Like states across the country, Minnesota will face teacher layoffs as one way to address its starving budget, layoffs that could result in pink slips for 500 to 700 teachers across the state. And unfortunately, the way these pink slips will be doled out will have nothing to do with how effective a teacher is and everything to do with how long he or she has been teaching.

Minnesota is one of only 14 states nationwide with a law that forbids districts to base teacher layoffs on anything but seniority. It doesn’t matter if a teacher goes the extra mile to craft innovative lessons that dramatically increase their students’ progress; if that teacher is new, he or she be the first to get the boot.

No one likes layoffs, but they’re a reality in this budget climate, and if we’re going to lay teachers off en masse, we need to minimize the impact those layoffs have on our kids. Even in the face of tremendous financial hardship, we still owe it to our kids to do everything we can to keep great teachers where they belong: in our classrooms.

To keep great teachers, however, we need to be able to identify them first. That’s why MinnCAN’s legislative campaign calls for a barometer for teacher effectiveness that would require annual teacher evaluations based primarily on student progress. Developing a trusted measure of teacher effectiveness will help teachers and administrators alike understand what’s happening in the classroom, in addition to helping districts make smarter decisions about how to address budget cuts. While we can’t always avoid making difficult decisions, we can control how informed those decisions are.

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