Recent reform in teacher tenure has led to a number of significant changes in the employment arena as it pertains to teachers in Michigan school districts. Previous to July 19, 2011 tenured teachers in the State of Michigan could only be fired with “just cause.” Recent legislature, however, now allows school districts to fire tenured teachers for any reason that is not “arbitrary and capricious.”

Furthermore, seniority is now outweighed by performance when it comes to job security for teachers. Performance, graded annually through a year-end evaluation, is ranked on a scale from highly effective to ineffective. Teachers who fall in any category below effective (“minimally effective” or “ineffective”) are placed on individualized development plans (IDPs) for the upcoming school year. Teachers who obtain three consecutive evaluations of “ineffective” are required by law to be terminated, although districts may terminate ineffective teachers before reaching this step, should they deem it necessary.

There are a number of criteria that apply to the performance reviews: student growth and assessment data, pedagogy skills, professional training and accomplishments, classroom management, and attendance and discipline, among others. However, with school principals bearing the primary responsibility of evaluating teachers, many are worried that subjective elements will come into play unfairly through the evaluation process. This worry is further exacerbated by the fact that the evaluation system is now a prohibited subject of bargaining.

NachtLaw attorney Nicholas Roumel discusses many of these issues and more regarding tenure reform as well as other developments in legislation as it pertains to teacher employment in the State of Michigan in his recent article “Michigan Public School Teachers Coping with Tenure Reform.” As an attorney with a number of teacher and union clients, Mr. Roumel is an active scholar in the subjects of education legislation and reform, as well as employment in a variety of educational settings.