On July 19, 2011, Governor Rick Synder signed into law a new teacher tenure bill that drastically changes the operations of teachers in Michigan. Teacher tenure was initially developed to protect teachers from arbitrary dismissal as well as demotion and salary reductions. However, many now view tenure as an immutable tool in keeping inefficient teachers in the classrooms. Opponents of teacher tenure argue that this job protection makes the removal of poorly performing teachers so difficult and costly that most teachers end up keeping their positions. Since tenure removes the fear of job loss, many believe it causes complacency. Most Republicans and supporters of the bill say that in order to have thriving and successful students you need to have successful teachers. State Rep. Mark Ouitmet (R) Scio-township said, “We need to make sure our most effective teachers remain in our classrooms so they can provide the best possible education for students.”.
The new teacher tenure bill has incorporated major changes to some aspects that were previously essential to the tenure laws educators were use to, such as:
· “Last in, First Out” Has been eliminated from practice in favor of a new system in which administrators must consider demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom.
· From four years to five: Teachers now have to be employed for five years to reach tenure status, from the previous four. However, if a teacher is rated “highly effective” he or she may receive tenure earlier.
· "Initial Probationary Period”: Teachers who do not perform effectively within the first five years may be immediately terminated. If a teacher is said to be “ineffective” for three consecutive years then that teacher is dismissed. .
· Six areas from collective bargaining: The bill also removes six additional areas from collective bargaining that are now non-negotiable in union talks.
o Placement of teachers
o Personnel decisions when conducting a reduction in force, a recall or when hiring.
o Performance evaluation systems
o The discharge or discipline of employees
o The format or number of classroom observations conducted during performance evaluations
o Performance-based compensation.
These new changes to teacher tenure will require that teachers be evaluated on an annual basis. Although, the ways in which a teacher will be evaluated has yet to be fully determined. But beginning in 2013-14 student performance will count for 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluations and will continue to rise. Other measures may include, classroom management skill, how well one handles the pressures of being a teacher, as well as standardized test such as the MEAP. Those opposed to the new changes the bill brings express concerns about how accurate these performance measurements will be. Trevor Staples, a teacher of 12 years at Ann Arbor’s Burns Park Elementary School told mlive.com, “I don’t think we can take the MEAP and say ‘This particular student did poorly on the MEAP and thus this teacher must be a bad teacher’” Staple and many other educators also express concerns about outsiders determining whether teachers in Ann Arbor are performing effectively.
Michigan is not the only state looking to change its tenure processes. States such as Colorado, Florida, Alabama as well as many other states, are also implementing laws that are similar. Colorado enacted legislation to strip teachers of tenure protection entirely after two-years of unsatisfactory performance. Florida has discontinued tenure for teachers all together as of July 1 (tenure contracts created before this day are retained). As well as half of their teacher’s evaluations will be based on student achievement. In Alabama, legislation changes would eliminate a fired teacher’s right to appeal to a national arbitrator; instead, appeals will be heard by a state hearing officer chosen by the state school superintendent. In addition, teacher pay will end upon dismissal rather than after the hearing process.
While some see this new legislation as another attack on good educators and students, others view it as a strong way to ensure that teachers who are committed and perform well retain their positions in the classroom yet only time will tell.