Teacher quality conversations, started by teachers, sustained by communities


It may seem like a no-brainer, but teachers are often left out of conversations about the quality of their work. For as much attention as policies like linking teacher evaluations or pay to test scores get, there’s not nearly the same focus on what can be done to help teachers improve. Fortunately, teachers are working to gather feedback and ideas from communities across the state. A couple weeks ago in Rochester, Education Minnesota—the state’s teachers’ union—kicked off a statewide tour of community conversations around teacher quality. The next conversation is scheduled for Thursday, December 12, in Brooklyn Park.

[Full disclosure: I am a graduate of Rochester’s Century High School and have worked for the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, a local affiliate of Education Minnesota.]

The Rochester conversation began with a panel including students, teachers, a parent, a Winona State administrator, and a member of the Rochester Diversity Council. After the panel, the 58 attendees split into small groups to discuss ideas. The Rochester ideas will be combined with those generated at upcoming meetings in Brooklyn Park, Saint Paul, Bemidji, and Duluth.

The panel and discussion topics included teachers’ flexibility in supporting students’ varied learning styles, communication between families and teachers, the use of mentors and instructional coaches in the Rochester Public Schools to help teachers at all experience levels improve their practice, and efforts to keep up with the ever-advancing set of technologies available to teachers and students.

While this kind of work may not be as flashy as putting together a slick campaign for a policy, it is the kind of collaboration and outreach that we should support. Even if it doesn’t fit the dominant narrative, it’s important to highlight and celebrate teachers’ unions taking responsibility for their members’ quality and working with communities to ensure teachers are meeting the needs of the students and families they serve.

If you’re in the metro area (or up for a commute) and want to be part of the next conversation, it’s at Park Center Senior IB World School in Brooklyn Park (7300 Brooklyn Boulevard) on Thursday, December 12th. The next conversation after that is on January 28 at the Wellstone Center at Neighborhood House in Saint Paul (179 Robie St. E). The online registration form is available on this page.