Pawlenty wants to rewrite teacher tenure rules

  • Article by: EMILY JOHNS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2010 - 9:23 PM

Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher called the proposal "a gimmick"

Minnesota's K-12 teachers would have to reapply for teacher tenure every five years if a proposal from Gov. Tim Pawlenty is approved by the legislature.

Under the proposal, presented to the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee on Thursday, a school district would decide whether to keep a teacher every five years based on several factors, including evaluations and student test performance.

Foreshadowing that the governor's proposal is unlikely to make it through the DFL-controlled Legislature this spring, some of that party's lawmakers were quick to denounced it, saying it would dismantle teacher job security in the state.

"This bill ends tenure," Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, told Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, " ...I don't know why you took that draconian step."

Seagren said that the bill wouldn't end tenure, but that it would improve the process that teachers already follow to renew their teaching license every few years.

Currently, Minnesota teachers are on probation for three years before they are tenured, when many union job protections kick-in. Then, they need a certain number of professional development credits every few years to keep their license.

"Let's enhance that," Seagren said, "and look at a different way to do tenure renewal."

The intent, she said, is to use a fair process with multiple ways of measuring teacher success to "develop a re-tenure process."

The bill says that every five years, school districts must "either renew or terminate a teacher's service to the district," based on "a portfolio of the teacher's five-year professional growth plan." Criteria would include evaluations conducted at least three times a year, school-wide student achievement gains and student test scores.

"This is just a gimmick that the governor is throwing out," said Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers' union. "It's reform for the sake of reform, and it's not going to close the achievement gap or increase teacher quality or effectiveness."

The idea of expecting all teachers to perform well didn't sound all that crazy to Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield.

"High-performing individuals are who we want in the teaching profession," he said. "Are we really going to be concerned about teachers having to show they're still a good teacher every five years?"

Emily Johns • 612-673-7460

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