Snyder Signs Bill to Mandate Genocide Education, Alter Teacher Definition

Bob Kefgen's picture

This week, Governor Snyder signed a bill that will mandate that districts include genocide education in the secondary level social studies curriculum. HB 4493, sponsored by Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.), requires districts cover at least the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide at some point during grades 8-12 and recommends, though does not require, a total of 6 hours of instruction during that window. Significantly, a completely unrelated amendment was added to the bill before it passed the Senate to write a definition of "teacher" into the recently passed educator evaluation law.

Genocide Education

Starting with the 2016-17 school year, districts will be required to ensure that their "social studies curriculum for grades 8 to 12 includes age- and grade-appropriate instruction about genocide, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide." The legislation also "recommends a combined total of 6 hours of this instruction" during those same grades, though districts can provide any amount of instruction they choose.

While the bill would seem to impose a new requirement, these topics are already covered in the state social studies standards as part of World History and Geography (standards 7.1.3 and 7.2.3). Thus, the legislation is not likely to require any significant change. Principals are encouraged to work with their staff and curriculum director to ensure that the aforementioned standards are at least nominally included in your district’s curriculum.

Finally, it is worth noting that while the legislation creates the Governor’s Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education, this governor-appointed board has no authority and can only advise MDE and school districts on topics of genocide education.

New Definition of Teacher

For Principals, the most significant aspect of the legislation may be the unrelated amendment that was added in the Senate to provide a definition of "teacher" for the purposes of the state’s new evaluation law. This is a change that MASSP had advocated for when the new law was being debated and we are pleased to see it was finally added.

As provided in the bill, teacher:

"...means an individual who has a valid Michigan teaching certificate or authorization; who is employed, or contracted for, by a school district, intermediate school district, or public school academy; and who is assigned by the school district, intermediate school district, or public school academy to deliver direct instruction to pupils in any of grades K to 12 as a teacher of record."

Because this definition mirrors the one used by the MDE in their FAQ on educator evaluation, this may not create a change for most districts. And while MASSP believes that MDE was well within their authority to interpret statute and provide a definition of teacher, this change gives their interpretation the clear force of law.

The reason a clear definition is important is that, while many requirements of the teacher evaluation law are specific to teachers (classroom observations, reviews of lesson plans, the use of rubrics that are teacher-specific, etc.) the previous definition of teacher in state statute included anyone with a teaching certificate...even counselors, instructional coaches who don't carry a student caseload, school psychologists, and others who did not provide direct instruction to students.