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Outlook is bleak for student-teacher bill, more early-ed aid

REUTERS/Jim Young
MinnCAN advocated for a proposal to require that during their 10-week clinical training student teachers be placed with teachers who have been evaluated as effective.

Your Humble Blogger is going to repeat what has become a truism over and over again in this space: The single most important agenda item at the state Capitol right now is the 2014 election.

Exhibit A: The fate of a modest proposal advanced by the education advocacy group MinnCAN to require that during their 10-week clinical training student teachers be placed with teachers who have been evaluated as effective.

Presuming, of course, that the implementation of teacher evaluations is not delayed, as per a vote last week by the Senate Education Committee. A bill that would put off implementation of the evaluations until the 2015-2016 school year was heard Thursday, despite not having been on the committee agenda.

By contrast, the student teacher proposal appears unlikely to get a hearing at all. It was twice raised in DFL caucuses in the House of Representatives only to be killed.

Champlin DFLer John Hoffman requested a hearing, but Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, chair of the same committee that heard the evaluation delay, declined to put it on the schedule.

Andover Republican Sen. Branden Petersen brought the measure up for consideration during discussion of the education omnibus bill, where it was voted down along party lines.

Among the arguments raised against it: That it was a backdoor punitive measure, presumably to punish teachers; and that taking on a student teacher can help a struggling teacher to perform better.

Student teachers, it is worth noting, pay a hefty fee for the opportunity to shadow a seasoned professional in the classroom. And the 10 weeks during which they’re getting that clinical experience they are not being paid elsewhere.

Also uncertain this year is the fate of a widely anticipated push to secure additional funds for early-childhood-education scholarships that are designed to help low-income families find and afford places in highly rated pre-K programs.

Last year lawmakers appropriated $40 million for the scholarship program over the biennium and imposed a cap of $5,000 per child per year. While early-ed advocates cheered the first meaningful funding for the program, they noted that the money would make only a small dent in the need and the caps would leave many families woefully short of meeting actual costs.

Gov. Mark Dayton was said to be interested in revisiting the scholarship funding if the state was running a budget surplus. The measure did not make it into the House omnibus package; it may still be taken up by the Senate.  

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/01/2014 - 11:51 am.

    Live by the union’s campaign support

    Die by the union’s campaign support.

    Education legislation has less to do with what’s best for kids and more to do with what’s best for the unionists.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/01/2014 - 12:47 pm.

    Disappointing

    …that the election is taking up all the air in the room more than 6 months ahead of time.

    Having student teachers spend their 10 weeks with someone who’s been evaluated as “effective” seems to me a no-brainer. Why would a sane educational bureaucracy (perhaps an oxymoronic term) place a student teacher with someone known to be INeffective? Where’s the logic (not to mention benefit to students) in that?

    The big surprise for me was that student teachers “pay a hefty fee” for their experience. Why? To whom does that money go? True, my own student teaching was done during the Paleolithic, but neither I nor my own student teachers over the years had to pay a fee for the experience.

    I don’t see how taking on a student teacher would be likely to raise the performance level of a struggling teacher. My experience was that a student teacher added another layer of work to an already-full day, but maybe things are different in Minnesota.

    If early education is in need of funds, perhaps we could decrease some of the state’s tax expenditures (i.e., tax breaks) for businesses as a means of securing the necessary funding. You’ll pardon me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, though it does remind me of a line I’ve saved from years ago:

    “…a politician’s values are only discernible through their application in policy. Moral action takes knowledge and effort; intention is not enough.” — The New Republic, October 30, 2000. If early education is genuinely important to policy makers, what counts is what they DO when provided an opportunity, not what they SAY.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/01/2014 - 04:37 pm.

      Evaluating effectiveness

      Of course no one objects to the idea that student teachers should be placed with effective teachers. The problem is how you determine whether teachers are effective or not. And the answer, according to the right-wing billionaire-backed MinnCan, is student test scores. This is just another means to jack up the stakes in the high-stakes, but often arbitrary and unfair, test score-based teacher evaluations these groups want.

