MSU professors, graduates help develop statewide evaluation system for educators

August 23, 2012

Michigan passed legislation in 2011 calling for sweeping changes that will make teachers and school administrators more accountable for student outcomes. The group responsible for building a statewide evaluation system for educators, the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness (MCEE), has recommended conducting a pilot program during the 2012-13 school year.

Council member Mark Reckase, a University Distinguished Professor of Measurement & Quantitative Methods in the MSU College of Education, said this will give educators an opportunity to essentially try out different (1) tools for classroom observation and (2) methods for assessing student growth before creating a system for widespread implementation, a process that will require broad support and training.

“It’s really difficult to see how these things might be brought to scale for a whole state,” said Reckase, an educational assessment expert who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. “We said the only way to really know is to do a pilot study.”

The study is now moving forward in 12 school districts with $6 million in state funding.

Gov. Snyder also appointed two MSU College of Education graduates to the MCEE: its chairperson Deborah Loewenberg Ball (’76, ’82, and ’88), dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, and Nick Sheltrown (’99, ’07), senior director of measurement, research and business intelligence at National Heritage Academies. Michigan Department of Education official Joseph Martineau (Ph.D. ’04) serves on the council without vote.

The other members are David Vensel, principal of Jefferson High School in Monroe, and Jennifer Hammond, principal of Grand Blanc High School. Suzanne Wilson, chair of the MSU Department of Teacher Education, provides technical support to the committee as well.

Reckase has been studying what works best among one popular type of student growth measure, value-added models or VAMs, as part of a research project with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Jeff Wooldridge, University Distinguished Professor in the MSU Department of Economics, and Cassandra Guarino, associate professor at Indiana University, are co-principal investigators on that project.

As in other states considering policies related to educator evaluation, Reckase said Michigan’s new system will have implications for researchers studying questions of teacher quality – including how prior education plays a role.