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Stop the teacher wars

Teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success in school.

Teachers are tired of the teacher bashing. Those who think we can do better for kids are tired of being dismissed as “corporate reformers.” Traditionally prepared educators resent the notion that their years of training are unimportant, while folks in alternative programs resent the accusation that they have entered teaching only to pad their résumés. One side says the issue of poverty is being ignored, while others say the lessons from high-performing schools are being dismissed.

Pam Costain
Pam Costain

It’s time to stop the teacher wars. Let’s quit pointing fingers at one another and focus instead on what we need to do to create better outcomes for children. Our students deserve nothing less than the end of the unproductive adult conversation and the beginning of a true dialogue on how to tackle our city’s opportunity and achievement gaps.

Let’s start with the facts. Teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success in school. Great teaching matters, and without it our children cannot learn. Teaching is both an art and a science, and all truly great teachers change lives. The teaching profession does not get the respect it deserves, nor do K-12 educators receive wages commensurate with the value they provide. The current conversation leaves teachers feeling undervalued, underpaid and without a voice. It is time to honor teachers and recognize that no fundamental change is possible without both their input and commitment to improving their craft.

Because teachers are the No. 1 factor in a child’s success, we cannot back down on our insistence that high-quality teaching is essential. This is true everywhere, but especially in urban districts where the needs of the students are high and the stakes may literally be prison or prosperity. We have to demand excellence, because anything else will not be enough to alter the life trajectory of so many poor children of color.

The common ground

Between the need to repair how society treats its educators and the need for truly excellent teachers lies the common ground that will help improve our schools, our teachers’ performance and ultimately the lives of our children. So what is that common ground?

Teachers should be recruited from among the best and the brightest. We need people in teaching who have demonstrated academic success, mastered their subject matter and are motivated to share their love of learning with others. Teaching should be a top profession of choice.

Teachers need excellent traditional and nontraditional training programs that prepare them to understand teaching and learning, to manage a classroom, to use data effectively and to function in a multicultural environment.

Teachers need to enter the profession knowing that they will be held to high standards, that their performance will be evaluated and that their goal is raising achievement for all.

Teachers need to hold themselves and their teams accountable for results. They must welcome feedback on how to improve, insist that others do the same and be willing to help those who cannot do the task to exit the profession. 

Teachers deserve time to plan, to analyze student data and to work together to improve outcomes. Their students also desperately need more time to master content, engage in creative projects, play, and even to eat lunch slowly.

Successful teachers need to have the mindset that all children can learn and excel regardless of their life circumstances.  This mindset does not deny the devastating effects of poverty, yet it refuses to accept poverty as a justification for school failure.

Teachers deserve schools with strong leadership, clear expectations, collaborative decision-making and respectThey should be treated as professionals and in turn behave as professionals.

Successful teachers deserve higher pay. Those who can improve achievement and who are willing to serve the highest-need students deserve even greater compensation.

Students deserve teachers who are both great educators and role models. They benefit from educators who look like them, speak their language, understand their culture and relate to their families. Make no mistake. Great teachers come in all colors, ages and years of experience, but building a diverse teacher corps is a must.

Finally, teachers and students deserve a strong and caring community that is willing to invest its time, talent and skills toward improving public education. We need the political will to confront racism, housing, health and employment disparities, and poorly resourced public schools, while never backing down on an expectation of excellence from our schools.

Focus on solutions, demand excellence

The mayor’s race is helping to focus our community on education. Both for the sake of our youth and the health and vitality of our city, Minneapolis must build nothing less than an outstanding public school system in which all children succeed regardless of race, income, language or ZIP code.

We can do this. It starts with admitting we have deep educational disparities, rolling up our sleeves, focusing on solutions and demanding excellence from everyone who touches children’s lives, including ourselves.

Pam Costain is the president and CEO of AchieveMpls.


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Comments (54)

  1. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/11/2013 - 06:45 am.

    Teachers should be accountable to…….Parents

    In modern day school system the school district is accountable to no one. Oh ya, there is the distant school board which is most likely elected by political hackery. So the school administration and teachers know they are basically unaccountable. Cause the moment u bring up something it can be covered up in mumbo jumbo. So what r us as the parent going to do. Go to the school board. Ha !!!!

    I was a big believer in public education. But when u exist as a nobody in a suburban school district, you wonder. Did my kid get the attention. Where the teachers eager to help the kid. On the whole I would say No.

    • Submitted by jody rooney on 10/11/2013 - 04:10 pm.

      I you were a big believer in education I would assumed that

      some would have taught you the difference between writing for publication and sending a text message.

      Every time I have dealt with a public school I have been successful even if it was “Look this teacher is doing the best she can with what she’s got but she is never going to be more than a “C” teacher.” Since the issue was specific I taught my daughter to approach the teacher and say ” When you and my mom talked you said the you would help me understand this” I didn’t send sit with her but I lent her my authority by proxy.

      So my advice would be:

      1. To be a role model by practicing what they are trying to teach you child and use proper English.
      2. Don’t go into a meeting in an accusatory mode go into a meeting in problem solving mode and make sure that all of the adult players and none of the children players are present
      3. Implement the solution.
      4. Explain that there A,B, and C teachers just like there are A, B, and C programers, economists and other professionals and as an adult you will have to get along with all of them so this is good practice.
      5. Lend your authority – not as in “I’m going to tell daddy you did that” but in a more subtle reminder way.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/11/2013 - 09:34 pm.

        Kettle Calling the Pot Black…shall we say….

        “1. To be a role model by practicing what they are trying to teach you child and use proper English.”

        Like the following sentence may be Ms Rooney ?

        “I you were a big believer in education I would assumed that some_____ would < ------ have taught you the difference between writing for <----> publication and sending a text message.”

        “2. Don’t go into a meeting in an accusatory mode go into a meeting in problem solving mode and make sure that all of the adult players and none of the children players are present”

        What makes u think we went to the meeting, or any meeting and complained. My wife asked the principal a simple question. “Give us the rules that were adopted to deny our daughter a spot on the state team when she was among the only kids who won the Divisional championships outright.”. We did not ask for a spot , we asked what were the rules, that permitted kids to put their friends on a state championship team while my kid got first place in the Divisional among 36 schools.

        “3. Implement the solution.”

