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The following is an article written by David Zeman, Managing Director of Content and Communications, The Education Trust-Midwest, as distributed by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals 4.30.12
On Friday, the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness released its initial report on the development of the first statewide educator evaluation system, a pioneering and overdue effort to improve Michigan public schools and student achievement. The Council offers a sound, meticulous plan for its work – and rightly calls for legislative funding to pilot the proposed new system and full-time staff.
For years, too many Michigan teachers have received cursory support and monitoring of their classroom performance, if they received any attention and training at all. The Council’s detailed report aims to reverse this trend. It recommends a pilot of three respected teacher observation models – expected to be fully developed later this year – to ensure that teacher evaluation tools are fair, reliable and consistent, from school to school and across the state. The Council also announced it would issue recommendations on other components of its evaluation model – including on how to best measure student growth – later this year. The Education Trust-Midwest is gratified by the urgency the Council is bringing to its mission.
"Quality education reform that is truly designed to improve teaching and learning takes time – and investment,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, Michigan’s only state-wide education policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what’s best for students. “The Council’s work is focused on exactly these goals. Its timeline also is well ahead of how long the development of state-wide evaluation systems has been taking in other states, such as Colorado, Indiana and Illinois."
In the coming months, Ed Trust-Midwest urges the Council and Michigan legislature to learn from research and other states, and apply these lessons to the state’s new evaluation system. They include:
- Legislative Support for Funding a Pilot, Training and Staff: We urge the legislature to provide the public dollars needed to support a pilot, as well as to fund the rigorous training of evaluators and staff to implement the Council’s work as soon as this summer. A pilot would provide the opportunity to “test drive” the new system and to fine-tune it to ensure it is implemented smartly and reliably. This should give Michigan educators and families confidence about the Council’s thoughtful and deliberate approach.
- Empowering Master Teachers as Evaluators: Anyone who has worked in a school knows there are powerful teachers who could and should be serving as leaders, trainers and mentors to other teachers. The Council should design a performance-based identification process of master teachers and empower them to become evaluators. This will lessen the burden on principals, and provide invaluable and welcome support to teachers.
- Doing what’s Best for Students and Teachers: In the coming months, the Council’s work to develop a statewide “opt-in” evaluation model is critically important. Many schools have needed this support, particularly as they implement teacher tenure and other reforms passed by the state legislature since 2009.
"Since Michigan’s Race to the Top legislation passed in 2009, many of our schools have struggled to develop high-quality, reliable local teacher evaluation models," said Arellano. “President Barack Obama was right to encourage schools to focus on improving the quality of their educators. But many districts and charter school networks lack the expertise and funding to perform this complex work.
"Now our state has the chance to fix that -- and this Council is taking the first important and thoughtful steps to do so."
The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only state-wide non-partisan policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African American, Latino and American Indian students in Michigan, and to providing honest, reliable information to our state’s families and policymakers. For more information, go to: www.edtrustmidwest.org.