News Story

Michigan law deems all teachers ‘effective’ by default

New teacher evaluation law replaces ‘ineffective’ rating with ‘needs support’

All teachers in Michigan are automatically rated as “effective” unless otherwise noted by district officials, under a new law enacted by Democrats in 2023.

Senate Bill 395, the vehicle for the new law, was introduced by Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, and Erika Geiss, D-Taylor. It drops teacher evaluation categories from four potential outcomes to three. The four categories for teacher evaluations in public schools prior used to be the following: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

The new law has three categories: effective, developing, or needing support. By law, there are no ineffective teachers in Michigan. There are just teachers who need help to become effective.

The law also makes it more difficult to improve student performance, says Molly Macek, education policy chair at Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “The new law doesn’t just water down the evaluation process by decreasing the emphasis on student achievement growth,” she told CapCon. “It also requires administrators to give a rating of ‘effective’ – the highest category – to any teacher who’s not given a written evaluation. This means that teachers who fail to help their students learn could receive the highest possible performance rating. This is not a recipe for improving the quality of Michigan’s education system.

Imagine a school policy change where a student automatically receives an ‘A’ in school if the teacher decides not to evaluate the child’s work, she added.

Union contracts may protect other teachers from being dismissed for misconduct. The union contract covering Bay City Public Schools provide a stark example, according to Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

“Under that contract,” he told CapCon, “public school employees could be under the influence of alcohol on school grounds five times before being terminated. They could also possess or be under the influence of illegal drugs three times before being fired. These employees could even be caught selling or manufacturing drugs, alcohol or tobacco twice before facing that penalty. An arbitrator charged with reviewing discipline under these terms would have no discretion to deviate from them, even if the discipline issued would otherwise be upheld as satisfying a just-cause standard under a different collective bargaining agreement.”

Under the new law, a teacher who had been under the influence of alcohol four times while on school grounds or who sells drugs once may stay on the the job, and could not be rated as ineffective, but as someone who “needs support.”

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.