Column: Education reform is a top priority for 2012Those who know me well understand that I am passionate about K-12 education. As a former school board member, and as the current vice chair of the House Education Finance Committee, I have tried to make a positive impact in the lives of our children and those who teach them.
By: Rep. Tim Kelly, The Republican Eagle
Those who know me well understand that I am passionate about K-12 education. As a former school board member, and as the current vice chair of the House Education Finance Committee, I have tried to make a positive impact in the lives of our children and those who teach them.
But it’s clear that if our kids are going to receive the world-class education they desire and deserve, Minnesota is going to need to reform its education system.
In 1992, national assessments showed that Minnesota was a top leader in the performance of our students in reading. Twenty years later, 24 states have passed us because our reading scores have remained flat.
Our achievement gap also remains a persistent problem. These statistics simply cannot continue.
In our House education committees, we spend a great deal of time looking at ways we can improve. By analyzing the high performing systems across the United States and the world, we find that their teachers receive continued development, which improves their instruction and ultimately student outcomes. We also notice that they raise standards, as well as measure and report their outcomes, creating accountability.
A number of studies have found that effective teaching is the No. 1 school-based driver to improve student achievement. One study in Tennessee found that if two 8-year-old students were given different teachers -- one teacher a high performer, the other a low performer – their performance diverged more than 50 percentile points (almost three grade levels) within three years.
This is why the Legislature has been focused on education reform that improves teacher effectiveness.
Recently, the Minnesota House approved a bill that addresses this issue. The legislation removes statutory language requiring school districts to focus solely on employee’s seniority during layoffs, and elevates teacher performance when a district is forced to eliminate employees.
In other words, the last one hired shouldn’t automatically be the first one fired.
This is good common sense for any job position – teaching or otherwise. Seniority should not be the only reason you keep your job if layoffs need to occur. Currently if you’re the most effective teacher, but not among the longest-tenured in your district – you’d be out of a job solely because of the date you were hired. Job effectiveness needs to be the driver of those decisions.
Let’s be clear; we have many tenured teachers who are among the most effective in our schools and would be the natural leaders of the teaching corps. This bill does not remove seniority from the discussion altogether, because there is value for a district to have experienced teachers who know their school well. But it does say seniority can no longer be the only provision a district can take into account if it is forced to make retention decisions.
Further, to those that say this bill would lead to school boards making purely financial decisions, you should remember that we’re trying to do what’s best for the kids, not what’s best for the district’s pocketbook. This is one of many bills designed with the children’s best interests in mind and helping the education product improve. It’s also important to remember that there is a chain of command with administration and school boards. I have complete faith that they will do what is in the best interest of our children.
This is one of the first bills that will address education reform this session, and there will be several more designed to improve student achievement debated on the House floor.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Mark Dayton highlighted many reforms approved last year in education that I’d worked on for the past two years, areas such as accountability, measurement, and evaluation. I was pleased with his support then and am hopeful his support for education reform will continue in 2012. The test scores prove Minnesota can no longer afford to be complacent, and that the time for action is now.
Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, can be reached at 651-380-4345 or email@example.com.