Pink slips for experienced teachers in Benton Harbor

Every teacher at Benton Harbor High School will be subject to layoff this summer, and with recent changes in state law, their reinstatement will be based on flawed “performance” measures instead of experience.

As Benton Harbor High School will only bring back half the current staff, more than 50 teachers face an uncertain future.

Shay Briggs, a high school teacher in Benton Harbor Area Schools, reacted to news of pink slips with frustration and dismay.

“I know I'm going to lose my job,” Briggs told WSBT-TV. “Whether I get hired back is a question.”

Recent changes in the state’s tenure law remove seniority from consideration. Layoffs and returns are now determined by evaluating teacher performance based on standardized test scores, teacher attendance, discipline, accomplishments and special training.

After a teacher is evaluated on those factors, he or she is placed into one of four categories: “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective” or “ineffective.”

Conflict can often exist between good teachers and administrators, which studies show can lead to unfair and biased evaluations.

Benton Harbor High School has had serious problems with truancy, which has negatively impacted student performance, WSBT reported. The students who do show up are packed into overcrowded classrooms.

Under those circumstances, accurately measuring teacher performance is next-to-impossible — yet that is exactly what state officials expect local administrators to do.

“We feel like everyone feels like they have the answer. What’s going to fix this?” Briggs said. “We have to do better with the curriculum, or we have to fix truancy…but it’s really hard to apply all of those things at the same time. And we’re not getting any assistance from anywhere, really.”