On Thursday, the state House approved legislation that makes it more difficult for teachers to reach and maintain tenured status while making it easier for low-quality teachers to be dismissed. While the House bills have laudable measures, especially where it minimizes the importance of seniority, the generalized and vague nature of the legislation’s language may limit its potential. The lack of explicit outlines for deeming teachers effective or ineffective, along with the shortfall of incentives for educators, ultimately outweigh the positive aspects of the legislation. The state Senate must not let these bills become law.
According to a June 9 Detroit Free Press article, the four bills propose revising the process for removing tenured teachers from the classroom. Proponents of these measures argue that changing the current tenure system will not only save time and money, but also encourage more rigid evaluation of educators — an essential move for improving education in the state. Under the new legislation, all teachers — regardless of tenured status — will now be regularly evaluated as either “effective” or “ineffective.” This is a vital step in terms of education reform — our current education system is antiquated, placing more emphasis on seniority rather than quality. By taking steps to level the playing field, the proposed legislation encourages establishing a more competitive environment for teachers, ensuring that teachers will be placed in classrooms based on merit and skill rather than seniority. It’s clear that the state needs to up the ante when it comes to education, and this set of bills promotes a high level of quality and accountability in teachers that cannot exist under more lenient tenure systems.
Though the bill certainly takes positive steps forward in improving Michigan’s education system, the vague language of the legislation hinders its potential success. The bills’ creators emphasized the importance on assessments of teacher quality, but the legislation lacks comprehensive instructions on how to quantify or qualify the effectiveness of teachers. Without some kind of system to evaluate educators, the legislation may flounder in practice. The bills also disallow collective bargaining for issues such as performance evaluation systems and the placement of teachers. Considering the generalized nature of the bills, especially when it comes to its quality assessment systems, it’s illogical to throw out unions’ rights to provide input on the new evaluation procedures.
While the bills create a rough outline for eliminating ineffective teachers — a crucial step in comprehensive education reform — the legislation ignores the need to incentivize the profession. A good education bill must not only draft a fair system for the dismissal of substandard educators, but also attract new professionals of the quality it purports to be in favor of. Despite the irrefutable need to drastically improve the education system in Michigan, teaching remains an underappreciated profession both economically and socially. When drafting bills that aim to improve education, state legislators will end up doing more harm than good by making teaching a less desirable profession. The state Senate must vote down these measures until the bills include reforms that increase the appeal of teaching.