. No provision
1249(5)(e)   [Senate floor amendment to committee version] The Council must also recommend changes in the requirements for a teaching certificate to ensure "that a teacher is not required to complete additional post-secondary credit hours" beyond those required for a provisional teaching certificate. No provision
1249(5)(f)   [Senate floor amendment to committee version] The Council must also recommend a process for "evaluating and approving local evaluation tools" under §(2)(d) and §(3)(d). Compare with §(5)(b)(iii) and §(5)(c)(iii) above.
1249(6)   "It is the intent of the Legislature to review the report submitted by the Governor’s Council… and to enact appropriate legislation to put into place a statewide performance evaluation system taking into consideration the recommendations contained in the report." Not included.
1249(7)(a), (b), and (c)  

A district is not required to comply with §(2) or §(3) (may use their own evaluation system) as long as that system has already been implemented as of the effective date of the act (7/19/2011) and also:

  • makes the "most significant portion" of the evaluation based on student growth and assessment data, including value-added measures;
  • uses "research-based" measures to determine student growth, which may be measured by "standards-based, nationally normed assessments"
  • determines "professional competence" using "multiple direct observations" of classroom or professional practice
  • uses teacher ratings, based on student achievement and growth data, as a factor into "teacher retention, promotion and termination decisions"
  • uses evaluation results to "inform teacher professional development" for the next year
  • evaluates teachers and administrators at least annually.

The district seeking exemption for a local program must notify the Council by 11/1/2011 that it qualifies for an exemption. The district must also post a description of its local evaluation system on its web site. [emphasis added]

 
1249(8)   After the effective date of this act (7/19/2011), a district may only implement its own evaluation system if that system "replicates and is identical to" the evaluation system of a district which is already exempt under §(7) and it posts a description of the system on its web site. [emphasis added]  

Resources on Value-Added Modeling
While this topic can get very technical, there are some good resources to get a handle on the subject and why it has been so controversial:
A background article, from Education Week, about the origin of and debate over Value Added Modeling
An Education Week blog post on the importance of implementing VAM the right way.
Attached below are several PDF documents on VAM, including brief issue papers on the subject from Educational Testing Service and the RAND corporation, a longer research study by RAND, and a recent paper on the stability of VAM results.

Departments: 
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