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Lawmakers Vote To Delay Teacher Evaluation Rules

The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers voted Wednesday to implement statewide standards for evaluating teachers and school administrators while also delaying their implementation a year or two.

The standards were supposed to be in effect this school year under a 2011 Republican-backed law that revised teacher tenure rules. But legislators are still working to put the system in place after receiving recommendations last year.

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday delaying the standards until the 2015-16 school year while the House approved a delay until next academic year.

Issues include how much evaluations should be tied to students' standardized test scores and an escalating dispute between legislators and the state Education Department over which test to administer to students starting next school year.

The agency is planning to administer new Smarter Balanced tests aligned with new uniform national education standards known as Common Core. But lawmakers have given preliminary approval to budget bills that would instead order the state to revise the existing Michigan Education Assessment Program exams for English and math for the next two years.

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Sen. John Pappageorge, sponsor of legislation to delay the evaluation system that won approval 37-0 in the Senate, said the 2011 law requires year-end evaluations to be based in part on student growth and assessment data.

"All this bill does is give us time to pick an assessment test," said Pappageorge, R-Troy.

The House, meanwhile, voted 95-14 and 96-13 on Wednesday in favor of bipartisan bills that would set standards for teacher and administrator evaluations.

Current law requires teachers' and administrators' year-end evaluations to be based at least 25 percent on student growth and testing data this school year, 40 percent in 2014-15 and 50 percent starting in 2015-16.

The Senate bill would base 25 percent of a teacher or administrator's evaluation on student test scores in 2015-16 and 2016-17, increasing it to 40 percent in 2017-18 and beyond. The House bills would include basing 25 percent of an evaluation on test scores starting next school year, with a similar bump to 40 percent in 2017-18.

In addition to being graded on student test scores, teachers also would be evaluated on classroom evaluations by school leaders.

The House will now consider the Senate bill and vice versa.

The state Education Department has warned Michigan could be at risk of losing its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law without implementing teacher evaluations soon.

"We appreciate the efforts that Senate Bill 817 takes in trying to preserve Michigan schools' federal flexibility waiver," said Martin Ackley, spokesman for the agency. "We are not certain at this time whether the U.S. Department of Education will see it that way."

Costs to school districts could total between $16 million and $42 million, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

"Today - through research, pilot studies and conversations with educators all over Michigan - evaluations for teachers and administrators become positive, not punitive," said Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who is sponsoring a House bill. "These bills give us a better tool to improve education for our children."

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