November 26, 2014

Putting students above teachers

By Matt Keeton
Staff Writer | reporter@ogemawherald.com
Posted 7/28/11

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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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