One on one: Legislators debate changes to teacher tenure systemby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A bill that would eliminate the traditional teacher tenure system in Minnesota's K-12 public schools gets a hearing at the Legislature today.
The current teacher tenure system offers teachers extra job protections after their third year of working in a school district. Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Branden Peterson, R-Andover, teachers' performance would be reevaluated every five years on a five-part effectiveness scale. Teachers who don't meet standards could be fired.
"What this does is simply tie student academic achievement and growth to that ongoing employment decision," Peterson told MPR's Morning Edition. "I think that's something that resonates with the man on the street."
But some lawmakers are concerned about moving too quickly toward teacher rating systems that factor heavily into employment decisions.
"Nobody argues that we need bad teachers in the classroom. Everybody wants them out," said Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis. "The challenge is how do we identify, when teaching is an art, who is effective and who is ineffective?"
Petersen and Davnie both agreed that school administrators should also be held accountable for the quality of teaching in their schools. But Davnie said they need to be properly trained in evaluating teachers before being given more power to fire teachers. He also pointed out that states like New York and California have scaled back their teacher performance rating systems because they weren't always a good measurement of which teachers were effective.
"We need to make sure that if we move forward on a legitimate goal, that we've got the tools in place, and at this point we don't," Davnie said.
But Petersen said it's time for Minnesota to respond to national calls from groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Council on Teacher Quality to reform teacher tenure.
"[They] have all said that meaningful tenure tied to student achievement is a fundamental reform that needs to happen across the country," Petersen said.
- Morning Edition, 03/24/2011, 6:53 a.m.