        What makes u think there was a “solution”. There was none. They never responded. Wonder why ? Thats the mumbo jumbo of public school accountability.

        “4. Explain that there A,B, and C teachers just like there are A, B, and C programers, economists and other professionals and as an adult you will have to get along with all of them so this is good practice.”

        Tell that to your kid after she openly heard the team captain promising spots to her buddies and the school admitted so. And the total silence when we asked questions. We played by the rules (if they were any) while my kid saw how they robbed her of a spot. Ya, such little things are important when you are applying for selective colleges after busting ones chops.

        “5. Lend your authority – not as in “I’m going to tell daddy you did that” but in a more subtle reminder way.”

        Ya, it was a good way to teach my daughter that winning by talent is not enough in the kumbayah culture of a school system that robs children.

        In the end the public school system as we experienced it was; A set of teachers (in no way all, there were some great ones), who promote a certain set of kids. No matter how good you are, the fix was in for internal competitive placements.

        Finally, as i pointed out to my kid, these kids could not win when the judge was an external person. She won more state titles (in her senior year when it does not count for college admissions) than many of those kids combined in ALL their years in school. So much for public schools and accountability.

  2. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 10/11/2013 - 06:47 am.

    Many excellent points

    Thanks for writing this.

  3. Submitted by Nathan Eklund on 10/11/2013 - 07:24 am.

    Great post

    Thank for writing this Pam.

    You’ve written a calm, rational, and reasonable essay here. Interestingly, I find so little of our discussions about education to be calm, rational, and reasonable that I’m curious to track the comments that are sure to ensue. I posted a blog post a few weeks ago calling for a national movement called Nuance in Conversations about Education (NICE) which would strive to have sane and thoughtful discourse about education issues. The post generated a ridiculous amount of feedback from people fatigued (and scarred) by the present tone of the education debate.

    I’m hopeful that more writing like yours can prevail!

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/11/2013 - 08:34 am.

    The teachers war

    is between teachers who want what’s best for the kids versus teachers who want what’s best for the teachers.

    In 1970, the NEA went from being a national education association dedicated to studying and sharing best practices in pedagogy, to an organized labor union dedicated to the best interests of its members.

    Anyone fortunate enough to have been educated prior to 1970 knows exactly what I’m talking about and can most easily see the difference.

    • Submitted by jody rooney on 10/11/2013 - 04:17 pm.

      Surprisingly most teachers might agree with you

      Mr. Tester but they don’t take it with them into the class room. Although I did have a union rep at the meeting I referenced in an earlier post. He was very disconcerted when I asked to be introduced and somewhat offended when I identified him as the shop steward (what are they called by the teachers union) it wasn’t really much of an issue.

      Most of the teachers I have met love teaching, they wish parents were more interested in making their child succeed or had the energy to help their child.

    • Submitted by Ross Reishus on 10/12/2013 - 10:48 pm.

      What Mr. Tester and his ilk forgets, or does not know

      is that prior to the 1970’s most people were paid a decent wage, so that it didn’t take two parents working two jobs like it does now, and so many of the kids grow up with a television or computer as a babysitter. Another thing we did not have was over 2000 questionable food additives, many of which have been shown to affect student learning, and are stacked by the dozens in our USDA “approved” hot lunch programs…..many of which are now contracted to private companies who see profit as the motivation, with nutrition being optional. This is a huge problem for kids’ abilities to learn, Mr. Tester. Another thing we didn’t have was the Monsanto Frankenstein foods, loaded with pesticides, but that’s another story by itself. We also did not have a 50% divorce rate in 1970. We did not have nearly the number of non-English speaking kids to teach that we do now. Schools in 1970 and before did not have the tons of paperwork and rules and case law changes regarding special education changes, mandated by the federal government. Mandates that have never been paid for beyond 20% of the real cost to a school. There are dozens more examples of changes since 1970 that make any comparison of 2013 to 1970 a laughable joke, at best, and an embarrassing example of how uninformed the general public has become, at worst.

  5. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/11/2013 - 09:34 am.

    Most important

    Thank you for this. But I suggest that teachers are the second most important factor in a child’s education success. Home environment is first.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/14/2013 - 04:28 pm.

      I agree

      Parents matter more than Teachers, however they are harder to “improve” since they are not controlled setting.

      • Submitted by Ron Stoffel on 10/15/2013 - 01:53 pm.

        Parent(s) is/are the Number One factor in children’s success.

        Teachers are second to a child’s parent(s) in the educating a young person. It is more a team approach, but the Parent(s) has the PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY!! This needs to be taught more and expected!!

  6. Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 10/11/2013 - 10:07 am.

    Right on, Pam Costain

    In Minneapolis, Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson is pushing for all of your “common ground” best practices in her “Shift” agenda for teacher contract negotiations.

    I’ve been watching the negotiations since June. I was at the negotiations last night—a mediator has not yet arrived so the talks are still open to the public.

    As of last night, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is saying NO to all of your points, with the exception of calling for better principals (totally necessary and I support the MFT on this issue) and confronting poverty (also totally necessary, but unrelated to their contract.)

    Last night, (Thursday, Oct. 10) the MFT:

    1) said NO to allowing principals to post job openings as soon as they have them and be able to select the best teacher for their students without regard to seniority or whether that candidate is as current employee.

    (The MFT wants openings to be primarily limited to a closed pool of current tenured teachers who need jobs. Some of these teachers are good. Many aren’t.)

    2) Insisted that NO Teach for America candidates should be interviewed or hired. The MFT insists that all teachers come through traditional education schools–even though this keeps many highly-qualified math, science and teachers of color out of the job pool.

    3) said NO to using standardized test data as one way of evaluating school and student progress. (The MFT hates this data because it documents the achievement gap and sets up demands for change and accountability. )

    4) said NO to having teachers meet in grade teams once a week for 90 minutes to go over student progress, data and share strategies. (The MFT doesn’t want to use data. They don’t want to be “forced” to discuss student progress. They don’t want to be “forced” to meet in teaching teams when they’d rather prep for classes.)

    5) said NO to paying highly- effective teachers more and NO to paying hiring or retention bonuses to attract good teachers to lower-performing schools. (The MFT insists all teachers must be paid the same based on seniority, etc.)

