Evaluation of Teachers

The development of a “performance evaluation system,” including decisions about its content and format, is a prohibited subject of bargaining per Public Act 103.[54] As with seniority-related provisions, several districts kept previous evaluation language unchanged in their collective bargaining agreements, but reference to it in a later “letter of agreement” or moved it to an appendix. Several districts also maintained the exact same evaluation policies in place, but then just noted that they only apply to a certain group of employees — those whose employment is not regulated by the Teachers’ Tenure Act.

The L’Anse Creuse district seemingly continues to bargain over teacher evaluations and use a method that seems to conflict with Public Act 102. A separate appendix of the district’s contract lays out the policies that will be used for teacher evaluations and classroom observations. It states, for example, that non-tenure teachers will be evaluated once a year, while tenure teachers with four or more years of employment at the district will be evaluated once every three years.

This appendix in the L’Anse Creuse contract explicitly notes that the district will continue “to consult with the Association in the preparation or modification of all teacher evaluative forms, policies, and procedures.”[55] It also states: “All of the following language [regarding teacher evaluations] continues to apply to all bargaining unit members until September 1, 2014.” It is unclear how the district interpreted the law to allow for this type of action, since Public Act 103 of 2011 went into effect for any contract signed after July 19, 2011.[56]

In a contract signed in September of 2012, the Woodhaven-Brownstown collective bargaining agreement states that “[o]ne week’s notice shall be given prior to all formal evaluations,” and that “no teacher evaluation shall be based solely on student test scores.” Further, the contract specifies how long in-class observations will last and a process for contesting the evaluation, noting that “adverse evaluation[s]” are also subject to the grievance procedure.[57]

In an apparent attempt to comply with the 2011 reforms, Woodhaven-Brownstown notes in a “memorandum of understanding” that teacher evaluation is a prohibited subject of bargaining and “will no longer apply to those employees covered by the Teacher Tenure Act.”[58] Similar to how the West Ottawa district deals with seniority-based personnel decisions, Woodhaven-Brownstown’s policy places the burden on school leaders and employees to understand state law in order to comprehend how the district’s teacher evaluation system works.

Avondale, in a similar fashion, specifies almost every part of the teacher evaluation process without qualification. All observations of a teacher must be conducted openly, and classroom and instructional skills must be observed during an official review. Evaluations can be challenged, and specific processes are discussed for teachers who have a “deficiency in teaching performance.”[59]

The Avondale teachers’ contract does later mention Public Act 103 in a “letter of understanding,” noting that various provisions of the contract do not comply with the 2011 reforms, and then lists the noncompliant portions of the contract by article number, including almost the entire section concerning teacher evaluation. The letter of understanding then states that “these provisions continue in full force and effect for those bargaining unit members who are not subject to the Teacher Tenure Act.”[60]

The Eaton Rapids district kept language it judged to be noncompliant, but struck-through most of the actual text. The struck-through text includes who will conduct the evaluation, the number of evaluations and the format of the evaluation, along with the evaluation form itself. However, the contract does not say why the language is struck through, or how to interpret the struck-through language.[61] If this language is meant to be wholly unenforceable and ineffectual, it seems the district would have done better just to remove it altogether and avoid any possible confusion keeping this language in the contract may create.

In contrast to how many surveyed districts implemented reforms affecting seniority-based personnel policies, several districts did entirely remove language regarding teacher evaluation practices. Okemos, for example, simply notes that "It shall be the administration's responsibility to evaluate the bargaining unit member's performance. The Board of Education shall adopt evaluation processes and procedures as set forth in [state law]."[62]

Portage similarly stripped evaluation language out of its contract, replacing it with “The Association recognizes the responsibility and right of the Administrative staff to evaluate teachers.”[63] Tecumseh, Grand Haven, Oxford, Lakeshore (Stevensville), Plainwell and Haslett went one step further, and removed all references to teacher evaluation (although some did note that copies of teacher evaluation reports would be included in a teacher’s personnel file).[64]