There could be movement soon on bipartisan legislation that would revamp teacher evaluations in Michigan. A number of groups that did not previously support the bills now say they’re on board.
Education advocates, bill sponsors, and lobbyists have been meeting this week to hammer out changes to the legislation.
“There is near consensus among all the groups,” said Gary Naeyaert with the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), one of the groups that says it is now ready to support the legislation. “And I think that’s a good sign and it’s a rare sign. And we should take advantage of it and move these bills quickly.”
Under the 2011 overhaul of Michigan’s tenure laws, state legislators need to set new statewide criteria for evaluating teachers and administrators. The new evaluations were supposed to be in place by the current school year, but there have been a number of delays in crafting a new system and getting it through the Legislature.
But bill sponsors say support has been growing and the bills are likely to see some movement soon.
“This is, I would like to say, the only piece of education legislation that has had such diverse endorsement upon its initial introduction,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor. “And I think that speak volumes to how successful it can be.”
Zemke says it is critical for lawmakers to send House Bills 5223 and 5224 to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk before their two-month summer break, which starts at the end of June. Otherwise, he says schools will not know what to expect next school year.
Another reason bill sponsors want the legislation to move soon is because next year’s budget will probably include money for the new evaluations.
“And if we want to make sure that those funds are available, we do need to have this legislation move sooner rather than later, because, otherwise, then we’re funding something of which there’s nothing to fund,” said state Rep. Margaret O’Brian, R-Portage, who is sponsoring the legislation with Zemke.
O’Brien says she plans to take out language in her bill that would limit the types of standardized tests that could replace the MEAP test next year. That’s one reason some groups, including GLEP, have decided to support the bills.