What’s at stake: Getting to a teacher contract in Minneapolis Public Schools


2 thoughts on “What’s at stake: Getting to a teacher contract in Minneapolis Public Schools

  1.  Thanks for the story, Sheila!

    I’m the co-founder of Put Kids First Minneapolis, one of the groups that helped write the Contract for Student Achievement. Here’s a few quick comments and clarifications.

    1) Put Kids First Minneapolis DOES NOT believe teachers are the main cause of the achievement gap.

    Research shows teachers are the biggest SCHOOL-BASED factor in a student’s academic achievement. Key phrase here is school-based. Kids spend the majority of their time outside of school.  Family involvement, income, class, racism, unemployment, mobility and many other things contribute to student success or failure. As progressives, we will partner with anyone to help create a more just and equitable world.

    But we can’t control the larger world. Yet we can–and should–control who is teaching our students and make sure they have the most effective teachers available.

     Successful organizations are able to hire the best people they can find from the widest possible talent pool and dismiss chronic underperformers. Our schools deserve the same freedom.

    2) I’m glad MFT President Lynn Nordgren is asking what we can all do about poverty. However, poverty is largely out of the union’s control. I would prefer she ask what we can do to retain our most effective teachers and remove our least effective ones. These are factors over which she and the MFT have a great deal of control.

    Also, the work to end poverty will take a lifetime. We could do contract reform in a few years

    3) Minneapolis Elementary school teacher and Ph.D candidate Teferi Fufa is making some pretty wild accusations without apparently having read the Contract for Student Achievement or checked out our very clear positons. We support teachers AND teachers unions AND tenure. Here’s what we say under our FAQs:

    Q. Is this an anti-teacher group?

    No. We’re active on this issue because we believe good teachers really matter. Teaching well takes enormous intelligence, energy, organization and sheer endurance. Good teachers work their tails off. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t tried teaching.

    Q. Is this a front for some right-wing anti-union group?

    Nope. If you want to bust unions, find a different group. We believe unions can create a more just and equal world. In our perfect world, teachers would make more than lawyers and bankers, and, to achieve that, we’ll need collective bargaining…

    Q. What’s your position on teacher tenure?

    We support teacher tenure as a form of due process. We don’t want to see teachers fired because of their political views, personality conflicts with their principals or a powerful parent or false accusations, etc. If we want passionate, fearless teachers in the classroom, they need some protection.

    We do not support teacher tenure as a life-time job guarantee, regardless of performance or what students need. Again, we go back to our fundamental question of values:

    Do Minneapolis public schools exist first and foremost to provide students with the best possible education with our public dollars? Or to provide jobs to adults, regardless of their performance or what students need?

    We believe incompetent and chronically under-performing teachers need to leave the classroom and pursue other professions. We support new, multi-feedback evaluations (see our section on evaluations here) that make it easier to identify such teachers. We believe the process for removing poor teachers should be fair and fast—i.e. take less than a year…..

    You can read more on our website here.

    4) We have been observing the teacher-conract negotiations since October. (We will also be observing the principle contract negotiations when they start next year.) So far we are disappointed by the direction of the talks, which appear to be repeating the status quo  in which adult employment needs come before student academic needs. Every. Single. Time.

    In summary:

    Good teaching matters. Thousands of kids are failing.  We need change.  Call or email your school board members and push them to make this happen. (Their email addresses are available if you click here and scroll down. )

  2. I would give more creedence to the comments of Diane Ravitch and Teferi Fufa than those of Bill English and Chirs Stewart because it seems that there is more evidence to support the assertions of Ravitch and Fufa.  English’s comment is inaccuarate because the significance of a teacher is only in relation to in school factors, and does not include all of the factors out of school that impact student learning.  Furthermore, there are lots of issues about determining which teacher in a school is actually responsible for an individual students achievement.  Teaching is much more of a team effort than an individual effort, and which team a teacher is placed on is no longer something individual teachers control.

    The reasons unionization was necessary have not disappeared from our society.

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