    And on and on. I know that even reporting what we’re seeeing in negotiations be seen as “finger-pointing” and “teacher-bashing.” But please. We’re witnessing a (nearly all white and aging) teachers’ union refusing to follow best practices even as thousands of young students of color are failing.

    It’s sort of like old doctors refusing to wash their hands while young patients die in droves during surgery.

    At this point, the MFT reminds me of the House Republicans who are currently shutting down the federal government. Both groups say no to everything and then complain that no one will negotiate or collaborate with them. Both groups hate data. Both groups frame everything in apocalyptic terms.

    House Republicans insist Obamacare will destroy the nation.

    The MFT insists that the common sense best practices in the “Shift” agenda will “privatize” education and bust the union.

    It’s really nuts. I think one solution is to stop giving political cover to extremism. (And to also stop the false equivalencies that says both sides are being extreme when that is clearly not true. Obamacare is hardly radical. Ditto for Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson “Shift” agenda.)

    Nationally, conservatives need to show courage and stop giving political cover to the Tea Party.

    Locally on the education front, DFL school board members, legislators, city council and mayoral candidates (I’m looking at you, Mark Andrew) need to do the same and stop giving political cover to a teachers’ union that is acting like our side’s version of the Tea Party.

    We’re Minnesotans. We hate conflict. We want everyone to get along.

    But how do we reconcile our authentic and good desire for avoiding conflict with the truth that the status powers concede nothing without a struggle? Meanwhile, thousands of our most vulnerable children are failing and being set up for a bleak future.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/11/2013 - 11:28 am.

      What you need to do is

      work to de-certify and ban all public employee unions, including teachers unions, and recognize who your political allies are in all this. Conservatives are your ally and the Tea Party is not your enemy.

      • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 10/11/2013 - 12:20 pm.

        I’m a Democrat…

        … I’m most decidedly NOT on board with de-certifying and banning public employee unions.

        But I would like to see more public employee unions willing to adapt to the 21st century. And I would like to see more public employee unions that do not insist on work rules that come at the direct expense of the public good, especially when that public good includes vulnerable children.

        I think the MFT’s positions are hurting the whole labor movement. Because no other union reaches as deeply into people’s lives for as long and affects what matters most to them–their children’s future—as the teachers’ union.

        So when people see a teachers’ union insisting on policies that hurt their kids’ future… does more damage to the labor movement than anything the Republicans usually come up with. I wish labor should stop giving the teachers’ union cover on this stuff and encourage them to change and adapt.

        It would be good for kids, the public and the labor movement. What’s not to like?

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 10/11/2013 - 04:25 pm.

        Mr. Tester you missed the part of the T party that says

        the government is bad and I suppose by extension public schools because they are part of the government.

        If they are part of the government and government is bad wouldn’t the T party support unions to keep the government from being bad.

        Does the T party have a position on education other than school vouchers which pretty much only work for people who can supplement the voucher?

    • Submitted by Caroline Hooper on 10/11/2013 - 07:20 pm.


      Lynnell Mickelsen comments about the October 10 negotiations are misleading and dishonest.
      1. MFT pointed out that the district does the hiring, not the union. For open positions, interview and select allows for the best candidate to be hired, seniority does not play a role. Either Ms. Mickelsen doesn’t understand that or she is being dishonest.

      2. MFT wondered why it is the district is bemoaning lack of experienced teachers in some struggling schools. When the district did stipulate that experience makes a difference, they were then asked why they continue to hire TFA teachers. Again, the union does not hire teachers, the district does. Again, Ms. Mickelsen is either uninformed or deliberately misleading.

      3. MFT insisted that test data not be the only measure of student achievement, and indeed rejected the idea that student success is defined very narrowly by test scores. Really, Ms. Mickelsen, your assertion that the MFT rejected test data as “one way” of evaluating student achievement is disingenuous at best.

      4. MFT pointed out that what the district thinks is professional development (PD)–teachers collaborating around a table over student work and student achievement is actually sitting in a meeting while someone talks at teachers. Indeed, teachers rejected more of this, asking instead for real time, unencumbered by district micro-management, to plan and collaborate. Again, your words are misleading and dishonest.

      5. MFT pointed out that paying teachers more will not necessarily get the results the district wants. There is lots of research that supports the idea that while paying more may increase performance on mundane, routine tasks; money is not much of a motivator for complex, creative or autonomous endeavors (teaching for example). MFT pointed out that principal quality is important, and that great principals attract great teachers. What the district truly needs to do is work on developing competent leaders that will attract, motivate and retain quality teachers. Paying someone an extra 10K is going to get the desired result. Why indeed, would MFT agree to such a boneheaded proposal?

      Furthermore, your hatred of teachers in clearly on display. If teachers do not agree to your demands you continue to demonize and demoralize them every single chance you get. Over the past couple of years I have been silent as you have attacked and demeaned teachers at every turn. Truly, if you wanted to help children you would push away from the keyboard and come volunteer in the schools, but of course, there is not as much recognition in helping a young student read, or a high school succeed in calculus as there is getting your anti-teacher screeds published far and wide.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/12/2013 - 07:22 am.

        Are u sure Ms Mickelsen is misleading ?

        Is Ms Mickelsen misleading and dishonest ? Really ? The following was in an op-ed in the StarTribune that directly contradicts your assertions. So who is misleading ?

        “But in fact there are many teachers in the Minneapolis public schools who are not adequate to the task at hand, and there are few truly excellent teachers. To get teachers of higher quality into the classroom, district officials must be freer to make selections on the basis of excellence, with reference but not deference to union membership and seniority.”

        I’m not aware (I’ll probably investigate later ) of all the details of the rest of the stuff. But darn straight, anyone who questions the Teachers Union becomes the devil incarnate.

      • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 10/15/2013 - 04:16 pm.

        I don’t see how asking teachers to follow best practices

        ……is hating on teachers. Honestly, I don’t.

        Why is:

        –allowing schools to hire the best teachers for their students from the widest possible talent pool?

        –asking teachers to meet for 90 minutes once a week to go over student progress and data

        –extending the teaching day at low performing schools

        –using data

        ……hating and demonizing teachers?!?!?

        My husband and two sons are all teachers. My parents were teachers. My kids all went to Minneapolis Public School and they had some absolutely great teacher. Ms Hooper is known as a terrific teacher.

