GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Gov. Rick Snyder signed teacher tenure changes into law Tuesday -- and a council charged with establishing the guidelines for grading teachers could meet within weeks.
Those grades will matter.
Teachers will only be able to reach tenure after being rated as "effective" or better for three consecutive years. "Highly effective" teachers could reach tenure sooner. And teachers with three consecutive years of "ineffective" ratings will be fired, according to the law. Some administrators -- those in school buildings and those tied to student achievement -- will also be graded.
Effectiveness will be based increasingly upon "student growth," according to the laws signed Tuesday. Asked about teachers' fears about fairly measuring that growth, Snyder stressed that "it's not [about] comparing kids in different districts. It's really looking at the growth of individual students and how they're performing."
"Any time you do benchmarks or evaluations of any sort, you're grading people," Snyder told 24 Hour News 8. "And too often, people look upon it as it first arrives as a way to sort of punish people. My personal metric ... is I view that as a way to reward success. To say here is an objective standard to say how to reward good things going on. To say positive things are happening."
And the governor said experts will be put in charge of setting up the effectiveness standards. The state House speaker and state Senate majority leader will each appoint one council member. The governor will appoint three and the state superintendent could serve or appoint someone to serve on his behalf.
Senate education committee chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, said leaders want to make sure council members are in place "having the conversations within the next few weeks."
The council will have until April 2012 to put recommendations together and "that recommendation will then come back to the legislature for final approval," Pavlov told 24 Hour News 8.
If that process moves swiftly, new grading rules could be in place by the fall of 2012.
Individual districts could set up their own grading systems, as long as they fall within the guidelines put together by the council.
Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor said he would "take into consideration any direction we get from the state Department of Education or from the governor's office. I think that we're going to embark on a broad-based conversation with all stakeholders that will look at how in fact we are going to come up with our effectiveness variables."
Taylor called the changes and opportunity and said lawmakers and the governor should be commended.
But critics have said they're worried teachers could be fired for political reasons -- and veteran teachers could be fired because they're too expensive.
Asked if he could give any reassurances that those fears would not materialize, Snyder noted that what was passed is "tenure reform. And so there still is tenure. And there still is a system."
He said safeguards remain in place to make sure teachers are not fired arbitrarily.
A memorial marker was unveiled for three young siblings who died in an apartment fire 10 months ago.
Battle Creek Police are investigating a fight caught on camera inside a middle school locker room.
A special surprise in Kalamazoo as a famous native, and New York City sports star, handed out gifts to hundreds of local kids Thursday night.