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Snyder signs new teacher evaluation standards into law

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Schools districts across Michigan will have to adhere to new standards for evaluating teachers and administrators. Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill on Thursday meant to improve teacher evaluation practices across the state.

Supporters of Senate Bill 103 say it will make sure bad teachers are held accountable. But they say it will also protect good teachers.

“So that any one given thing couldn’t destroy somebody’s career in education,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who has been working on the legislation for years.

“I think you’re going to see much more engaged, excited educators who are not feeling so stressed about being fired because somebody else may not like one thing that they did.”

Districts will have to weigh many factors, including student growth data based on state and local tests and in-classroom observation of teachers. The measure reduces the emphasis put on state standardized tests required under current law - though 40 percent of the evaluations would still eventually be based on a mix of state and local tests.

The new law allows districts to create their own teacher evaluation tools. But districts that choose tools developed by a state commission will get money to help implement them.

Supporters say no matter what tools districts choose, they’ll have to be evidence-based. They say that piece also helps make the evaluations more constructive for teachers and less punitive.

“There’s been a huge lack of recognition of the good work of a lot of teachers. And now they’re going to have something behind it to say, you know what, yeah, you have been good,” said state Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, who has also led legislative efforts on the issue alongside Zemke.

The law takes effect in 90 days.

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