        By the way, note to readers: even under the much-touted “Interview and Select” most schools are still limited to hiring from a closed pool of tenured excessed teachers who need jobs. Sometimes there are great teachers in this pool. But too often schools are forced to pick “the best” from a pool of mediocre teachers no one would willingly hire. This is also why it’s so hard to hire more teachers of color.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/14/2013 - 04:35 pm.

      Excellent comment

      I am amazed how they fight to stay trapped in one district for some additional money… Most of us “free will” employees are free to change companies when we are unhappy or a better opportunity presents itself. I can’t even imagine being trapped in one set of steps/lanes, and wanting to change districts…

      I call it the silver handcuffs…

  7. Submitted by Jean Quam on 10/11/2013 - 10:49 am.

    Great Article

    This is a great article about what is important in education today: Teachers are the critical element in every student’s education. There are many pathways to becoming a great teacher. As a research university we are discovering the best ways to educate and to place great teachers into our classrooms.

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/11/2013 - 02:49 pm.

    Let us stop the war on children…

    Let us focus on kids and families instead of teachers and unions.

    Let us empower kids and families instead empowering teachers and unions.

    Let us focus on “education” instead of “union education.”

    Let us fund kids!!! You cannot get more public than that.

    Let us test all the children before they receive a diploma.

    Let us test all the teachers to see if they are competent.

    If we do this, the DFL will not be the owned subsidiary of the teachers union.

    • Submitted by Ron Stoffel on 10/15/2013 - 02:07 pm.

      Very well put Mr. Gotzman!!

      In my opinion the only way that your suggests are completed is by the PARENTS revolting against the current system. That includes against the School Board, Administration and Teacher’s Union. Also, the rank and file teachers MUST REVOLT against Their Union!!!

  9. Submitted by Jim Barnhill on 10/11/2013 - 09:50 pm.

    Nuanced Conversation is Essential

    I appreciate Pam Costain’s article and agree with 95% of it. Saying so will draw criticism from some people with whom I teach in the Minneapolis Public Schools because in the current climate, one is not allowed to agree with those “on the other side.” And herein lies the problem Pam has tried to delineate, that we have all drawn battle lines and have seemed to lose the ability to dialogue about real issues without the conversation devolving into a retreat to “talking points.”

    Unfortunately, Lynnell Mickelesen’s response provokes the very reaction that Pam is trying to avoid. I served on the MFT 59 Board for 5 years and helped negotiate the 09-11 contract. Lynnell’s interpretation of, and depiction of MFT59 positions is so distorted that one wants to throw their hands up in the air and say, “will it ever be possible to even discuss these issues without having someone derail it?”

    Pam sat on the Board of Education at the same time that I sat on the MFT negotiation team and I can’t tell you how upset I was with her and the BOE at that time. We don’t see eye to eye on everything. But there is value in her attempt to get past the predictable rhetoric that we all hear these days when discussing education. So, while I winced at a few things Pam said in her article, I sucked it up and focused on her intention, which is to continue to work toward a better education system that values/honor teachers as the key to our kids’ future.

    We can all do without Lynnell’s unproductive rhetoric, but we have to do our best to stay in this conversation whether or not we agree on every point.

    Jim Barnhill
    Special Educator, Minneapolis
    MN Board of Teaching

  10. Submitted by Eduardo Romo on 10/11/2013 - 06:17 pm.

    Teachers did not start this fight.

    It is well-documented that a lot of the economic support for education reform groups & individuals originates from corporate interests intent on breaking the largest professional labor union and accessing public dollars by creating for-profit charter or even voucher-funded private schools. These foundations, tax-breaks created by many Fortune 500s, see these grants as a way to publicize their commitment to underprivileged communities…all while employing privileged white kids to run and implement them.

    We don’t want to fight at all. We want your support in the classroom and, especially, in the community. Give our kids jobs that will lead to salaries rather than wages.

    We don’t want billions wasted on testing, numbers, and scores that get analyzed, compartmentalized, and then categorized just so kids, adults, schools, and communities can be labeled as successes or failures.

    We don’t want to compete against one-another, which merit pay would certainly foster. Cooperation and collaboration continually outperform competition when measured against one-another (yes, I know the irony). We get more done working WITH one another than AGAINST one another.

    Stop trying to score me, let alone kids with numbers and letters.Besides, so much about being a teacher is not quantifiable…

    A colleague told me today that a kid was in tears because of a stuttering problem and she feels that so many believe she is not smart because it takes her so much longer to say what she is thinking, but she loves me and my class because I “get” her and support her, having told her of my uncle who also stutters. HOW THE HECK IS THAT EVALUATED AND USED FOR DETERMINING MY SALARY?

    Setting that aside, let’s look at your quantifiable data provided by tests. Reading. Math, Writing. Will visual and performing arts teachers be on a different “scale” or even left off the chance for pay increases? “Ms. L…your 2nd trumpet missed an E-Flat during the second movement. You won’t be getting a raise this year.” Or how about “Mr. S…Johnny used too much water when mixing colors for that mural. I’m cutting your salary by 3% next year.” Absolutely ridiculous.

    Even within your quantifiable data, there are problems. Value-Added Measurements are great when comparing widgets to widgets. Take a teacher who works with students who have special needs and compare her/his VAM with that of the teacher who is teaching the Gifted & Talented students…which will have a higher VAM? I want those GT kids since they’ll give me a higher VAM score, even though my heart and soul still loves teaching my kids with Special Ed needs.

    Regarding “Highly Qualified” teachers, what is your definition of HQ? How many professors have you had who were incredibly intelligent and able to recall and synthesize information on a whim…but couldn’t get her/his point across to EVERYONE? Dean Quam seems to think that 5-8 weeks is enough time for some Ivy League graduate to suddenly master the craft and professional needs of being a classroom educator. As one of those Ivy League whiz kids from yesteryear myself, that is BUNK. The U has a very good post-Bac program, providing college grads with 15 months of teacher training, ending with licensure and almost immediate MEd status. I’m a much better teacher now, after 17 years, than I was as a 24-yr-old with that post-bac experience. Only five weeks would have been a disgrace and embarrassment to me, my colleagues, and, most importantly, my students.

