Ari Kiener was MinnCAN’s public affairs manager from 2013-2016.

Research and intuition tell us that teachers are the most important in-school factor for student achievement. That’s why MinnCAN is committed to elevating the teaching profession by advocating for policies that would replicate best practices, identify and reward highly effective educators and provide support to teachers who need it. Such policies will strengthen our teaching corps and improve outcomes for Minnesota kids.

In 2011, the Minnesota Legislature passed—and Gov. Dayton signed into a law—a bill requiring all teachers to receive regular performance evaluations and follow-up professional development, starting statewide in the 2014-15 school year. MinnCAN proudly advocated for this bill—which allows for a tremendous amount of district flexibility and collaboration—and was one of the first groups to publicly support Dayton’s proposed $10 million appropriation in 2013 to fund it.

Since the teacher evaluation bill’s passage three years ago, some have tried to stall it, often citing the need for more funding or time. In fact, just last week, the Senate Education Committee took an unscheduled and unpublicized vote to delay implementation by one year. That proposed delay heads to another committee today, and word is that it will fail—and that evaluations will roll out as scheduled in 2014-15.

While some have fought at the Capitol to delay evaluation rollout, many districts have used the past three years to collaborate with key stakeholders, tailor the state’s evaluation system model to the needs of the district and develop plans for implementation. Today, dozens of districts across the state are piloting evaluation systems or tweaking systems that have been in place for years. During our fall 2013 Road to Success statewide tour, we visited 47 changing-the-odds public school classrooms, and found that many of Minnesota’s most successful schools started using teacher evaluations long before the Legislature told them to. We also learned in 2013—through our statewide district teacher poll—that 89 percent of teachers said evaluations that align with professional development would strengthen student learning.

Although the details are still being negotiated at the Capitol, one thing is clear: teacher evaluations are coming to Minnesota. In many districts, they’re already here, and in other districts, teachers and administrators are asking for them. Finally, the U.S. Department of Education is asking for them, too. In fact, if Minnesota does not fully launch teacher evaluations in the 2014-15 year, we’ll risk losing our No Child Left Behind waiver, which would be disastrous for our public school teachers and students.

Teacher evaluations are coming. So let’s embrace them, learn from schools already successfully using them, and work together to make sure they’re tied to relevant professional development and mentoring opportunities. Implementing teacher evaluations with fidelity, cooperation and haste is what’s best for Minnesota educators and kids.


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