Improvement #5: Strengthen Teacher Evaluation Clauses

The teacher evaluation plays an important part in a school’s ability to effectively educate its students. School officials must be able to evaluate the competency and performance of each teacher in order to judge how well he or she uses professional skills to help students learn and achieve.

Because each evaluation is part of a continuum that builds over time, a proper teacher evaluation must go beyond the mere “performance” of an instructor in the classroom and address a teacher’s overall ability to establish and maintain a positive learning environment for students. School boards and administrators must keep this focus in mind as they bargain over contract language that affects these evaluations.

Collective bargaining agreements in Michigan, with few exceptions, place more restrictions on school administrators’ rights to evaluate their teachers than do any statutory requirements. Former NEA President Bob Chase acknowledged that, “The heart of education is this: the daily engagement between teacher and pupil, and the commitment that both parties bring to the task.”[49] Yet unions such as the MEA (the NEA’s Michigan affiliate) often demand uniformity in the teacher evaluation process, a cookie–cutter approach that ignores the differences in goals, objectives, standards and style between elementary and secondary teaching.

School board members and administrators should use the five points established under the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act when evaluating a teacher’s competency. Unsatisfactory performance in any one of these five points is sufficient to determine that a particular teacher is not competent:

  • knowledge of the subject;

  • ability to impart the subject;

  • manner and efficiency of discipline over students;

  • rapport with parents, students, and other faculty; and

  • physical and mental ability to withstand the strain of teaching.[50]

The course of action pursued by the school district with regard to a poorly performing teacher must be based on the extent or severity of the poor performance.

School boards should also remove from their collective bargaining agreements any language that allows teachers grievance rights over the content of a teacher evaluation. The content of teacher evaluations should be left to the sole discretion of school administrators, not to arbitrators in lengthy and expensive grievance proceedings. By making evaluation content a grievable matter, school boards wind up placing the judgment of arbitrators, who do not work with or see the teachers being evaluated, above the judgment of the school administrators, whose responsibility it is to observe and evaluate the teachers’ abilities.