    Again, teachers did not start this fight. It only came after the well-funded groups, created out of desperation in difficult economic times, offered career opportunities to recent grads who wanted to take the fast-lane to get ahead of everyone else in what has traditionally been a rewarding (economically and socially) job. We’ve taught our students to not hit back. Tell the adults. Trust us to make things right. But, sometimes, a bully needs to be stood up to. Teachers are now standing up, supported by true academic research that supports our criticisms against these corporate-backed education reformers.

    We don’t want interlopers who are here on a temporary basis, seeing our underprivileged kids as needing to be saved from anything. We need people committed to their kids, their schools, and, especially, their communities for more than a Peace Corps-styled period.

    When the economy picks up again, watch how many of these wunderkind tiny tots flee to their corporate overlords’ headquarters for more profitable endeavors. TFA and other groups don’t even hide it anymore, promoting themselves as institutions seeking to place people in high level, decision-making positions throughout the country

    Meanwhile, the people devoted to their craft, their careers (it’s not just a job), their kids, and their community will still be there doing the job that so many of you denigrate and criticize from the peanut gallery. Because we love it, despite your bitter, holier-than-thou mentality that continues to neglect the truth behind the achievement gap.

    The US is ethnically and racially diverse, but becoming increasingly polarized economically. Economic segregation that perpetuates racism and prejudice. Training Elise Blair and Richard Blake for 5 weeks and sending them into the southside of Chicago, presenting them as “saviors” with the “right mentality” will do little to stamp out the continued institutional racism that closes profitable opportunities for so many of my students.

    I’m glad some reformers are actually interested in sitting at the table WITH us rather than shouting AT and constantly criticizing us. But, please, do not tell me how to do my job. I’ve been properly trained and have years of experience ready and willing to help present and future students and educators find their own way in helping our communities.

    But what do I know? I’m just a MPS grad (Washburn ‘91), Ivy League grad (Brown ‘95), UMinn Post-Bac Social Studies Licensee (‘97), and 17-year teacher and coach within MPS (Washburn & Southwest) who has lived in Minneapolis for all but my four years away at college. I’ve seen my South Minneapolis childhood and present day neighborhoods diversify from having only one minority kid on the block (that would be my Chicano self) to a solid mix…but all still pretty secure financially.

    Money. It’s always about the money. Spend it. Save it. Keep it. Give it. Chase it. Follow it. Or accept it. Just don’t EVER ignore it.

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/12/2013 - 09:12 am.

      A job with no accountability

      Its so complicated that we are unanswerable to you parents. That’s the gist of the message I’m getting from this long diatribe. In the meantime parents like me wonder how to make teachers more accountable.

      An Ivy league education (even from Brown) does not a portend of genius these days. Too many manufactured resumes from High Schools along with social engineering that goes on has diluted the predictive capability of an Ivy League education.

      • Submitted by Eduardo Romo on 10/12/2013 - 12:36 pm.


        Thank you for so succinctly “reading between the lines” of my closing statement. You see, so many reformers believe that highly educated = highly qualified. Being an educator requires the ability to share that knowledge in an effective and meaningful way with ALL students. Look closely at the origin of this reform movement – it coincides nicely with the economic downturn. TFA’s original mission has changed from sending recent grads from some of our nation’s top colleges to promoting itself as a program with which college grads can gain quick experience that is to be a stepping-stone into into leadership positions in not only the education industry, but also within the very corporations sponsoring their 2-year experiences. Students deserve COMMITTED professionals who do not see kids as projects or stepping stones to personal professional advancement. My diatribe was exactly that…meandering, but with purpose.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/14/2013 - 04:52 pm.

          Steps, Lanes and Tenure

          I am sorry, but as long as steps, lanes and tenure are key aspects of Teacher employment, compensation and job security, it is unlikely that Teachers will gain the Professional standing that many of them seem to desire.

          As you say, education and experience are not necessarily aligned with performance. Therefore as long as questionable 25 year veterans are guaranteed comp/security, and gifted 5 year Teachers are told to wait for 20 more years to get their due. The teachers union will remind people of traditional blue collar unions.

          Now drop these protections and let the best get hired and paid appropriately, then we may get somewhere… It would be almost like working in the private sector…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2013 - 10:12 am.

          The “Education Industry”

          An excellent choice of terminology. You summed up the education Rhee-form movement in two words.

    • Submitted by Ross Reishus on 10/12/2013 - 10:59 pm.

      Well said, Mr. Romo

      Mr. Romo is dead on with everything he has said here, and unless you are in the system, and teaching for several years, you don’t get it, and can’t. We didn’t start the fight. But what to do now?

      First off, we really do need more money. Not for raises. Just for proper staffing. So many people have been cut over the past decade its an embarrassment. But then raises need to follow that if you want to keep good teachers. And who’s watching the watchers? Quality administrators are made by giving them requirements and then actually having someone from the Department of Education follow through on them and observe them, as well as teachers. That too, will cost money.

      And if you think the private sector is where its at on education, just look at what they’ve done with our prisons in other states. How hard is a private school going to work to help kids if they also run a prison?

      Again I say to everyone, companies that currently run private prisons, are lobbying hard for running our schools, nationwide. So when a kid doesn’t cut it at school, the private school will find a place for him behind bars. Convenient, really, and the company gets paid either way. This is why you do not want privatized education systems nationwide.

      I work with many quality teachers who are doing the best with what they have for all of our kids, and Mr. Romo sounds like he doing the same. Start listening to teachers like HIM, not CEO’s and private consultants.

  11. Submitted by MORRIS Engel on 10/12/2013 - 04:09 am.

    Pam Costain has lost the trust of many.

    Pam Costain(and Lynnell Mickelsen) has played an enormous role in creating this war and now she wants everyone to play nice?

    Many no longer trust her(and Ms. Mickelsen), for good reason.

  12. Submitted by richard owens on 10/12/2013 - 08:35 am.

    Public education has been damaged by the GOP.

    From early childhood education to support of our land grant universities, resources have been cut too much.

    Anti-union attitudes, tax-protesting resentment over property taxes, and GOP political demands that want tax money to spend as tuition in a private schools have combined to abandon public education. They don’t want to fix it- they don’t want to pay for it.

    And yet, knowledge is doubling at a quicker and quicker rate. All around the world education is lifting some countries while those countries who cannot afford public schools are seeing their very governments collapse.

