Minn. Lawmaker’s Proposal Puts Teachers To The Test

By John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — If some lawmakers have their way, a teacher’s future could depend on how well their students grade-out.

The idea of tying job ratings to student test scores was heard in the Minnesota House Tuesday and has a lot of support.

Like students are evaluated by a report card, teachers would technically be evaluated the same way. As part of the evaluation, 40 to 50 percent of a teacher’s rating would be based on student test results. It could mean the difference between keeping a teaching job and getting fired.

When it comes to grading teachers, Ryan Vernosh would likely receive an “A.” He is the 2010 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and currently teaches 5th graders at Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul. He also supports teacher evaluation, but doesn’t support this idea.

“We want to be held accountable, but we want to be held accountable in a fair method. To say it comes down to those teaching tests is inherently iniquitous,” said Vernosh.

Vernosh and other educators believe a lot of factors go into a student’s test scores. One of the key factors, they say, is poverty. Ninety-nine percent of the students at Maxfield Magnet School eat lunch for free because their families can’t afford it. When poverty levels are high, Vernosh says students are dealing with factors outside of school that effect their test-taking.

“I don’t think a one-hour snapshot in 180 school days gives accurate measurement of student and teacher performance. Students are not tests. They are not bubble sheets. They are human beings. Passing this would take away a teacher’s opportunity to teach students in a creative manner. They would be teaching more to a test than to student needs,” said Vernosh.

However, State Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover) disagrees.

“There are teachers that go five, six, even 10 years without getting a formal review,” said Petersen.

Under Petersen’s proposal, teacher tenure would be thrown out in favor of 5-year contracts. Teachers would then be evaluated each year and student testing would be half of that evaluation. After five years, teachers who don’t evaluate well could be terminated while those that grade high can receive bonuses.

“It moves from a quality blind system to a system based on merit. In something as important as our kid’s education we need to have those high standards and base those standards on student achievement,” said Petersen.

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