      I want kids to have effective teachers. I don’t want the Wal-Mart heirs to decide who those teachers are.

      • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/02/2014 - 10:51 am.

        MN evaluations have never been based solely on test scores…

        They are also based on classroom observation, student feedback and other stuff. Dan Hintz either knows this already and is setting up a straw man. Or he doesn’t know this, which means he’s inside his own propaganda loop.

        Most professionals and other employees are evaluated on their jobs. Are evaulations perfect? Never. Are evaluations a form of rocket science? No.

        Is it outrageous for teachers to be evaluated? No.

        Should student teachers to be assigned to the most effective teachers so they can learn more? Yes.

        I think the reason opponents freak out over such mild measures is that to even admit that some teachers are more effective than others is to challenge the whole framework for which are teachers have been traditionally paid, hired and laid off. Our current status quo says we can’t make any distinctions between teachers except by the date that their hired.

        And puhleez, about the “Wal-Mart” heirs—–I guess under these standards, no non-profits would exist. The ACLU, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the Children’s Defense Fund, etc, etc. -they all take donations from various corporate foundations. This is just yet another straw man and red herring to distract from the more important question—how do we deliver the best possible pubilc education to every child with our public dollars?

        • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/02/2014 - 12:33 pm.

          Dishonest response

          Someone used a straw man argument here, except that person was you, Lynell.

          At no point in my comment did I say that Minnesota evaluations were based solely on test scores. Please go back and read what I wrote – its still there. What I said was that it was the agenda of groups like Wal-Mart-backed Minncan to use student test scores to evaluate teachers. You have misrepresented my argument, and then responded to that misrepresentation. That is the definition of a straw man argument.

          I don’t have any objection to evaluating teachers. I object to having the evaluations based on student test scores. Not only are these tests a poor measurement of teacher performance, but the stakes involved have encouraged widespread cheating and have disrupted the educational process by forcing schools to focus on the tests instead of educating kids. Teachers should be evaluated, and poor teachers removed. But that evaluation and removal process needs to be accurate and fair.

          Just because an organization is a non-profit doesn’t mean that its goals are benevolent. I think its fair to look at where the money comes from for any organization with an agenda. And much of the money for MinnCan comes from the Wal-Mart heirs and other right-wing billionaires pushing a union-busting, anti-gay, right-wing agenda.

          I agree that the most important question is delievering the best public education to our children. And that is exactly why I oppose groups like MinnCan and their agenda. These people are absolutely toxic to public education. At best, they are ignorant about what really works, and at worst they are simply trying to destroy pubilc education. I know very well that Minnesota does not solely rely on student test scores to evaluate teachers, thanks to the wisdom of our legislators who have so far been able to resist the huge sums spent by the Walton children and their ilk. Because of this, Minnesota has been able to avoid a lot of the problems these other states have. Lets hope it stays that way.

          • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/02/2014 - 07:51 pm.

            Yike….you seem to be opposed to any use of test scores

            …..in evaluating teachers—not even 35 percent. Sheesh, this is an even worse argument than I originally thought you made.

            For those reading along, just to be clear, we’re talking about using value-added test scores to measure student growth. Let’s say I’m a 5th grade teacher and one of my students enters my class reading at 2nd grade level. After a year in my class, that student is now reading at 4th grade level—which means that student has made two years of progress in my class. Using value-added data, I am a superstar. But under the old No Child Left Behind rules, I’d be seen as a failure because the student still wasn’t proficient, i.e. reading at a 6th grade level. When NCLB used test scores like this, it was unfair and dumb.

            Minneapolis has been tracking value-added data in its classroom for nearly ten years. Their data shows that year after year, its highly effective teachers average a year and a half’s worth of progress or more with their students. Meanwhile (and often right across the hall), the district’s ineffective teachers average 6 months or less progress with their students.