    The Right shows its selfishness and ignorance nowhere as clearly as it does in its education policies.

    I suggest everyone with concerns about education listen to Malala’s speech to the UN on her birthday.

  13. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/12/2013 - 08:57 am.

    Pam Costain reveals her velvet fist

    You know the deformers are starting to feel the heat when we see these “can’t we all get along” pieces, replete with zero concessions to those of us who are against their hare-brained and bullying ideas, and no acknowledgment that there is no proof that their ideas will work.

    First – tests are not the same as learning, and we only test in a few areas. Second, Costain elides the real factors effecting test scores. Seventy percent of those outcomes is due to factors outside school. Of the remaining 30 percent teacher quality (something not so obvious to measure, as Costain doesn’t seem to know) is only one in-school factor. The school itself and the classroom environment also have an effect.

    Third – Costain and others in her movement postulate that there is an epidemic of bad teachers, which is a completely unproven allegation, one that is a slander on all the good, hard working teachers we have.

    I could go on. What we do KNOW is that small class sizes have a PROVEN effect on student learning, but the district won’t even talk about that! The district has shown a mendacity and bullying attitude that that is deeply unserious and will not work.

  14. Submitted by Caroline Hooper on 10/12/2013 - 10:30 am.

    Change the Tone

    I appreciate Ms. Costain’s effort and thoughtful reflection about changing the tone of the education debate and seeking common ground. One thing I have been thinking on lately is the idea of increasing teacher compensation. Ms. Costain has been too. She writes “Successful teachers deserve higher pay. Those who can improve achievement and who are willing to serve the highest-need students deserve even greater compensation.” I am in agreement with this, but I do wonder why people continue to say this when the facts on the ground are the complete opposite. We are in a climate today of less money, fewer resources and lower taxes, Furthermore, the reformers control many of the so-called “Beat the Odds” charter operations where teachers work “wall street hours” with extended days and school years. Are those teachers that supposedly raise student achievement getting paid what they deserve or is that money actually in the hands of the directors, the operators and their organizations? To me, this is a red herring of the reformers. Yes, we need highly trained, effective teachers. Teachers, above all, support this. Yes, we need teachers to be responsible for achievement in the classroom, and we need achievement measured in ways above and beyond test scores. Schools and teachers need community support. Teachers do indeed need to believe all students can learn and need to persist in the classroom while students need support so they can focus on learning in the classroom instead of wondering where they will sleep, eat their next meal, or worry about their safety. No one needs more lobbyists, more attacks or more op-eds. I need volunteers to help students write college admission essays, support field trips, and involve students in productive activities and endeavors outside of school, but so few takers for that. There are ways for those outside of education to support students, schools and education. As always, it seems there are not enough people to really make some type of commitment; it is much easier to scream from the sidelines. Nonetheless, thank you Ms.Costain for an effort to move toward solutions.

  15. Submitted by Patricia Milbrath on 10/12/2013 - 11:25 am.

    Thank you Pam…

    I appreciate your words Pam. I know you have written from the heart. I am very grateful for these words.

    I need to write from my heart also. I want to write about how wonderful it is that I agree with you in so many places, and I want to revel in that. I too believe that we can do this, and we could do it much more effectively and faster if we do it together.

    At the same time, I also need to ask you for some things, some actions, actions that will help me trust that your words will lead to true collaboration.

    One, I ask that you make sure the words you write about education are accurate. You state two times in your piece that, “teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success in school.” This is not accurate. Family income is the single variable that has the highest correlation with a child’s success in school. Teacher quality is the IN-SCHOOL variable that correlates most highly with school success. I am not in any way minimizing the importance of teacher quality (I am going to write about where we are aligned about teacher quality in my next paragraph). If we are to truly work together we must trust each other, and working towards the highest level of accuracy when we share our perspectives is vitally important to this trust. One reason that teachers are so concerned with the reform perspective nation wide is that we, I, truly believe that there are many in the reform movement who deliberately shift attention away from poverty as a school success factor to further an agenda. I DO NOT believe this is who you are Pam. However, we, I, truly believe that the reform agenda I speak of is linked to the right wing, corporate movement that has shut down our government, denies us access to health care and is stealing homes from citizens like Jaymie Kelly who is fighting her foreclosure eviction on the block I used to live on at 37th street and 11th Avenue. You don’t have to agree with me on this belief for us to work together Pam. I DO TRUST your intentions, and I always will. However, I do need you to respect that this is the perspective I, and many teachers, are coming from. So, I need you to be accurate when you write and speak about the variables that impact school success. I need you, and others in the reform movement, to think and read and confirm your words before you make them part of the public discourse. Just this week, an opinion piece posted in this site accused the MFT of shutting the public out of the negotiations. It has since been shared widely. The piece contained inaccurate information. It was then shared by the Mayor, who has an enormous audience. The accurate information is that MFT requested mediation to begin. Our negotiation team stated that the intention behind that request was to create a more productive and efficient negotiation process. Mediation is handled by a state office. The commissioner of that office has the authority to decide whether negotiations during mediation are public or private. That commissioner has a long-standing practice of running mediated negotiations privately. The only part of this open to interpretation is MFT’s intentions. One would hope that anyone attempting to write accurately would at least include the MFTs stated intention. So, I absolutely want to work with you and not against you Pam, and accuracy of information is one thing I ask you to do, and I will strive to do as well.

    Now back to the issue of teacher quality. I say YES, YES, and YES again to nearly everything you have written in your piece! There are points with which I disagree with, but let’s focus on where we are together for right now.

    YES to high standards and teacher evaluation (that leads directly to improvement in the instructional process in a meaningful way).

    YES to teacher recruitment of the best and brightest!! YES and YES again to teaching being a rigorous and esteemed profession! Good teachers want to work with good teachers.

    YES to teachers being able to work in a multicultural environment with a high level of cultural competency! YES to a MASSIVE effort to provide comprehensive cultural competency training to not only teachers, but every support staff, board member, engineer and desk job type at the Davis center! (well you actually didn’t word it quite like this, but we all need it!)

    YES to teachers holding ourselves and our teams accountable. Again, good teachers want to work with good teachers! Much of what you state is already embedded in the culture of MPS. What needs work is how the results you speak of are measured. This is where the enormous push back on standardized testing is coming from. Good teachers want to teach in a complex, in-depth, creative, responsive and innovative manner. We want to push each other to teach in this way! No packets!

