Putting students above teachers



Governor Rick Snyder signed a teacher tenure reform into law Tuesday, July 19, making some much needed changes to Michigan’s education system.

There are four key components to the reform, all of which should help make teachers more responsible and hopefully improve the quality of education for Michigan students.

According to John Austin, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, the tenure reforms were among recommendations made by the school board to the governor in February.

First (and perhaps most importantly), the reform ends the practice of making staffing decisions based on seniority alone, instead basing such decisions mainly on classroom effectiveness.

In other words, a teacher will no longer be able to bump another teacher simply because they have been around longer. If they are less qualified and less effective than the teacher they are trying to oust, the school district will no longer be required to sit idly by as the weak overtakes the strong.

This is a wise decision, one that should have been made a long time ago. Why should students have to suffer, settling for a sub-par teacher simply because he or she has been around longer than another more qualified to teach the position? This is not an exceptionally common standard in other areas of the workforce, and certainly should not be the standard in schools, where the quality of our students’ education is at stake.

Secondly, the reform extends the period it takes to receive tenure from four to five years. During their probationary period, teachers can be dismissed at any time.

Again, this is a good decision. Once a teacher receives tenure, it can be extremely difficult to get rid of him or her. By extending the probationary period for newly hired teachers, school districts will have an extra year for observation before granting a teacher tenure.

Along the same lines, the reform requires teachers to continue earning effective ratings to keep their tenure. For those who do not know, teachers are graded when an administrator sits in on one of their classes, rating them on various aspects which reflect their effectiveness in the classroom. However, it may not be these standards upon which they are rated by the state.

At this time, it is unclear how the state will judge the effectiveness of teachers. Currently, “student growth” is the only parameter that has been determined at this time, though it seems like a step in the right direction. What is even better (for students, worse for bad teachers), is that school districts will be required to notify parents in writing when their child is being taught by a teacher who has been rated as “ineffective.”

Finally, it will now be easier for school districts to allow superintendents of intermediate school districts to serve as superintendents of local school districts. To give you a real-world example, this would be like taking the superintendent of the COOR (Crawford Oscoda Ogemaw Roscommon) Intermediate School District and having him serve as the superintendent of the West Branch-Rose City Area School District. It certainly would help clean up the administrative clutter that has grown in many of our schools, wouldn’t it?

The Michigan Education Association has been quick to refer to the reform as the “anti-school employee/anti-collective bargaining legislation.” Personally, I refer to it as the “pro-student/anti-union bickering legislation.” I guess it all depends on your where your priorities lie.


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Matt Keeton's assessment of the teacher tenure reforms is actually quite interesting and informative. Very appropriate. Why not jump on this very popular teacher bashing band wagon at this time? Don't get me wrong, I'm not in any way defending teachers, the current educational situation, the MEA, unions or anything else. If anything, the teacher tenure reforms did not go far enough. Get rid of any vestige of teacher tenure totally and immediatly. Anything at all that makes it easier to get rid of teachers that are perceived to be inadequate by some set of standards is highly beneficial. There are alot of poor teachers out there. The truth of the matter is that for the last ten to fifteen years: the quality of teacher canditates coming out of our fine university"s schools of education have generally been quite substandard. The above average or even the average college canditate has not been going into the field of education. Who can blame them? I'll clean it up a little by saying : Substandard in--- Substandard out. There are exceptions to this situation. A few of the current "younger or newer" dedicated teachers are very successful and quite amazing at their job. However this catigory is dwindling fast. So a secondary problem exists. We are making huge strides in making it easier to get rid of substandard teachers. But how do we replace them with highly qualified, dedicated and caring individuals? Pay them more? No! The overwhelming consensus is that teachers earn way too much now. Insure teachers have decent benefits? No! Those too are deemed to be far too excessive and underserving. How about allowing teachers to have adequate retirement or pension benefits? No! That too is under attack. Someone tell me what the present incentive is for a young person to want to go into the field of education. Why would anyone invest approximately $200,000 ( education cost and lost wages) and five years of their life to earn a teaching degree in today's anti- teacher climate? How about prestige, value or importance? I don't think so. Ask the average teacher how many of those attributes they are feeling lately. So Matt, I'm very gratified to hear your opinion of how to help solve this educational problem of poor teachers. Now lets hear your opinions on how to replace them with good ones.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | Report this

@Ogemawlke-How about the free market system? The more openings there are in teaching positions,the more people will choose teaching as their career.And there will always be people who enter the field of education simply for the love of it. And Michigan doesn't have a lot in the way of career choices right now,the free market system in and of itself will fill the empty niches.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | Report this

Luvstandish65- I'm sorry, but I didn't think the main issue here was filling openings. I thought it was improving the quality of education. Simply because there are "more openings" does not in any way guarentee that better qualified and devoted people will end up filling those openings. And as to entering the field of education for the love of it ! ! At what point do you think an individual really knows if they really have a "love of it?" The first year of college? How about the last year of college? Student teaching? After teaching five years? Approximately one half of all new teachers don't make it to their fifth year. There is a whole lot more to teaching than having a "love of it." Please let there be more to encourage our brightest young people to enter any profession requiring a college degree than :there are lots of openings and having a "love of it."

