News Story

School District Denies Teacher's Claim of Bias in Evaluations

MEA member says district using evaluations for 'punitive' reasons

A Port Huron Northern High School teacher, who also is a secretary of the teachers' union and a member of the Michigan Education Association's regional board of directors, says the district where she works is using evaluations for "punitive" reasons and getting rid of teachers with the highest ratings over those with lower ratings.

If true, the district may have been breaking the law.

The district superintendent, however, says the claim is "absolutely, positively" untrue.

Cathy Murray, a social studies teacher and secretary of the Port Huron Education Association, criticized in an MEA article how teachers are evaluated in the Port Huron Area School District.

The article reported that Murray said the district had "huge problems" with its evaluation system. She was quoted as saying: "It's about punitive evaluation scores that are costing teachers' jobs."

The article further reported that Murray said, "twenty-year teachers who are 'highly effective' are losing their jobs before teachers who are 'minimally effective' and 'effective'."

State law now says teachers who are laid off have to be recalled based on effectiveness. In the past, teacher contracts mandated that teachers with the most seniority, regardless of performance, would be recalled first.

However, Port Huron Area Schools Superintendent H. Ronald Wollen said the school did not break the law and there were no instances where a lower-rated teacher was kept in lieu of a higher-rated teacher.

"Absolutely, positively not," Wollen said. "We are following the law."

Neither Murray nor MEA Spokesman Doug Pratt responded to requests for comment.

Wollen said 60 teachers are targeted for layoffs as the school downsizes due to a reduction in students.

The state law requires school districts evaluate teachers and rate them on one of four categories: "highly effective," "effective," "minimally effective," and "ineffective."

According to the Michigan Department of Education, Port Huron Area Schools gave 64.34 percent of its teachers "highly effective" ratings in 2011-12. There were 406 teachers given the highest rating; 199 were rated as "effective;" and 25 were rated as "minimally effective." One teacher was rated as "ineffective."

Because nearly two out of three teachers were given the highest rating, it's possible a "highly effective" teacher could be laid off while a lower rated teacher was retained, said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

For example, Van Beek said if a teacher needed to be laid off at the high school level and all the teachers were rated as "highly effective," a top-rated teacher could lose their job while a lower-rated teacher at an elementary school not targeted for reductions kept their job.

Wollen said the district has changed how it is doing evaluations this year. He said he hasn’t yet seen any final evaluations for teachers for the 2012-13 school year.


See also:

Dozens of School Districts Consider All Teachers the Same

Less Than 1 Percent of Michigan Teachers Rated 'Ineffective'

Failing School Ranks Every Teacher and Principal 'Highly Effective'

Failing Schools Able to Mark Themselves Up to a Passing Grade

State Gives Failing Schools Perfect Grades For Paperwork

State Says Schools in "Distress" Are Making "Adequate Yearly Progress"

Seniority No Longer Supreme For Teacher Recalls