How do you encourage excellence in education?
Not with teacher tenure rules as they currently exist in Michigan.
The system, as it stands, places all teachers on the same level, regardless of talent or performance. The best are lumped in with the rest. Over the years, tenure laws have ended up protecting some bad apples and discouraging school districts from weeding out the mediocre.
Now, bipartisan legislation awaiting action in the state Legislature would change teacher tenure rules. The bills would protect due process for teachers while adding new standards for performance reviews.
The tenure legislation is sponsored by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Companion bills are being introduced by Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, chairman of the House Education Committee.
The measures would require that teachers be rated “effective” or “ineffective” for purposes of teacher tenure decisions. The ratings would be based at least 50 percent on student improvement on standardized tests. Administrators would face the same standards.
Charter schools would have to participate. Employees could appeal decisions they don’t like.
Currently, teachers attain tenure after four years, provided they have performed satisfactorily. The new standards would require that teachers be rated “effective” to be tenured.
Under the proposed rules, a teacher could lose tenure if he or she is rated “ineffective” for two consecutive years. After being rated “ineffective,” a four-year probationary period would follow in which the teacher could be fired. The bills would require teacher evaluations every year instead of every three years, which is now the minimum requirement.
This legislation would ensure that evaluations of teachers are based on reasonable performance criteria, adding needed checks to lifelong tenure. Coupled with a move toward merit pay for high-performing teachers, these bills would move school districts in the right direction.
MEA opponents have called for abolishment of tenure protections. But even some union leaders have seen the need for reform.
This proposed legislation would allow tenure to continue, but it would make significant and much-needed changes in the law.
If the lame-duck Legislature passed these reforms by year’s end, it would end its existence on a productive note. And this accomplishment would work to everyone’s advantage, but especially for students in Michigan schools.
— KALAMAZOO GAZETTE