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | Report this

Ogemawike, I make a living in a highly trained, skilled profession. Since childhood I have had a passion for repairing technical items. Yes I have some College education and Trade school. I have trained several dozen apprentises over the years. Many of them found that the job was not for them. I also helped many of them make that decision when I found that they were not cut out for the job, had poor work skills, no ambition, ect. What I have found is that if you have a passion for your work you will become good at it! More job openings will allow the process of "natural selection" to find the best and brightest for the positions. First do the job properly. The money and kudos come when you have proven yourself to be one of the best. If you find that your passion for your work wanes over the years it is time to do something else.

Friday, July 29, 2011 | Report this

Look at Tom Izzo for MSU. Yes he is an alright coach but where he excells is in recruiting. He knows if he gets the best kids he will do well. You can replace all the teachers in the Detroit area or Flint and you will see very little change. Once you realize it is not the teachers fault do you recall the teachers that you fired because of bad performance of the students.

Friday, July 29, 2011 | Report this

joejoe, so you are saying that we have to recruit smarter kids for our teachers to excell?

Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Report this

PizzaMan, Teachers also work in a highly trained and skilled profession. They are also involved with technical items. These technical items are called children. I am having a hard time equating the skill, interest, and passion required for repairing technical items with the skill, interest and passion required for teaching. If this "free market system" or working world "natural selection" works so well, why do some professions have huge gaps in their ranks? Presently, large numbers of engineering jobs are going unfilled or must be filled by foreign born and foreign trained individules. How about the medical profession? Many areas of the country, including this one, have a serious shortage of quallified doctors. There are just not enough people willing to devote the time, money and effort required for this type of career. This is mainly my point. How many people are willing to devote the time, money and effort to become a teacher? For those few that have the courage and/or lack of intelligence, I hope you realize that the first thing issued to new teachers nowadays is a huge target for your back. If people think that creating openings is all that is required to solve the problems and concerns in education, then the few teachers left have a far bigger job to do than I thought. Really now, how many of you parents that have sons or daughters planning on a future in education really want them to jump on board this train wreck?

Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Report this

I agree that if someone has a passion for a career they will do better at it. If there are people that are going into teaching for having summers off and for the pension then they will not be as effective a teacher as someone who goes into teaching because they WANT to teach. I have many friends that are teachers, the majority of which believe in teaching and are GREAT teachers but they work with many who are not. They also know that with the job protection the union provides for them it is also provided for those teachers that are not as good.

Unions began with the idea to keep workers safe and allow them some say in their employment they have become corrupt. The head of the teachers union in NY was quoted as saying something to the effect of "when the students start paying union dues then I will put their concerns first". Students do not come first with the unions or with many of the teachers but if we get rid of some of that security based on length of employment then some of those teachers may care about their performance more. (Any one who has had a good teacher knows that it is easier to learn when the teacher has a passion for their subject or the job). Tenure for secondary education needs to stop and the teachers need to contribute to their retirement via a 401K just like the majority of positions in this country.

Monday, August 1, 2011 | Report this

The unions have been blocking the entrance of good teachers into school systems for years. This a sound and logical move.

Competent teachers that promote excellence will be an asset to a school system. They will be sought out and kept. Systems that find such teachers will know that it is more difficult to locate such talent and will work to keep it.

If more teachers are desired, change the university and college systems that are very overpriced. Most of have far exceeded the rate of inflation with their tuition increases. Professors use student assistants and rarely show up for class. Students are crammed into classes that are much too large to make a larger profit margin for schools of higher learning that do not want to operate with the proper amount of personnel. Sports, stadiums, and arenas have replaced sound curriculum as the main priority in our schools of learning. Society has to decide whether it wishes to have uneducated athletes or learned professionals leading the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 | Report this

You could replace the faculty of SSC with the faculty of Harvard, Yale and Princeton and I'd bet the change in test scores would be marginal. Education is not a passive event. Students have to be committed to the process as well, and many students (and parents) bring very little to the table.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Report this

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