Press Release

Our Students Need a System of Improvement to Raise Teaching and Learning

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (February 19, 2014)  — Today the Education Trust-Midwest testified to the Michigan legislature in support of the state’s plans to develop Michigan’s first statewide system of educator support and evaluation, alongside a new K-12 data system that can be used to drive early interventions for children as early as grades K through 3.

Pointing to new evidence that shows the dramatic gains in learning in states such as Tennessee after implementing a system of educator evaluation and training, Ed Trust-Midwest asked the legislature to support Governor Rick Snyder’s recent recommendation to invest more than $27 million in the new system.

“Tennessee is now the nation’s leading state for student growth, according to new national assessment data,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan research, policy and advocacy organization committed to raising learning for all Michigan students, especially low-income, African American and Latino children.

“Once performing worse than Michigan, Tennessee is far out-pacing Michigan and the national average for student learning gains,” she added. “Its leaders attribute this growth to their implementation of their new statewide educator support and evaluation system, along with higher standards. We can learn a lot from Tennessee.”

ETM also pointed out why the new system is so needed today:

•    No Definition of What Effective Teaching is in Michigan:  Teachers and school leaders – like other professions – need clear goals to work toward, and a definition of what excellence looks like. This will advance Michigan’s teaching profession and help the public understand why great teaching should be valued and respected.  Right now, though, every Michigan district, school, teacher prep program and classroom can make up their own definition.  This is a disservice to both students and teachers. HB 5223 and HB 5224 would address this problem.

•    Practically Every Michigan Teacher is considered “Effective” or “Highly Effective”
– while Michigan Risks Marginalizing our true Master Teachers:  Michigan is at the bottom of states on national assessments, yet more than 99 percent of our teachers were rated Effective or Highly Effective in the 2011-2012 school year. Meanwhile, new state regulations define master teachers based on credentials which research shows credentials are a weak predictor of teaching quality.

•    No Statewide Standards for Evaluating Teachers:
Presently Michigan has a patchwork of local systems and student growth models.  This means some teachers are getting fair evaluations, while many others are not.  And districts and schools have incentives to set their bars for evaluations and student growth low so that their students and teachers look like they are performing well. These bills address this.

•    No Voluntary Model for Districts that Need or Want One:  Good, reliable evaluation systems are costly – and they take resources and expertise that few districts can afford or readily access. Leading states provide a model that local schools may opt to use, along with state-provided training and coaching.  This investment has been key to Tennessee’s success, according to state leaders there.

“These bills would hold accountable the Michigan Department of Education in the quality implementation of the new system,” ETM’s director of policy and research Sarah Lenhoff told lawmakers today.   “As Tennessee and plenty of leading states demonstrate, educational improvement can start with good policy, but it needs investment and sustained implementation to make it soar.”

To read more about Michigan’s opportunity for a transformative new K-12 data system, see Ed Trust-Midwest’s piece in Bridge magazine co-authored by Amber Arellano, Teresa Weatherall Neal, Audrey Spalding, Michael Rice, Ray Telman, Jon Felske and Harrison Blackmond.

See ETM’s website for the full testimony.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only state-wide, non-partisan education research, information and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide reliable, data-driven information and expertise to our state’s families and policymakers about how to close our achievement gaps.