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Patch Blog: Teacher Evaluations and Teacher Tenure

For many years, some people have complained that decisions on teacher layoffs are based solely on tenure, not merit. The often-stated concern is that we are more concerned about protecting the rights of teachers than we are concerned about ensuring that kids have the best teachers and the best education. This has led to the push to evaluate teachers and include the evaluations as one factor in employment decisions.

One might also ask, isn’t it better to give all teachers the tools to succeed, rather than letting all teachers struggle to the best of their abilities, and then feeling good about managing to kick a couple of the worst out?

Minnesota is on the right track to sort out these issues. A law passed in 2011 requires schools to have in place an evaluation system of teachers by the 2014-15 school year. A law to require evaluations to be used in layoff decisions was vetoed by the Governor in 2012. Once the evaluation systems are in place and tested for a couple of years, it would then seem reasonable to re-consider the law mandating their use in layoff decisions.

For the evaluations, school districts can follow a state plan or develop one of their own in conjunction with their teachers. All plans must create a three-year review cycle for every teacher, and include an individual growth and development plan, a peer review, and at least one evaluation by a trained evaluator, which might a school administrator. The law requires 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation results to be based on measures tied to student learning growth.

The development plans for the teachers must include Professional Learning Opportunities. Many union leaders in Minnesota support this plan, saying that it is a fairer system that doesn't focus on punishing the teacher, but creates a support system for teachers that enables them to become better teachers.

One challenge the school administration and school board will have in the next year is deciding what data should be used for the “35% of the evaluation based on measures tied to student learning growth.” On the one hand, using solely data from state mandated testing could lead to more “teaching to the test.” On the other hand more complicated formulas sometimes do not lead to consistent results. The right balance must be found. Also, there are some subjects without standardized testing, or littletesting at all, and measures for achievement in those classes will need to be developed.


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