How does a number get carved in stone? – Update for March 16

/ 16 March 2012 / jennifer

Monday morning, April 16, 2012

10th Annual Parent Leadership Summit

“Minnesota by the Numbers – What does it mean for education?”

Register now!

This Week at the Capitol – Update for March 12-16

From Twitter feed: HF1870/SF1690 Last in First out bill conference committee will meet March 19 at noon

One component of the teacher evaluation bill negotiated last year requires 35% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student performance data. Where that 35% number came from is not clear, in fact one senator commented “it was plucked from the air!”

What is clear is that 35% is now THE number carved in stone, as if it is based on research, on evidence, or at the very least the likelihood that using one third of student performance data for teacher evaluations will increase student learning. In a game of “What’s good for the goose….” proposed legislation is requiring this same 35% of student performance data be used in principal evaluations.

This bill, SF2213, moved onto the Senate floor for passage. The Senate Education committee discussion was so rich, the March 12 hearing is a good one to listen to (MP3 file; requires a media player).

What does the research say? 

The proponents made the case that since this requirement is in law for teachers, it should be required for principal evaluations. The opponents argued that while use of student data is at the heart of evaluation, there is no research that linking student performance data to evaluation has any impact on achievement.

Dave Adney, Minnetonka High School Principal was compelling as he testified that education research drives the educational practices in Minnetonka and when you look at the research there is “no education research that we get a better product by tying a percent of student performance to evaluations. In fact, there is compelling research that says don’t do it!”

Also in testimony, an issue brief developed by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association and Minnesota Association of School Administrators referenced the following research:

  • An April 2011 Brookings Institution report noted: “no consensus on the degree to which teacher evaluations should be based on student gains or tests; and that “primary concern is reliability of the evaluation system as a whole, and teacher performance measures should be judged based on the degree to which they accurately measure teacher performance over time, or how reliably they can predict teacher effectiveness.”

  • A Rand report which identified a state’s challenge to “policymakers must consider how teachers will be held accountable for students who receive instruction from multiple teachers in the same subject in a given year”

  • A 2011, National Council on Teacher Quality report showed “23 states required that teacher evaluations include objective evidence of student learning in the form of student growth and/or value-added data, and in 14 states teacher evaluations are tied explicitly to student performance. While additional states have begun to include a student achievement growth percentage in teacher evaluation systems, many have either not yet begun implementation (including Minnesota), or are early in the adoption process.”

Further “One of those early adopters, Delaware in its original teacher evaluation plans included a provision that would at least partially judge the performance of teachers on the student test scores for subjects they did not teach. That provision was eliminated in January. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported in late February, ‘Delaware’s struggle may foreshadow complications… other states [will] face as they follow suit.’ ”

Other bill actions of interest

  • HF2083 (Garofalo-R-Farmington) The House Education Finance bill was heard in Taxes, had its second reading on the House floor and was re-referred to the House Ways and Means committee. (A bill needs to be read three times on the chamber floor before final passage) Multiple efforts to place a Tax committee minority report in front of the body were systemically defeated along party lines.
  • SF1656 (Erickson-R-Princeton) High school graduation requirements and academic standards revision authorization required by the legislature. Passed off the Senate floor on March 1 and on March 14 was brought to the House floor and recommended to pass. This bill requires the Commissioner of Education to seek legislative approval for the revision of academic standards. This would be a departure from current law and restrict the commissioner’s existing authority. You may remember 2004-05 and the politicizing that occurred while developing Minnesota’s academic standards.

A Look Ahead

The end of the session is coming quickly. The intended schedule calls for adjournment on April 30 and a recess the week of April 7. Bills are being added and removed from hearing schedules at a remarkable rate so committees can fulfill bill deadlines. Expect busy meetings, long nights and a potpourri of bills.

Both House Education Reform and Senate Education said they would not be developing omnibus bills. This means education bills that will make it to the Governor’s desk will have to move on their own to the floor.

