Michigan teachers have one of the most important roles in our state’s and children’s future. Yet as a state, we have neglected to build strong feedback and support systems that our teachers need to improve their practice. Instead, we treat our teachers as if they are interchangeable.

Michigan’s schools aren’t performing well, and our children’s performance is slipping relative to children in other states. But instead of facing our problems honestly and working to help educators improve their effectiveness, we tell them they are all doing just fine. Indeed, our analysis of new data from 10 of Michigan’s largest school districts shows that 99.4 percent of teachers were rated as “effective” or “highly effective” in the 2011-12 school year. Less than 1 percent were rated “ineffective” or “minimally effective,” with just 0.2 percent in the “ineffective” category. These results are even starker than those contained in a highly influential national study done in 2009 called “The Widget Effect.”

If all serious improvement efforts start with an honest look in the mirror, these new numbers reflect a foreboding image. What we see doesn’t bode well for Michigan’s children, who need our schools to step up. Nor does it bode well for Michigan’s teachers, who need honest feedback and individualized professional development to be the best they can be. Michigan has more than 70,000 teachers, and many will be teaching our students for years — if not decades. If we are to restore effectively students’ ability to compete for jobs in a 21st-century knowledge economy, we must invest in smart and meaningful teacher development and evaluation.


Published: September 20, 2012