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    Michigan enacted multiple education reform bills in its failed Race to the Top (R2T) application. One of the reform bills enacted was Senate Bill (SB) 981. While SB 981 primarily focuses on reforming schools of excellence, two sections, Sections 1249 and 1250, enact performance-based initiatives (PBIs); specifically, Section 1249 enacts performance-based evaluations and Section 1250 performance-based pay. While the sections similarly implement PBIs, there is a notable difference between them: Section 1250 includes a provision that excludes current collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) from the changes enacted in it and Section 1249 does not. This difference was not significant enough to erode support for the bill, but it has caused concern for some. House Democrat Alma Smith introduced HB 6331 to amend SB 981 and apply a similar measure exempting current CBAs from the changes enacted in Section 1249. This compels the question: is HB 6331 good legislation or is it unnecessary? .

    The omission of protection for current CBAs was originally supported by Ms. Smith. She voted affirmatively for an early House version of the bill that did not extend exemption for current CBAs from Section 1249. However, the version she voted for was later revised by the Senate. The revised version, a version for which she did not vote as she was excused from the vote, included two additional provisions added to Section 1249. Considering that these are the only two differences between the version Ms. Smith voted for and the version passed, it is easy to infer which measures caused her to introduce the amendment and examine the necessity of her proposed legislation. However, before examining the measures Ms. Smith opposes, examining the portion of Section 1249 that she acceded to will expedite the process of determining if her proposed legislation is necessary as it can be contrasted with the portion she opposes.

    Section 1249 of SB 981 requires school boards to implement a transparent, rigorous, and fair evaluation system for teachers and school administrators; school boards are required to involve teachers and administrators in the process. The evaluation systems must evaluate teacher and administrator performances annually while providing timely and constructive feedback (subsection a). The systems must also establish clear approaches to measuring student growth while providing teachers and administrators with relevant data on student growth (subsection b). The evaluations are to use multiple rating categories that account data on student growth as a significant factor; student growth must be measured by national, state, or local assessments and other objective criteria (subsection c).

    The evaluations are to be utilized, at a minimum (subsection d), in influencing decisions based on performance. If performance is determined to be unsatisfactory, teachers and administrators must be given ample opportunities for improvement (subsection d-i). The evaluations will be utilized in determining the retention, promotion, and development of teachers and administrators; the evaluations will also be utilized in administering coaching, instruction support, or professional development (subsection d-ii).

    The preceding two paragraphs compose the bulk of Section 1249. The provisions were the provisions Ms. Smith acceded to when she voted to support the original bill. Ms. Smith's opposition is not to the provisions noted in the preceding paragraphs, but to two provisions included in the revised Senate version that eventually became law.

    The two measures that Ms. Smith opposes are subsections d-iii and d-iv of Section 1249. Subsection d-iii stipulates that the evaluations may, at a minimum, influence whether to grant tenure or full certification, or both, to a teacher or administrator. Subsection d-iv stipulates that the evaluations may, at a minimum, influence the removal of ineffective tenured and nontenured teachers and school administrators after they have had ample opportunities to improve.

    Because of the addition of subsections d-iii and d-iv, Ms. Smith introduced HB 6331 to amend Section 1249 of SB 981. She wants to include a provision in Section 1249 that would exempt teachers and administrators under a current CBA from the measures in Section 1249. This compels the question: do the additions of subsections d-iii and d-iv necessitate an additional measure exempting current CBAs from Section 1249?

    Considering that the portion of Section 1249 that Ms. Smith supported already affects the retention, promotion, and development of teachers and administrators, her sudden opposition to the bill because it affects teacher and administrative tenure is surprising. Given the time required to devise and implement the evaluations and the ample time for improvement afforded teachers and administrators whose performance is deemed unsatisfactory, it is unlikely that the legislation will conflict with any current CBA. Also, the proposed legislation may cause a delay in the construction of evaluation systems. As each school board is required to construct the evaluation system with the input from teachers and administrators, a possible delay in the process would be pernicious; school boards, teachers, and administrators must begin devising the evaluation systems immediately. The proposed legislation is unnecessary with potentially negative consequences as it may delay the construction of the evaluation systems. It would behoove the House Education Committee to dismiss this bill.

    Sources:

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billintroduced/House/pdf/2010-hIB-6331.pdf

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/publicact/pdf/2009-PA-0205.pdf

    http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140--227650--,00.html

    http://www.michiganascd.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=se8PfZdIm5k%3D&tabid=165

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Andy Chou and Andrew Revard are Education Policy Correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Andy is a first-year student in Economics at Michigan State University. Andrew is a senior in Political Science at MSU.