When teachers succeed, they do too

Studies show that after parents, teachers have the biggest impact on student success. That's why we are transforming Minnesota's system of education in order to recruit, retain and retrain the best teachers. As a part of that effort, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislators in 2005 created Q Comp to enhance professional development, evaluate performance and reward quality teachers.

Although it has had some critics, Q Comp has been praised by educators, policymakers and leaders from both major political parties, including President Obama.

In order to provide a more complete look at Q Comp, I want to share some key points that weren't fully covered in recent articles and editorials.

• Q Comp is modeled after the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), a program that has demonstrated improvement in teacher performance and student achievement in schools around the country. By modeling Q Comp after a proven program like TAP, we are confident we will replicate that success in Minnesota. An indication we are on the right track came from independent research that found "there is a significant and positive relationship between the number of years a school has been implementing Q Comp and student achievement."

• Q Comp is more than just a pay for performance program. It also aims to improve student performance by improving teacher training and professional development. As Fridley School District Superintendent Mark Robertson has pointed out, "Q Comp has had a transformational impact on the Fridley School District. It has helped our staff focus on student achievement goals, provided structure for high-quality professional development and has helped change the culture of our schools, with an increased emphasis on teaching and learning."

• Q Comp is part of a larger reform effort to help transform our education system in order to prepare every Minnesota student for success after high school. Combined with reforms to create a great focus on academic rigor, improve teacher training programs and increase accountability, Q Comp is helping us achieve that goal.

Q Comp is a significant change from a longstanding, and outdated, system of teacher training and compensation. But, as Winston Churchill once said, "There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction."

In a hyper-competitive world that demands much of Minnesota graduates, Q Comp will help prepare more students for success after high school.

That's a change in the right direction.

Alice Seagren is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education.