The union position makes sense (or not)

There are no obstacles to taking an alternative pathway into the teaching profession (“State Board of Teaching needs to hear our voices,” June 22). The teachers union does not promote Teach for America because of that program’s limited training, lack of practicums and low levels of accountability. In fact, there are programs (for example, at the University of Minnesota) that take professionals with degrees in other fields and put them through a rigorous training over the course of 15 months before placing them into the profession. How is TFA’s five-week crash course even remotely comparable?

I applaud the state Board of Teaching for upholding the rigor and integrity of the profession. The stark reality lies in the fact that TFA is undermining the profession by allowing a fast track into teaching. Allowing graduates with a 2.5 GPA doesn’t seem to fit with having a highly qualified licensed educator in every classroom. TFA founder Wendy Kopp would better serve the public by increasing both the rigor and training of future leaders in education. Simply hiding behind the buzzword “achievement gap” is not a reason to allow future educators to cheat their way into the profession. If we do, then it is TFA’s initiative that will become detrimental to our state’s future.


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Readers should know that the June 19 editorial “Teach For America faces new obstacle” cited a very controversial study to buttress its opinion that Minnesota needs alternative pathways to teacher preparation. That study, by the National Council on Teacher Quality, concluded that, nationally, university educational programs are an “industry of mediocrity” and that they “churn out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms.”

Both the editorial and the council conclude that alternatively trained teachers from Teach for America program could offset this problem. Much has been written about the weaknesses of the NCTQ study. A shortlist includes: a poor participation rate among colleges surveyed (less than 10 percent), insufficient research grounding for rated standards (four of 18 standards have a research base) and the failure to evaluate graduates’ competence and efficacy (the study looks only at input as expressed in course syllabi and textbooks, not skill level of graduates).

Linda Darling-Hammond, writing on the online forum EdSource Today, says: “The ratings published in this report are based on partial and often inaccurate data, and fail to evaluate teacher education quality.” This study is a weak foundation for the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s opinion.


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After reading the June 24 counterpoint “True teacher prep deserves its due,” I am nearly speechless. The author unwittingly sums up everything that’s wrong with the current school system in the article. We know that the licensure process is very long and challenging; we know that union pay scales favor senior teachers at the expense of new teachers (regardless of ability), and we know that existing teachers enjoy these job obstacles because they help protect their jobs. However, that system is not working for all students. That is the reason Teach for America was created.

I have yet to see a single argument against the TFA program that even hints at a solution to the achievement gap that can be found in the current educational monopoly. Instead, it is the typical scaremongering tactics of unionized teachers who are more concerned about potential labor competition than they are about serving underachieving students.

JACOB WYFFELS, Minneapolis

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State once had such a planning function

As a former director of Minnesota Planning, I was interested in the commentary by Peter Heegaard and Angie Eilers (“So is that $38 billion well-spent?” June 24) calling for the creation of an institute to measure the quality of our state spending. Rather than create a new entity, it would be well for the governor to reestablish the former planning office.

Under Gov. Arne Carlson, the planning function was streamlined to focus on the strategic and long-term aspects of public policy. Minnesota Milestones, which measured outcomes, was a centerpiece and led to performance budgeting in state government. There were also special progress reports relating to children, education, the environment, corrections, etc.

Overall, these efforts gained a variety of national awards, including excellence in financial management and the state’s AAA bond rating.

We would all be better served with this long-term focus.


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And then there’s simply being alert

In response to June 25 Letter of the Day about cyclists who don’t alert pedestrians when passing on the trails: As a rider who has observed a majority of people wearing headphones and earbuds, I have given up trying to alert anyone of my passing. I approach carefully, then pass as widely as possible. Last week, I attempted to pass two runners who were taking up almost the entire path, so I passed on the grass, only to have one of them yell at me to warn them when I approached. Then there are the dogs on long leashes, but I digress …


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It seems all modes of transportation (foot, bicycle, skateboard, scooter, motorcycle or car) have their share of jerks. No amount of rules of the road (or path) education can teach us to treat each other better, mind the law and to pay attention to your surroundings.

SONJA ELIAS, Minneapolis