    YES to teacher time for planning, working with data, and collaborating. We just want to keep those things in balance.

    YES to student time to work in depth towards mastery, creative learning, play, and eating lunch slowly. Many have heard my story about my younger son, when he was little, having to eat lunch in his winter coat and snow pants in order to have time to run outside for a mere 10 minutes of recess. When his brother was in the primary grades 7 years earlier, he got a full 30 minutes for lunch and 30 minutes of recess for his body to stretch and move outside (and integrate all that learning).

    YES teachers must believe all children can learn and excel regardless of their life circumstances. I have always been deeply confused why you have heard teacher concerns about poverty to be “justification for school failure.” In my ten years of teaching with MPS, which includes 5 years at North High, as it was in its steep decline in population, I have never experienced a teacher justifying school failure in this way. All of the teachers I have worked with (maybe 100 or more teachers in ten years?) have been deeply, wildly frustrated with poverty being a barrier to school success, many times to the point of despair. These same teachers expressed every day, in multitudes of ways, their admiration for and awe in the brilliance, competence, and dazzling creative minds of the students we work with.

    YES to “strong leadership, clear expectations, collaborative decision-making and respect.” Strong, fair principals are the key to maintaining a high quality teaching profession. Good teachers become frustrated with principals who do not have the capacity to work to improve the skills of poor teachers, and work to move teachers unable to improve to move out of the profession.

    YES to diversifying our teaching corps! Absolutely! MFT has been involved in efforts throughout the years to do this.
    And of course YES to confronting racism and poverty in all ways in our city!

    That was the fun part of writing this.

    Could I ask a few more things of you though? I want to ask you to take the words you have written and translate them into action. I want Achieve to organize, sponsor, and participate in events that welcome and include teachers that are held at times that teachers can attend. I want Achieve to champion the programs in our district that are exemplary and allow teachers working in those programs to share what they are doing. You have invited many educators from non-district, out of state and charter programs to share what they are doing with Minneapolis. I ask that you provide that same platform to great programs within our district. I also ask that you, and Achieve, stand up for MPS teachers when others speak negatively about us, bully us, call us names, and spread rumors and misinformation about us. Achieve has the potential to be a champion for all that is good within our district. Please be our champion. Yes, you must also continue to challenge the teaching force of MPS to be always improving and reaching for the highest level of school achievement for all students. We are dedicated professionals and we are willing to take on that challenge every day. We need the support of Achieve, and the community at large, to do that. Please, be our champion.

  16. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 10/12/2013 - 12:23 pm.

    Yes, please, let’s start with the facts

    The fact is that the corporate reform model champions, as it’s top priorities things that are not positively correlated with educational achievement.

    Merit pay has no positive correlation, and may even have a negligible negative effect. This is a top priority.

    We have 23 right to work states to show us collective bargaining has no negative effect on achievement, and even has a slight positive correlation.

    In your bizarro world of education reform and “respecting” teachers, your number one priority is dismantling their only voice against the billionaire white boy club that bankrolls your reform.

    So yes, let’s stop the teacher wars. Let’s all agree to focus on reforms that are positively correlated to educational achievement. Maybe we can leave the labor reform to ALEC and the Koch’s.

  17. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 10/12/2013 - 12:30 pm.

    Please answer

    You stated, unequivocally and without qualification that “Because teachers are the No. 1 factor in a child’s success, ….”

    The whole problem, is if that is true, then that means that every single teacher in Edina far, far outshines the abilities of every single teacher in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Their students, on average, are more successful.

    Again, you play a good parlor game of “respecting” teachers, but then say things that further the teacher bashing.

    I guarantee if all the Edina teachers moved to the urban schools, their scores would go down, and if urban teachers moved to Edina their scores would stay the same or go up.

    You perpetuate the teacher wars under the guise of being supportive. I wish you could just be honest.
    Than you,

  18. Submitted by kevin terrell on 10/12/2013 - 05:22 pm.

    Measuring the quality of students entering the field of teaching

    There are various cuts at teacher quality, which I agree is critical to successful instruction. Finland made some very interesting moves in this arena. Here’s what this cut at the data says based on SAT scores:

    The mean Critical Reading score was 501. Education majors scored 481.

    The mean Mathematics score was 516. Education majors scored 486.

    The mean Writing score was 492. Education majors scored 477.

    I’m not going to claim average SAT scores are the be all and end all of predicting quality (and one should obviously not make assumptions about individual teachers based on averages.) But I have also seen similar data regarding GPA’s – What do other metrics say, do we actually track any of those, and is this information ever communicated in a succinct way to parents and other decision makers?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/14/2013 - 09:48 am.

      Think about it for a minute

      Could generally low salaries have anything to do with deterring students from going into education? How about reluctance to enter a profession whose members are demonized by critics, who claim that they really aren’t?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/14/2013 - 06:13 pm.

        Need a Lot of Patience…

        Who would want to enter a profession where your salary is constrained by steps and lanes?

        Being a Type A over achiever, there is no way I would go into a profession where my salary growth is constrained by years and degrees… No matter how hard I worked or how gifted I was, my compensation would be constrained and my job security would be poor… At least until so many years had passed…

        Worse yet the clock often starts over if you want a really cool position in another district. Personally I think these are why many high performers pass on becoming a Teacher.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2013 - 09:19 am.

          High performers

          Your so-called “high performers” have grown up on the codswallop that the cool guys are getting MBAs, the only thing that matters is money, and only a loser gets into a profession that is centered around helping others instead of making money.

          Not all “high performers” are “Type A overachievers,” and frankly, I am deeply suspicious of anyone who describes himself that way (I’m not a psychologist, but I would identify it as a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder). There are many people who believe in education and learning for its own sake, not as a way to squeeze out a few more dollars than their neighbor. For them, a good school is an end in itself, not an amenity to help competitiveness. These are the people who should be teachers. American education will not progress until we cultivate these people, instead of marginalizing them.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/15/2013 - 09:46 am.

            Pay for Years Served Then..

            So you don’t support paying the most productive Teachers the highest compensation?

