School districts could get new state funding for teacher evaluation

/ 3 April 2013 / eunice

Sarah Lemagie, Session Daily, April 3, 2013 – School districts could get state funding to help them comply with new statewide requirements for teacher evaluation. It’s unclear, though, how much money they need – and how much lawmakers are willing to give them.

The House Education Finance Committee heard testimony Wednesday morning on a bill that would fund evaluation activities related to a 2011 law that applies to districts starting in the 2014-2015 school year. Right now, that law is an unfunded mandate, said Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-Fridley), the bill’s sponsor.

HF1643 would create a new state funding formula to pay for teacher evaluation costs. The money could be used for expenses such as training peer reviewers and teacher release time.

The 2011 law requires school districts to have an evaluation plan in place by the fall of 2014. School boards can follow a state plan or develop one with local teachers, but every plan must meet certain state requirements.

“The bottom line is we can’t just put our blinders on and say it doesn’t cost any money to do this.”
Rep. Connie Bernardy(DFL-Fridley)

The plans must create a three-year review cycle for every teacher, including an individual growth and development plan, peer review, and at least one evaluation by a trained evaluator such as a school administrator. The law requires 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation results to be based on measures tied to student learning growth. It also says that districts must discipline teachers who fall short of professional standards and don’t improve over time.

Education leaders have had a hard time trying to figure out the total cost that districts across the state will incur as a result of the new law, said Kirk Schneidawind, deputy executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association. That’s partly because districts have widely diverging needs, he said: For example, some already have robust evaluation programs and will have to do less than others to meet the new statewide requirements.

The version of HF1643 that the committee discussed on Wednesday does not specify how much the state would give school districts. “The bottom line is we can’t just put our blinders on and say it doesn’t cost any money to do this,” Bernardy said.

The committee laid over HF1643 for possible inclusion in an omnibus education finance bill.

The bill has a Senate companion sponsored by Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley). SF1477 was scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday morning in the E-12 Division of the Senate Finance Committee.