OUR OPINION: The case for teacher quality reforms
The Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis took a look at teacher hiring and firing practices in Minnesota this week. The results weren't pretty: "As the debate about teacher quality intensifies in Minnesota, a Star Tribune investigation has found...
The Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis took a look at teacher hiring and firing practices in Minnesota this week.
The results weren't pretty:
"As the debate about teacher quality intensifies in Minnesota, a Star Tribune investigation has found that bad teachers in the state hardly ever get fired," the newspaper reported.
Among the examples cited:
"In Wayzata, a teacher kept his job despite extensive allegations that he spent most of his class time surfing the Internet.
"In Minneapolis, the district paid a teacher $35,000 to resign rather than try to fire her.
"In the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the state's largest, officials can't remember the last time they fired a veteran teacher for incompetence."
The newspaper based its story in part on the State Teacher Quality Yearbook, a publication on the National Council on Teacher Quality. The yearbook grades states on a number of factors, including "delivering well prepared teachers," "expanding the pool of teachers" and "exiting ineffective teachers."
The yearbook gave Minnesota an overall grade of D-minus, thus prompting the Star Tribune's investigative report.
The yearbook graded North Dakota, too. Apparently, that picture isn't pretty either, given that North Dakota also rated a D-minus.
Then again, no state in the union scored higher than a C, and the average grade across all 50 states is D.
But neither teachers, parents nor anyone else should take much consolation in that uniformity, given that the National Council on Teacher Quality's assessments reflect legitimate nationwide concerns. The council itself looks like a tough but fair judge: Funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the council's advisory board includes an executive from the liberal Center for American Progress as well as the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
And the factors graded in the yearbook all are national news. The Obama administration itself has embraced merit pay, alternative certification and making it easier to fire bad teachers, among other reforms.
"Let me be clear," the president said March 9.
"If a teacher is given a chance, or two chances, or three chances, and still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching."
The State Teacher Quality Yearbook's list includes "requires annual evaluations for all teachers" and "requires that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test" as among North Dakota's strengths.
The weaknesses include the facts that the state "awards tenure virtually automatically," "fails to make evidence of student learning the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations" and "lacks an efficient termination process for ineffective teachers," the yearbook reports.
There's lots more detail, all of it worth Minnesotans and North Dakotans' review. Including Minnesota and North Dakota teachers: For years, teachers nationwide have fretted about the erosion of public trust in and respect for their profession. Unflinching reports such as the State Teacher Quality Yearbook help explain that decline. And if teachers want to reverse the trends, they could start by embracing the calls for reform, calls that now have been echoed by President Barack Obama himself.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald