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Statewide teacher evaluations move forward in state Legislature

Lorien Foote, associate professor of history at UCA
User: ucentralarkansas
Lorien Foote, associate professor of history at UCA

Legislation that would create a statewide teacher evaluation system has cleared its first hurdle in the Michigan Legislature. A state House panel approved the bills Tuesday with bipartisan support.

A diverse coalition of Michigan education groups recently came out in support of the legislation. Supporters say that could help clear the way for the Legislature to approve the bills before lawmakers leave Lansing in June for two months.

“A lot of people said it would be impossible to get such a diverse group of people to endorse one bill,” said bill sponsor Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “That was our first hurdle we’ve achieved. I’m looking forward to the next hurdle and working to overcome it.”

Supporters of the bills say the state needs better oversight of how districts determine whether educators are effective.

Under House Bills 5223and 5224, teachers and administrators would be rated based on student growth on standardized tests and in-class observation. They would be fired if they are rated “ineffective” three years in a row.

“I could find a lot better places to spend $27-35 million,” said state Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, who voted against the bills Tuesday in committee.

“When I start ranking things that I think need education spending, a brand new evaluation tool that covers everybody statewide isn’t it.”

The state is required to adopt a new evaluation system under a 2011 law that overhauled teacher tenure in Michigan. Some groups worry the state also risks losing federal funding if the legislation fails to clear the Legislature.