Teacher Evaluations

Unions 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. This limits management options, and boards should avoid the practice.

Collective bargaining agreements in Michigan, with few exceptions, place more restrictions on school administrators’ rights to evaluate their teachers than do any statutory requirements. For example, the way a school conducts an evaluation today may affect how that evaluation can be used in future decision making. If an evaluator fails immediately to identify and address a teacher’s known problems or deficiencies during the course of an evaluation, then that evaluator may be prevented by contract from bringing up these problems or deficiencies during future evaluations or discipline proceedings.

The Michigan Teacher Tenure Act sets forth five factors, any one of which is sufficient to determine teacher incompetence:

  1. "knowledge of the subject;

  2. the ability to impart the subject;

  3. the manner and efficiency of discipline over students;

  4. the rapport with parents, students, and other faculty; and

  5. the physical and mental ability to withstand the strain of teaching."[247]

School boards should be careful to ensure that additional factors not mandated by an agreement do not erode their management prerogative. School boards should also remove from their collective bargaining agreements any language that provides for grievances over the content of a teacher evaluation.

The content of teacher evaluations should be left to the discretion of school administrators, not to arbitrators in lengthy and expensive grievance proceedings. Making evaluation content a matter over which grievances can be filed has negative consequences. School boards wind up placing the judgment of arbitrators, who do not work with or see the teachers being evaluated, above the judgment of school administrators. It is the responsibility of school administrators to observe and evaluate the teachers’ abilities, with a view to the achievement and well-being of students.

Good management also calls for flexibility when it comes to pay. A lack of flexibility limits the incentives management can offer to effect change.