            Now that seems pretty narcissistic and protectionistic to me… I’d rather do what is good for the kids and tax payers. Not what maximizes the comp and benefits for older teachers…

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2013 - 10:17 am.

              Good for the kids

              What’s good for the kids is seldom what will be good for the hedge fund running their school.

              How do you want to define “productivity?” High test scores? I had a teacher in elementary school whose classes probably would have done well on standardized testing, if that had been done back in the day. She was also a bully, who openly played favorites and ruled by humiliation. Was she productive? Contrast her with a German teacher I had in high school. I don’t think I learned the language very well–at least, I don’t know if I retained much of it. On the other hand, I developed a long-standing interest in the history and culture that we touched upon.

              So who was the good, productive teacher here?

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/15/2013 - 01:01 pm.

                Multiple Measures

                That is why you have Supervisors. (ie Principals) They get to use test scores, peer feedback and hopefully someday surveys from Parents/Students to judge who are the Productive Teachers. This is their role in Private industry, and I mean no Supervisor wants an employee working for them who generates customer complaints… Neither do they want employees who can’t produce the desired results…

                Ever wonder why K-12 Public schools are the only Learning institution that does not provide the Students/Parents with feedback surveys to complete for every class/teacher?

                Universities do, Private training orgs do, etc. Thoughts?

                My only guess is that they can’t correct the poor situations, so why ask for customer feedback.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2013 - 03:42 pm.

                  My guess

                  Public schools don’t have “customers.” Education is not a commercial transaction. It is an endeavor for the benefit of the children, but also for the benefit of society as a whole.

                  Schools are not Wal-Mart, no matter what some have led us to believe..

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/15/2013 - 04:41 pm.

                    You Don’t Care?

                    So you are indifferent to if the students, parents and tax payers are satisfied with the performance of the Teachers, Classroom, School, District, etc?

                    The reality is that education personnel are service providers. And good service providers in the Private realm are very concerned that their customers believe they are getting good value for their money… That is why they overwhelm us with surveys and requests for feedback… They know what apparently the Public School folks have forgotten, if you are not providing good value, your customer will find someone who will.

                    Or do you make a habit of going back to service providers who do not meet your expectations while charging more than you think the service is worth?

                    Why do you think folks leave some communities and school districts? They chose to find a service provider / school population who they think is offering a better value…

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2013 - 09:07 pm.

                      My point exactly

                      Now, you are bringing in a whole group of people to evaluate teachers as a whole. That is better than just letting evaluation rest solely in the realm of supervisors or individual parents. It’s a community, or societal, affair.

                      Your analogy has limits, however. Service providers in the private realm are concerned solely with making one customer at a time happy. They do not need to consider the broader implications of what they are doing (“I can’t sell you this Big Mac because of what wholesale beef production does to the environment.”). In contrast, the public sector relies on the public to help make the services it receives better. Yes, that involves feedback, but it may also involve participation and helping out. It may also involve letting professionals do their jobs without making them the scapegoats for the larger failings of the system as a whole..

  19. Submitted by Caroline Hooper on 10/12/2013 - 06:26 pm.

    October 10

    The article you linked to is from August. The events described by Ms. Mickelsen occurred this past Thursday, October 10, 2013, approximately two months after the Strib editorial. Ms. Mickelsen was there this past Thursday night, so was I. Were you? I replied to her post because her recollections and description of the events that happened that evening are in my opinion distorted, misleading and wrong. Furthermore, a Strib editorial is hardly unbiased. The StarTribune is a mouthpiece for the Wayzata Investment Partners, a private equity group that specializes in distressed investments. Why would you cite them as some sort of credible source?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/13/2013 - 01:47 pm.

      An article from August….

      Does not negate that there is some massive change in the Unions position. Using passage of a few weeks as negation of the unions position is a joke. And of course just because u where there and i was not there does not make u any more credible. You have an axe to grind with Ms Mickelson who i don;t know. But i’m familiar with the tactic which shows up when anyone questions the Union.

      It was not a Start Tribune editorial. It was an opinion piece. They may be owned by an “evil” corporate group but i give their editorial board more credibility in ensuring that opinion pieces that are published have some factual credibility, I would give them more credibility than the mailings i get from the Teachers Union two weeks before any election in Dakota County.

  20. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 10/12/2013 - 10:15 pm.

    Why don’t you look a few miles East. It is not that hard.

    We have a 2000+ high school that is 90% + poverty, 90% minority, and we graduated 97% with 93% enrolled in higher ed. We have the highest science scores in the district. We over doubled our African American math proficiency. And on and on.

    And you know what? We did it without a hint of any of the anti-teacher, anti-traditional school, anti-neighborhood school,teachers are the biggest problem with education, subterfuge you traffic in.

    It’s getting old. You want to stop the teachers wars? Stop firing baseless, factless, divisive shots.

    You will also notice we don’t have any board members bought and paid for by the billionaire white boy club that bankrolls your agenda.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/14/2013 - 10:23 am.

      To which school

      are you referring, Mr. Timmerman?

      Thanks for your helpful comments with which I am in agreement.

      Bill Gleason

    • Submitted by Joe Nathan on 10/17/2013 - 07:31 pm.

      Which high school?

      Which high school are you referring to, Mr. Timmerman? When you describe a 93% graduation rate, is that 93% of the students who entered as 9th graders? 93% of those who entered their senior year? 93% of those who entered in 9th grade, + those who entered after 9th grade, – those who went to another school?

  21. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/15/2013 - 02:04 pm.

    So I see from Achieve Mpls IRS 990 that Ms Costain makes 125k a year – nice pay if you don’t mind serving plutocrats.

  22. Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 10/15/2013 - 04:07 pm.

    Alas, I stand by my summary of the MFT’s positions

    ……at the last negotiation session.

    But I’d LOVE to be proved wrong. I’d love to see the MFT turn around and embrace the five items I watched them reject. (listed in my Oct. 11, comment.)

    So please, please prove me wrong and agree to Superintendent Johnson’s mild and sensible reforms in her “Shift” plan.

    I’m not optimistic that this will happen. But heck, I’ve been wrong plenty of times before.

    In the meantime, we need to get beyond focussing on the tone of the discussion. For some reason, many people would far prefer talking about adults’ feelings rather than the actual policies being proposed and the actual outcomes that are happening to kids.

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