            Which means if your kid gets an ineffective teacher two years in a row, he or she could end up being a year behind their peers across the hall—just based on the teacher.

            As a parent and taxpayer and someone who believes in the promise of public education, I think that kind of data is worth using. I don’t know why Dan finds it so threatening.

            • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/03/2014 - 12:54 pm.

              Logic fail

              The problem is that the definition of “effective” and “ineffective” teachers is based on those test scores. The reality, though, is that those scores are a poor measure of teacher effectiveness. Given the sample sizes and other variables involved, that data – as it applies to teacher effectiveness – that data is pretty close to worthless.

              The difference between us is that I want to either improve or eliminate ineffective teachers. What you want to do is randomly eliminate some teachers and arbitrarily deem them ineffective based on test scores that don’t accurately measure their effectiveness. That isn’t fair to teachers, and certainly isn’t fair to students.

              • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/03/2014 - 02:00 pm.

                But Dan, as we’ve stated before,

                evaluations aren’t based solely on value-added data, but also on classroom observation and student feedback. And that’s a good thing.

                When evaluations were only based on principals observing classes, teachers complained that this wasn’t objective because principals weren’t objective and too often were incompetent nut jobs. (And teachers had a point here)

                So I think multiple measures are best. My problem is that too often I hear defenders of the status quo argue the following:

                Feedback from principals can’t be trusted because it’s not objective and too often principals don’t know what they’re doing or they’re sociopaths

                Parent feedback can’t be trusted because parents think their kids are perfect and blame teachers for everything, plus they’re not educators, so what do they know?

                Feedback from students can’t be trusted because kids just want easy assignments, easy A’s and good movies to watch in class.

                Data can’t be trusted because it’s either wrong, biased or incomplete.

                Hence, nothing really works so seniority is the only real objective standard and the status quo should remain

                I’m glad you want to improve or eliminate ineffective teachers. We share the same goal. So how do you propose identifying those teachers? And how much time would you give them to improve? And what’s the standard for improvement and who decides?

                • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/03/2014 - 03:53 pm.

                  Again with the strawman

                  I don’t think senority is the only way to measure teachers. I think principals, teachers, parents and students all can determine if teachers are ineffective – much more so than student testing, which is totally arbitrary. And data can be trusted if used correctly, but in this context it has been badly misused.

                  • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/03/2014 - 07:45 pm.

                    Thanks for the reply, Dan.

                    It sounds like you’re down with principal, teacher, parent and student feedback— you just don’t want to use test scores. So we only disagree on one measure. Which means we’re closer than it seems

                    For the record, I think parent feedback should be used very sparingly in general and especially as students get older. Speaking as a parent, we just don’t spend much time in the classroom. And many times, we don’t know much.

                    Like I said, we don’t sound that far apart.

      • Submitted by Ariana Kiener on 04/02/2014 - 11:47 am.

        A few important clarifications

        Hi, Dan. I’d like to clarify a few quick points:

        1) The teacher evaluation system set to roll out across Minnesota in 2014-15—for which MinnCAN is a strong advocate—looks to multiple measures of effectiveness, not just student test scores. In fact, student data accounts for only 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and districts have a tremendous amount of flexibility in determining which data to use and how. MinnCAN visited dozens of high-performing schools in fall 2013, and we found that many of them have been using multiple measures—including student test scores—to evaluate teachers for years.
        2) We agree that arbitrary and unfair high-stakes tests don’t help anyone. That’s why we advocate for less—but better—testing.
        3) We couldn’t be more transparent about our funding. You can see where our money comes from—and the vast majority of it comes from local foundations—here: http://www.minncan.org/our-funders

        Let me know if you have any lingering questions or concerns. Thanks! ariana.kiener@minncan.org

        • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/02/2014 - 02:04 pm.

