Sunday, August 14, 2005

Kelley to get teacher’s union endorsement

It’s only a prediction, but I’d say it’s a pretty decent one.

DFL gubernatorial candidate Sen. Steve Kelley wrote an op-ed today for the Star Tribune. In it, Kelley begrudgingly accepts Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Q-Comp (performance based pay) initiative, but then backpedals on it.

Steve Kelley: Young teachers should gain most from Q-Comp

The collaborative design of Minnesota's new alternative teacher pay guidelines has the potential to significantly improve the way educators are paid.

Under the legislation, schools can receive more funds if the local teachers' union and the district agree on the scope and design of an alternative teacher professional pay system. A key requirement is that collaboration -- 60 percent of teacher pay increases would be based on performance measures developed and agreed to by teachers.

While the traditional steps-and-lanes pay method, based on seniority and professional education, has worked well, it doesn't always provide teachers with the tools or incentives to try new teaching methods or to give young teachers opportunities to learn from more senior educators.

Educators working together is more important than ever; as our student population has changed, so have the dynamics of the classroom. That means teaching strategies must change, too. We hope that a well-designed alternative compensation system can help head us in the right direction.

Teachers have been concerned that any new pay for performance model could create nonproductive competition among colleagues. That is not the intent of the new incentive. Q-Comp specifically encourages collaborative efforts; one of the defined ways of measuring performance is to look at whole-school achievement gains, rather than individual student or classroom test scores. That will encourage teachers to work in teams.

The emphasis on teacher training will ultimately have the strongest effect on student achievement.

I do not believe that individual teachers will teach harder or better because of so-called performance pay. Most teachers already go the extra mile for their students.

However, the increased pay may encourage teachers into taking on new responsibilities. It will allow teachers to take more time to work with each other to improve their skills and student achievement. This is especially helpful for young teachers who benefit from the experience and success of senior teachers. Retaining young teachers is important now as our schools face a wave of retirements in a few years.

This professional pay plan also encourages districts to use a variety of ways to measure student achievements. Testing will be part of the evaluation but not the only method to assess student progress. I hope teachers and districts will incorporate locally developed assessments to measure student public/debate speaking ability and growth in musical or artistic accomplishment as part of a broad student achievement model.

The success of the alternative pay initiative will depend on flexibility and innovation in how it is implemented. Gov. Tim Pawlenty's commitment to only one model, the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) advocated by the Milken Foundation, could undermine the success of professional pay.

Teachers in Waseca, Minn., who have implemented TAP have expressed concerns that the many teacher evaluations are intrusive and burdensome. Any alternative pay system has to work to the benefit of teachers and students if it is to be successful and sustainable in Minnesota schools.

Implementing alternative pay on a statewide basis cannot happen overnight; that is why the Senate pushed to give districts time to develop plans that would work. A top-down, one-size-fits-all model won't succeed with our diverse school districts and changing student demographics.

I expect Minnesotans to try many different models. Therefore, the Education Department must be flexible enough to permit experimentation.

Our state is about to journey down a new road and it may take a few years to determine the results. Yet as our schools face ever-increasing challenges, our teachers must be prepared and rewarded for their efforts in the best way possible.
(Source: Star Tribune, August 14, 2005)

Steve Kelley’s allegiance to the teacher’s union, not to mention defending the status quo in education, will surely grant him the endorsement of the teacher’s union. This goes to show that Mike “F-ing” Hatch doesn’t quite have the endorsement locked up.


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