Minn. Schools Budget Sets New Teacher Evaluations

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — An education bill that presents a new approach to the evaluation of Minnesota public school teachers is among the myriad policy changes included in a pile of recently signed budget measures being dealt with by state workers, who flocked back to their offices Thursday after a three-week government shutdown.

The bill sets a process of yearly reviews more directly tied to student performance, a method increasingly common around the country, in part because opposition from teacher unions has ebbed.

Supporters of the changes said they are aimed as much at rewarding good teachers as they are at disciplining bad ones. The chief Senate sponsor of the education bill said the amendment should allow local districts more latitude to get teachers out of classrooms if they consistently fail to improve student performance.

“It isn’t just a process aimed to get rid of teachers,” said Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista. “First and foremost, it’s aimed at enabling teachers to improve their own effectiveness. But that also provides some better grounds, when that is not possible, to have systems in place to see they can be removed and put more effective teachers in their place.”

The change to teacher evaluations is one part of a 141-page education funding and policy bill, itself among nine bills that make up the budget compromise between Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the Legislature. Republicans had initially proposed more sweeping changes to how teachers are rated, with those evaluations largely replacing seniority as the key factor in the teachers’ ability to hang on to their jobs.

Olson said Dayton administration negotiators fought hard to hold onto collective bargaining and tenure protections for teachers, adding that it was one of the final sticking points as representatives of Dayton and the Legislature rushed to nail down a final agreement as the special legislative session geared up earlier this week.

With the new system, which will be phased in between now and 2014, teachers will fall under an evaluation process using a mix of factors under which student test performance, as well as student engagement and commitment, will be weighted at 35 percent.

Teachers will also be allowed to assemble portfolios of student work that demonstrate improvement. In addition, teachers who initially receive poor marks on their assessments will get professional support to improve on a set timetable.

School districts will get considerable latitude to come up with their own criteria for assessing teachers; those that choose not to set their own will be able to fall back on guidelines that the Department of Education is charged with assembling via a task force to be made up of educators and teacher organizations, business representatives and parent groups.

“I think it puts in place some consistent and firm guidelines that helps identify teachers who are struggling, gives them mechanisms to improve, and if they’re not able to, then it provides a process and objective criteria for administrators to take the next steps necessary to remove them from the classroom,” said Charlene Briner, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

A number of states have made similar changes to teacher evaluations in the last several years. Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality said it’s still too earlier to gauge whether the changes are improving student performance.

But Jacobs said she’s spoken to many teachers around the country who have come to like the new means of evaluation because they tend to be based more on objective criteria and leaves them less at the whim of school administrators.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota — the state’s largest teacher union — said he sees “the real potential for positive change” in the new evaluation system. He said the union is not opposed to the removal of ineffective teachers who show now motivation to improve.

The return of state employees to their offices was a potent symbol of the end to the three-week government shutdown. At the Department of Natural Resources headquarters in St. Paul, Commissioner Tom Landwehr held the door open for returning employees while his children handed out cookies.

Dayton himself had planned to greet returning workers, but canceled his appearance while telling WCCO radio that he was suffering a headache and fatigue from long hours tied to the getting the budget deal in place.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • LikeItIs

    Won’t be long before the teachers union crashes down on this in court. All they care about is protecting their own, not what is best for students.

  • Murph

    Teachers are about the only people besides parents who do care about students.The GOP only cares about status and money,their own money! Everyone else young and old and not rich is below their status and is ignored completely.They do like for you to put in your envy GOP vote at election time however.So just stay stupid and support their way of life while they continue to snub and rob you.What a bunch of rednecked dummies many GOP voters are it’s just a cryin’ shame! The people you help elect despise you , and ridicule you behind your back. Wake up and stay free! Keep watching Faux Network!

    • parent

      If teachers cared about students, then when layoffs happen, the best teachers would be kept, and the worst ones would go.

      This is not the case. So don’t try to peddle your lies.

  • Pavel

    Murph = You are absolutely correct!

    Please note the same old “nay sayers” with the same old comments: “likeItIs”….Same old…..

  • Rico Suave

    Hey murph, when you call a group of people dummies, do a little proof read before you hit the submit button. A space after a comma, and no space before a comma. Then use a space before you begin the next sentence. Small points I know, but when you’re making a point that your political opponent is stupid, after a story about asking teachers to prove they’re not, it’s really deliciously ironic. With what the public schools call a quality education these days, it wouldn’t surprise me if you graduated without having these few very basic skills. Or maybe you know this, but are just sloppy. Either way. Not to worry, just follow my simple few pointers and you can create the illusion of intelligence.

    • Citizen

      Hey, Rico, is that the illusion of intelligence with which you insult almost everyone who posts on ‘CCO? Murph is right on, only you refuse to see that your idols have feet of clay…and could care less about anyone not making well over 6 figures in income.

    • Grammer Police

      “Either way.” is not a complete sentence.

    • Weee!

      I love your comments, Rico!

  • Just my opinion

    How in the heck do you measure student engagement and commitment?

    Sounds more like something parents should be measured by, like attending conferences and keeping the kid in school instead of taking them out to go to Disney World in February or calling them in “sick” on Senior Skip Day.

    • Weee!

      I grew up in a small town. I rarely went to school my whole senior year and my parents helped me be able to do that because I was bored. Graduated second in my class. If the teachers were actually teaching, I should have failed. But as long as you turn in your worksheets on time, take the tests, and have parents who go to the right church you’re good.

      Public education is a joke.

  • Randy

    I think its against Union Rules to hold any of their members accountable

  • Seriously

    My sister is going back to school to be a teacher, her teacher friends told her it’s the only job where you’re set for life and don’t have to do anything. Hope it works out like that!

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