January is prime launch season here at 50CAN. Earlier this month we welcomed two new CANs into the fold (NYCAN and MarylandCAN), and today we celebrated as MinnCAN: The Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now launched it’s 2012 legislative campaign, The Playbook for Education in Minnesota. MinnCAN had a great run in 2011, winning all three of its policy goals in its first campaign, Minnesota School Emergency in Effect, and now the team is back and ready to fight just as hard this year for the second phase of Minnesota’s education transformation.
MinnCAN kicked off its campaign launch in a “warming house” in front of the state capital, where more than 200 parents, students, teachers, legislators and community leaders gathered to talk about the need for continued education reform in Minnesota.
As Executive Director Vallay Varro said in her campaign launch speech, “By 2018, more than 900,000 new jobs will open up in Minnesota as baby boomers retire. By the same year, a whopping 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some level of higher education. Unfortunately, today, 40 percent of Minnesota high school graduates require remedial or developmental coursework before they can even enter a university. This is simply NOT acceptable.”
Building on the incredible momentum of last year and the findings of the second annual State of Minnesota Public Education report, The Playbook for Education in Minnesota calls on Minnesotans to join them in advocating for three policy plays to help Minnesota defeat its achievement gap:
Play #1: Prize first-string teachers: Keep high-performing teachers in the game
In 2011, Minnesota passed its first statewide teacher evaluation framework (law HF-26), which will provide school leaders and districts with a trusted system to make personnel decisions based on teacher performance. This critical step forward, however, is not enough. Right now decisions about who to hire, promote or even lay off when faced with budget deficits are based solely on seniority. The creation of an evaluation system will only drive gains in student achievement if it’s connected with common sense reforms to Minnesota’s teacher tenure law so the system is used to reward quality.
This teacher evaluation system needs to be used to ensure that a great teacher teaches every child. This principle means awarding tenure to teachers who demonstrate their effectiveness. It also means moving from a layoff system that focuses only on years on the job to one that retains the most successful employees.
Play #2: Scout Minnesota’s MVPs: Most Valuable Principals
Academic research shows that next to the quality of instruction that teachers offer, the quality of the principal is the second most influential in-school factor for improving student outcomes. To ensure that an effective school leader leads every school, Minnesota needs a comprehensive principal evaluation system. In 2011, the Minnesota legislature mandated the creation of a work group to develop just that model. The legislature and the governor must work together in 2012 to ensure that every Minnesota principal is judged upon a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation grounded in the performance of their school, with a majority of a principal’s evaluation based on student learning and teacher performance. Minnesota’s schools, our teachers, and most importantly, our students need principals capable of ensuring that all kids achieve at the highest levels. They are Minnesota’s MVPs: Most Valuable Principals.
Play #3: Launch the achievement power play
In hockey, a power play is when your team has a numerical advantage on the ice. More great athletes dramatically shift the odds in your favor. The same principle applies in education. The more great schools, the better the chance of meeting the needs of every Minnesota student. But right now the opposite is true: too few great schools means too many children are at risk of failure. The result is widening achievement gaps and lackluster achievement gains. Minnesota needs to change these odds by scaling school models with proven results and holding accountable those that prevent children from receiving the kind of education they deserve. To renew our focus on innovation, MinnCAN will provide report cards for all schools, showcase superstar schools, call for the closure of persistently low-performing schools and seed an achievement kick-start fund. By scaling up school models with proven results, we can put Minnesota back on top and ensure that all Minnesota children have an equal opportunity for a great public education.
To find out how you can get in the game and join The Playbook for Education in Minnestoa, visit www. MinnesotaPlaybook.org.