News Story

Dozens of School Districts Consider All Teachers the Same

Some schools rate every single teacher 'effective'

When the Lansing School District did its first teacher evaluations mandated by a 2011 state law, all 887 of its teachers were given the same “effective” rating for the 2011-12 school year.

In the Waterford School District, all 694 teachers evaluated were given the “effective” rating, which was one of four categories available. In Saginaw Public Schools, all 528 teachers also were rated as “effective.”

Dozens of school districts around the state are in the same situation where their entire teaching staff was rated “effective.”

If the evaluations are not more diverse in the future, it could hamper efforts to strengthen the pool of teaching talent in the state, said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

State law mandates that teachers be rated based one of four categories: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective. But the real importance of the law is that it allows school districts to recall teachers after layoffs based on performance. In the past, districts had to do recalls based strictly on seniority.

For instance, Saginaw laid off 70 teachers in 2010-11 but recalled 57 a year later. Those 57 teachers were called back based on seniority.

But if all the teachers are rated the same, districts lose the opportunity to strengthen their teaching roster. Because of union teacher contracts and the tenure law, schools never had to take teacher evaluations seriously in the past, Van Beek said.

"This is really a monumental change for them," he said.

Van Beek said that studies show teacher quality to be the single most important thing impacting student achievement that schools can control.

"They can't control what parents do at home," he said. "They can control the quality of teaching that is available to the students. It's arguably the single most important things schools can do."

Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul, Saginaw Superintendent Carlton Jenkins and Waterford Superintendent John Silveri did not respond to requests for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.