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Group at work to create "evaluation tool" for Michigan teachers

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Discussions are underway to figure out how best to evaluate Michigan’s teachers.

Governor Snyder has tasked a group of five people to develop a so-called “teacher evaluation” tool as part of the state’s new teacher tenure law. The law contains a lot about teacher evaluation, but doesn’t detail what the evaluation would look like.

That’s the job of the Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness. It’s led by Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan. The Council held a public meeting earlier this month to talk about their work on the evaluation tool, or system as she called it.

Ball says the system will include a way to track student growth, and ways to measure instructional practices:

"The real value of a good system will be something that provides very useful information to teachers, and to the people who coach and mentor and guide teachers," says Ball.

She says the point of the evaluation system is not to get teachers fired, but to help them improve:

"The main point is to create a system whereby we can determine who’s doing really well, learn from those people, and for people who are not teaching as well as they could, what are the ways we can provide better guidance support so that really every kid in Michigan has a teacher that’s teaching as skillfully as possible."

Ball says the issue of local control has come up repeatedly since they began their work on the evaluation system, and it's something they will continue to grapple with as they move forward: should their be one system, should they allow for modification among school districts, etc.

The Detroit News reports hundreds of Michigan school districts have already sought an exemption from the evaluation system, regardless of what it looks like:

More than 40 percent of Michigan's school districts are seeking waivers from a new state law requiring them to adopt a uniform teacher evaluation system by 2013. Officials from 344 public school districts and charter schools have filed requests with the Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness for exemptions because they have local evaluation systems in place, said Dennis Schornack, a senior strategy adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder. The deadline for filing was Nov. 1.

The evaluation system is supposed to go into effect for the 2012 school year.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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