          Ugh

          1. I understand that testing is only going to be part of the evaluation process. Lynell misrepresented my comment to imply I thought otherwise in making her strawman argument.

          2. Your parent organization, 50Can, has pushed for arbitrary and unfair tests that in some places count for far more than 35 percent, and have led to disasterous outcomes. Its only part of the evaluation here because people have stood up to your agenda.

          3. I think you could actually be a lot more transparent about your funding. You have a long list of donors, but actually the majority comes from right-wing billionaires. Get me a list detailing how much came from each donor and then we’ll talk.

          You may care about education, but a lot of the people paying you are just interested in busting unions and destroying public education.

          • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/02/2014 - 07:35 pm.

            More distraction and conspiracy arguments

            …….heck, It’s hard to believe the that actual thing being proposed by lots of people, including parents, teachers, cimmunity leadersand non-profits, is to treat teachers like every other group of professionals and evaluate them every year, based on multiple measures. Which for teachers include classroom observation, student feedback and test scores.

            That’s the awful terrible thing that Dan is so frightened of. I don’t see how teacher evaluations are related to union busting and destroying education, which no one here seems to be proposing.

            This sounds a lot like the Republicans and Tea Party types announcing over and over again that Obamacare is going to destroy America and healthcare.

            • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/03/2014 - 12:40 pm.

              Wrong

              There is no conspiracy involved here. We actually know who is funding these groups. And the irony is that it is the same people that are funding the Tea Party types you refer to. The same people who are arguing “over and over again that Obamacare is going to destroy America and healthcare” are the ones who are pushing the MinnCan corporate education reform agenda. The arguments put forth by groups like MinnCan are no more honest than those put out by the Tea Party groups.

              You’ve got it backwards, Lynell. You are the one who is like the Tea Party types. Well, not just “like” the Tea Party types, since the Tea Party and the group you are defending are funded by the same people.

  3. Submitted by Ariana Kiener on 04/03/2014 - 01:07 pm.

    A few more thoughts…

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for the response. A few additional clarifications:

    1) 50CAN doesn’t advocate for specific policies and measures, and instead empowers local leaders to identify and achieve solutions at the local level. MinnCAN has autonomy to determine our own policy goals, work with local partners and funders, etc. From MinneMinds to our month-long statewide tour, we operate through coalitions and community and teacher engagement.
    2) From the very beginning, we wanted teacher evaluations to include multiple measures of effectiveness, not just student test scores. If anyone felt like they had to stand up to our “agenda,” they misunderstood our agenda.
    3) We pride ourselves in going above and beyond in sharing our funders, and we’re currently making our funders web page stronger (i.e., with more information). If you’d like to discuss our funding further—and if you’re open to the possibility that we’re not funded by “right-wing billionaires”—let me know. I’d be happy to meet up. Like I said in my last comment, the vast majority of our support comes from local foundations—only 4 percent comes from out-of-state.

    Thanks!

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/03/2014 - 04:17 pm.

      LOL

      Anybody who is open to the possibility that MinnCan is not funded by right-wing billionaires is either lying or delusional. Right there on the MinnCan funders page you linked to is the the Walton Foundation. That’s the Wal-Mart heirs. And is it 4 percent of funding from out-of-state, or 4 percent of funders? Until you come up with a list of how much is given by each group, your arguments can’t be taken seriously.

      Maybe it is unfair to blame MinnCan for 50Can’s work, but it is your parent organization and it (and other state subsidiaries) have pushed a very toxic and destructive agenda. The teachers who are getting arbitrarily fired by bogus testing and school districts (and ultimately students) who get their funding unfairly cut certainly understand 50Can’s agenda.

      I might give MinnCan a little more respect if you weren’t constantly holding up a convicted felon as a model charter school administrator. Seriously, do we really want someone who was convicted of felony fraud and paying himself more than any administrator in the state (and paying his secretary wife $100K) gettting public school money?

      http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/167397575.html

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