Some Reps Have Changes In Mind For Senate's Teacher Eval Bill

By cori

Retrieved from www.MIRSnews.com

A variety of key House members on education topics say they want to see changes to the Senate's plan for evaluating teachers and administrators before they'll support it.

That means the 4-year-old push to improve the state's system for evaluating teachers could remain stuck in political gridlock for a while longer.

Rep. Amanda PRICE (R-Holland), the chair of the House Education Committee, will ultimately help decide the fate of the Senate's proposal, Click to add MIRS Bill Hound SB 0103.

"I'm listening," Price said after a lengthy committee hearing today, "and I'm taking into consideration all of the input that we've received."

Price's committee began taking testimony on Click to add MIRS Bill Hound SB 0103, sponsored by Sen. Phil PAVLOV (R-St. Clair), this morning. It marked the latest development in a long-running effort to reform educator evaluations in Michigan.

The Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness was established in 2011 to study the matter after the state made changes to teacher tenure. The council presented its finding to lawmakers in 2013.

After that, two House members, Reps. Adam ZEMKE (D-Ann Arbor) and then-Rep. Margaret [O'BRIEN] (R-Portage) developed a proposal for standardizing educator evaluations statewide.

The package would have provided specified teacher evaluation tools for schools to choose from and would have required mentors or coaches for struggling teachers. Over time, it would have also increased the role of "student growth" -- essentially assessment results -- in the evaluation process.

The bills passed the House overwhelmingly in 2014 but stalled before the end of session in the Senate where Pavlov, the chair of Senate Education Committee, had his own ideas.

Pavlov's proposal is now Click to add MIRS Bill Hound SB 0103, which he describes as a "compromise" and allows schools to have "local control" over which tools they use to evaluate teachers.

The main differences with last session's House proposal is that the House proposal required training for principals to do the evaluations and set minimum standards for the evaluation tools that schools use.

"It was just our belief in the Senate, on the Senate Education Committee, that those kind of decisions are best made locally," Pavlov said of his proposal in committee today.

The Senate proposal would also eliminate a $14.8 million Educator Evaluation Reserve Fund.

Under Click to add MIRS Bill Hound SB 0103, student growth would be to be 25 percent of the total evaluation in the 2017-2018 school year, and 40 percent in 2018-2019 and following years.

Under current state law, that percentage is set to move to 50 percent next year, something school groups don't want to see happen because the state has just begun using a new assessment.

While that's added urgency to the conversation in Lansing, many House members still want to change Pavlov's bill to make it more closely resemble the ones they passed last session.

"The bill needs some more work," Zemke said of Pavlov's proposal today.

Zemke said he wants to see comparable standards across districts and research-based evaluation methods.

Similarly, Bob KEFGEN, associate director of government relations for the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, spoke in opposition to Click to add MIRS Bill Hound SB 0103 today.

He told the story of a principal who had to fire a long-time friend because of his performance on their district's evaluations, but the principal wasn't confident in the evaluation system itself.

"Principals are being hung out to dry," Kefgen said.

Rep. Dave PAGEL (R-Oronoko Twp.), a former school board member, is also working in the House to change Pavlov's bill.

He said the Senate's new proposal is a "gutted" version of the House's proposal from last session. The Senate proposal has taken the teeth out of the standards in the House plan, he said.

"I spoke to lots and lots and lots of schools this year that were welcoming input from the state," said Pagel, who visited numerous school districts on a tour of the state. "So that that there would be some uniformity in teacher evaluation process and some meaningfulness added to that."

He added, "I don't think we're taking away from the locals by giving them several options."

But supporters of Pavlov's bill said over and over again today that they believe it allows for local control over the evaluations.

Alicia URBAIN, vice president of legal and governmental affairs for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said the House bills would have made some schools give up their evaluation systems.

As she argued, if a school finds that a student that's hugged 10 times a day performs better, "why shouldn't they be able to evaluate on that?"

Rep. Tom HOOKER (R-Byron Center), a former teacher who serves on the House Education Committee, voted against the House bills last session.

Hooker said he would like to see the percentage of student growth in the new Senate bill hold steady at 25 percent.

"I want to make sure that we don't drive good teachers out of at-risk schools because they're the ones that are going to really help," Hooker said. "If they are dependent on high scores or vast improvements, it's not going to happen in some of those places because kids are coming in with some really rough home lives."

Price plans to take more testimony on Pavlov's bill in the future.

Asked if there's room for further compromise, she responded, "I think it's too early to tell."