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Teacher Evaluation Ruling From the Michigan Court of Appeals

Kacie Kefgen

By Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, June 17, 2015

Earlier this month, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the Summer v Southfield Board of Education case, which addressed outstanding questions about the impact of the 2011 legislative changes to teacher evaluation, as well as the layoff and recall of teachers.

Why does this case matter?

Before this case, it was unclear whether a laid-off teacher could bring a suit arguing that the layoff was improper because it was based on an effectiveness rating generated by a performance evaluation system that was not in compliance with the statutory requirements of MCL 380.1249.

This Court of Appeals opinion allows teachers who have been laid off to bring suit against a school district under MCL 380.1248 when a teacher can argue that the layoff was based on a performance evaluation system that did not meet the statutory requirements of MCL 380.1249. This opinion does not allow teachers to bring suit simply because a district does not implement an evaluation system in compliance with Section 1249 or if a teacher does not agree with an individual evaluation result. There are other penalties for districts that do not follow Section 1249, and the Court affirmed that a teacher does not have grounds for a lawsuit based on flaws in the teacher evaluation system alone.

What happened in this case?

A teacher who started working in the district in 1999 was laid off at the end of the 2010-2011 school year after receiving a “minimally effective” rating. The teacher alleges that the district did not provide her with the results of her classroom observation or provide her with an improvement plan. In August 2013, she filed suit against the district and the case wended its way to the Court of Appeals because it addresses a number of previously unanswered questions about the impact of some of the 2011 legislative changes to teacher evaluation and layoff statutes.

What’s next?

The Court of Appeals did not rule on whether or not the teacher will win her ultimate case against the district or whether the district’s evaluation system met the requirements of Section 1249. Instead, the case has been remanded back to the Oakland Circuit Court for it to consider the case in light of the Court of Appeals’ opinion.

What should districts take away?

The key point districts should take from this case is that it is important for administrators and school boards to implement an educator evaluation system that complies with the requirements in Section 1249. The Revised School Code and the School Aid Act both already provide penalties if schools fail to comply with the requirements of Section 1249, but now there is also private court action available for teachers who argue that they were laid off improperly because a district failed to comply with the teacher evaluation statute.

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