Vallay Varro was a founding state executive director. She now serves as the president of 50CAN.

As of 3:00 this morning, the drama of budget negotiations is over and we have a final verdict on our two remaining campaign goals: clearing a path to quality pre-K and building a barometer for teacher effectiveness.

After six months of pulling together as Minnesota’s brand-new, energized education reform movement, here are the results:

  • A major step forward for teacher effectiveness. Lawmakers agreed to a groundbreaking new policy to measure the impact of teachers on their students' achievement, as we have been advocating for all these months. The policy requires school districts for the first time to evaluate teachers regularly, with 35 percent of the evaluation criteria based on evidence of how much students are learning in a teacher’s classroom. A special taskforce will take the lead on developing a trusted statewide framework for assessing student growth. You can be sure that MinnCAN will be there to make sure this framework is the right one.

  • The blindfold wasn’t fully removed from pre-K families. Lawmakers failed to enact a statewide quality rating system for pre-K. That means that most Minnesota families still have no way of identifying good programs for their child. The good news, though, is that lawmakers put $4 million in the budget towards scholarships for low-income parents who want to send their kids to preschools. But we cannot forget that there are no guarantees that these dollars will be used to access high-quality programs and that thousands of families are still left in the dark by this disappointing failure of leadership. You can be sure that MinnCAN will keep fighting for preschool parents who need and deserve information about their kids’ education.

This has been an epic legislative session to say the least. Minnesota took two huge steps forward this year in the area of great teachers: back in the winter we passed a new law that opens alternate paths to getting talented teachers certified and in our classrooms through programs like Teach For America. Now we also made sure we can better identify where Minnesota’s great teachers are teaching and what they’re successful at through the new teacher evaluation system.

That leap forward is a direct result of your advocacy. Today is proof that we can change the status quo by coming together, and our schools will be better because of it.


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