Ask Your Legislators! Question/Comment of the Week

One of the best ways to be a successful advocate is to build a relationship with your locally elected officials. Get in the habit of emailing them once a week. Share a story about your child’s school, express your opinion or ask them a question. To help you out, we will provide a question each week that is relevant to current legislation. Please feel free to use, or not!

What can I say to or ask of my legislators?

Which of the education issues proposed this session most interest you? What is your position on those issues?

Bills to watch

  • HF2083 (Garofalo-R-Farmington) the House Education Finance bill has passed off the House floor.
  • SF1656 (Erickson-R-Princeton) High school graduation requirements and academic standards revision authorization required by the legislature. This bill requires the Commissioner of Education to seek legislative approval for the revision of academic standards.
  • HF2840 (Mariani-DFL-St. Paul) A bill for an act relating to education; implementing integration revenue replacement advisory task force recommendations; repurposing integration revenue by establishing the “Achievement and Integration for Minnesota” program to increase student performance and equitable educational opportunities and prepare all students to be effective citizens. This bill was introduced on March 14 and has been referred to Education Finance. It is now in the hands of Chair Garofalo to hear the bill or not.

Click here for more bills to watch and a complete list of education bills heard so far this session.

Constitutional Amendments

Throughout the session we have used this space to share information that we have found about states that have passed constitutional tax amendments. There is a preponderance of data that shows these tax restrictions put a great deal of pressure on local property taxes—seemingly a direct contradiction of the intent.

Lately, the conversation about potential “supermajority amendments” has been overshadowed by attempts to place Voter ID and now Right-to-Work amendments on the November ballot.

What Can I Do?

  1. Read this update!
  2. Send it on to two friends, and ask them to sign on to receive and read the updates.
  3. Become a friend of Parents United on Facebook.
  4. Follow Mary’s tweets.

Forward this on to encourage others to Learn • Network • Act!


It is always good to check At the Capitol often to see what’s on the agenda and check to make sure the meeting is still scheduled.

If you are interested in attending a committee meeting and would like to meet with me at the same time, just email me at to arrange it.


New @ the WebsiteSeveral very interesting articles worth reading

I heard a lobbyist the other day say, “Everyone is talking about education—what’s up?” I have to agree, it seems like a great deal of attention is being focused on education reform and who is paying for it.

  • School reform free-for-all has the cash flying – Nonprofits and interests from both ends of the political spectrum are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into reform initiatives, and hundreds of companies — for profit and nonprofit alike — are scrambling for a share of the hundreds of billions spent annually educating students in kindergarten through grade 12, Star Tribune, March 10, 2012.
  • No Funds Left Behind – As states slash education budgets, private foundations have picked up the slack—and pushed some controversial reforms, The American Prospect, March 12, 2012.
  • Relief, but not much: How forecasted surplus will affect schools – Scroll down past the budget stuff (that’s old news) to the handful of links Beth Hawkins has decreed required reading. She expects you to click through and there will be a quiz, MinnPost, March 8, 2012.
  • Firing of D.C. teacher reveals flaws in value-added evaluation – The firing of a D.C. teacher called “creative,” “visionary” and “motivating” is the latest example of the many things wrong with value-added methods to evaluate teachers, the newest trend in school reform that is sweeping states with a push from the Obama administration, Washington Post, March 7, 2012.
  • Parents United’s Executive Director Mary Cecconi to Receive Distinguished Service Award from the Minnesota Association of School Administrators – “Mary has inspired countless parents to make their voices heard, at both the local and state levels. The Board is extremely proud of Mary and grateful to MASA for its recognition of her dedication to helping families of public school children to understand how education policy is made as well as her commitment to holding decision-makers accountable for the education policies they advance,” Craig Roen, board president of Parents United for Public Schools, March 15, 2012. (Feel free to email Mary; she doesn’t know we snuck this into the update.)
Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
www.parentsunited.orgEmail Mary at</p>

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