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Implications of Stopgap Educator Evaluation Bill

July 10, 2014

On June 28, 2014, Governor Snyder signed a new educator evaluation bill into law as 2014 Public Act 257.  Formerly Senate Bill 817, PA 257 was given immediate effect and amends Section 1249 of the Michigan Revised School Code in several ways. However, the bill is intended to serve as a temporary stopgap while the legislature continues to work on more detailed requirements.

Most significantly, PA 257 delays prior requirements for teacher and administrator evaluations until the 2015-16 school year, including the requirement that a specific percentage of the evaluation be based on student growth and assessment data. Previously, Section 1249(2) required a 25% weight for student growth in 13-14, 40% in 14-15 and 50% in 15-16.  Instead, starting in 2015-16, PA 257 requires that a school board ensure that at least 50% of the annual year-end evaluation is based on student growth and assessment data.  In the meantime, however, it appears that educator evaluations are not required to be based on a specific percentage of student growth and assessment data, although certain measures of student growth are now mandated.  (Note that because decisions on teacher evaluations are prohibited subjects of bargaining under section 15(3)(l) of PERA, a district could choose to require a specific and indeed higher percentage than what Section 1249 did or does now require.  For example, a district that required 25% in 13-14, may continue that requirement during 14-15.) 

PA 257 also newly mandates some of the measures to be used in determining student growth as part of the performance evaluation system.  For the 2014-15 school year, PA 257 requires that, for grades and subjects in which state assessments are administered in compliance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, student growth must be measured at least in part using state assessments. For grades and subjects in which state assessments are not required and administered, student growth must be measured at least in part using alternative assessments that are rigorous and comparable across schools within the school district.  Under prior law, student growth was defined as being measured by "national, state or local assessment and other objective criteria."  It thus appears that such other measures previously used by districts to determine student growth may be continued as long as they are rigorous and comparable across schools within your district.

While this development may come as a surprise to many who have followed the year-long effort to reform educator evaluations, a brief review of the legislative history explains how we got here and where we may be going in the near future. According to legislative insiders, the original intent of Senate Bill 817 was for it to act as "a short term solution" if and when the Legislature was unable to pass a bill to comprehensively amend Section 1249 before the Legislature adjourned for its summer recess. That eventually occurred when the Legislature was unable to gather enough votes to pass House Bills 5223 and 5224, which would have revised Section 1249 to specifically address the use of student growth, observations, and other components of educator evaluations. Legislators, school officials, and other stakeholders continue to work during the summer recess to refine those bills and, according to one source, a vote on that legislation could come as early as September.

Stay tuned for future developments. If you have questions regarding teacher or administrator evaluations, or would like help sorting through next steps in light of the apparent stopgap nature of this bill, please contact a Clark Hill Education Practice Group attorney.

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