Could teacher ratings be scrapped?

The chairwoman of the state council charged with developing a system for evaluating educators said Friday she’s skeptical of policies that rate teachers in one of four categories.

Michigan law requires teachers to be evaluated and rated as “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective,” or “ineffective.”

“It's quite unreliable to properly assign people to a rating," Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education and chairwoman of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, said during a meeting held May 17 at the Macomb Intermediate School District’s offices in Clinton Township.

Created by the Legislature in 2011, the MCEE is creating what it calls a “fair, transparent and feasible” system for evaluating teachers and school administrators. Ball said the current four-category rating system is “impossible” and the MCEE will likely recommend moving away from it.

Ball said one alternative could be a three-category system. The lowest category would be for teachers who are underperforming and uncorrectable. The second category would be for those who are underperforming and could benefit from interventions and professional development. Everyone else would go into the third category.

However,” I don't think we're particularly in love with the idea of ratings at all,” Ball added.

Cathy Murray, a social studies teacher at Port Huron Northern High School, said she’s seen “huge problems” with the rating system in her district, as the ratings aren’t being applied consistently between school buildings. Twenty-year teachers who are ‘highly effective’ are losing their jobs before teachers who are ‘minimally effective’ and ‘effective,’ Murray said.

“It’s not necessarily about growth,” Murray said. “We’re still seeing kids fall through the cracks. Kids aren’t being saved. Administrators are being pulled out more frequently for evaluations, instead of helping kids and helping teachers help kids. It’s about punitive evaluation scores that are costing teachers’ jobs.”

By the end of June, the MCEE will submit a report to the governor, Legislature and State Board of Education that identifies and recommends a student growth and assessment tool; a tool to evaluate teachers; a tool to evaluate school administrators; new requirements for professional teaching certificates; and a process to evaluate and approve local evaluation tools for teachers and administrators

It will then be up to the Legislature to pass the recommendations into law.

Ball said the MCEE hopes to have the evaluation system adopted and gradually implemented, beginning with the 2014-15 school year.