Teachers providing feedback on proposed new evaluation system

MEA staff lobbyists are meeting with teachers throughout the state to get their thoughts on a proposed new statewide system for evaluating teachers.

The Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness released a report this summer with recommendations for creating a “fair, transparent and feasible” system for evaluating teachers and school administrators, which would replace the 800 different systems currently in place across Michigan.

MEA is part of a bi-partisan workgroup of legislators, education advocates and others that is working to transform the MCEE’s recommendations into legislation.

As the MCEE was crafting its report last year, 13 school districts participated in a pilot project to test the proposed evaluation system. MEA lobbyists Charles Agerstrand, Christina Canfield, David Michelson, Ph.D., and Dave Stafford are working with teachers in those districts to get feedback on their experiences with the pilot project and listen to their suggestions on the crafting of legislation.

“It’s one thing to think about the process in theory; it’s another thing to hear first-hand the benefits and challenges from those on the front lines doing the work,” Canfield said.

Among MEA lobbyists’ preliminary findings:

  • Many teachers interview by MEA staff said they liked the part of the pilot evaluation process that encouraged them to reflect on their own teaching, as it helped them to focus on different aspects of their practice.
  • Teachers who teach non-core subjects or special education said they found the MCEE’s proposed evaluation model awkward and incompatible with their classes.
  • There seems to be a clear division between teachers who were evaluated by well-trained administrators who showed fidelity to the process, and those who weren’t. “Effective administrators delivered on the promises of the report, providing fair evaluations to teachers and providing them with valuable insight and input,” Michelson said. “Administrators who weren’t well-trained, or who used the evaluation process to further their own personal agendas against teachers, left teachers feeling frustrated and manipulated.”
  • Time seemed to play a huge part in how worthwhile the process was from teachers’ perspectives. Many administrators in the pilot districts had trouble implementing the complete process. When they ran short on time, they took shortcuts. For example, one administrator took his written comments from a teacher’s walkthrough and copied them, providing the exact same comments to several other teachers. Time constraints also caused some administrators to skip valuable pre-observation conferences.

Regardless of their experiences with pilot project, Stafford said members appreciate meeting with MEA staff and having their feedback relayed to lawmakers.

“Teachers deserve to be respected as the education experts they are, and their input is critical to this process as legislation is being debated in Lansing,” Stafford said. “We look forward to continuing to meet with teachers and ensure their voices are heard loud and clear.”