LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan will delay a key change in its evaluation system for teachers and schools administrators under measures signed Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who expressed concern with giving test data greater weight in year-end performance reviews.
The bills won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Republican-led Legislature. They will halt, at least for a year, a requirement that student growth and assessment data account for 40% of evaluation starting this academic year, up from 25%. Under the legislation, the change required in a 2015 law will be delayed until the 2019-20 school year.
“As I continue to visit schools across the state, nearly every educator says the same thing: they are forced to spend more time on testing than actually teaching their students how to learn,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We know that test scores are only one piece of the puzzle and not the whole story.”
The delay is supported by teachers unions, school districts and groups representing administrators. Some legislators said Michigan’s main standardized test, the M-STEP, does not adequately measure students’ learning over time.
“The feedback is not coming back quickly. So when teachers don’t have those tools to look at their feedback to see how they can improve — we’re not getting this feedback for months — then it’s really not helping us out,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri, a former high school social studies teacher. The Democrat from Wayne County’s Brownstown Township said he hopes there is a “broader conversation” about the evaluation system and state testing, not just a one-year pause.
Under the evaluation law, the remainder of an educator’s annual review centers primarily on their performance as measured by a scoring tool chosen from a state list or developed locally, including a classroom observation component. At least two classroom observations must be conducted of teachers not rated as effective or highly effective on their two most recent evaluations.
A district or charter cannot assign a student to be taught in the same subject area for two consecutive years by a teacher rated as ineffective on his or her two previous annual evaluations. Teachers rated as ineffective for three straight years must be fired.
While the Legislature agreed to the delay, some members were clearly frustrated over it.
House Education Committee Chairwoman Pamela Hornberger, a Republican from Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township, last week questioned why the Department of Education has been unable to implement the 2015 law “with fidelity. When will the system be ready? … There should be growth assessments in place in all subject areas. It’s been five years.”
But the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, applauded lawmakers for delaying the “drastic” increase in the influence of test scores on evaluations.
“Based on feedback about evaluations from front-line educators, this delay only keeps a big problem from getting worse,” said president Paula Herbart. “We look forward to working with the governor and legislators from both parties to fix this system so it helps deliver the highest quality education for every student.”
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