Press Releases

For Immediate Release: January 3, 2012

Contact: Doug Dooher, Education Minnesota, 651-292-4820

Keith Hovis, Minnesota Department of Education, 651-582-8275

Paul Jean, The VIVA Project, 617-482-0042

Minnesota Department of Education Partners with Education Minnesota to Hear Minnesota Teachers’ Ideas about Principal and Teacher Evaluation

January 3, 2012 (Minneapolis)—Education Minnesota (EdMN) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) have formed a joint venture with The VIVA Teachers’ Project to conduct an online “Idea Exchange” to get teachers’ ideas about designing and implementing Minnesota’s new principal and teacher evaluation systems.

This partnership builds on the education reform agenda set forth by the Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota State Legislature this past year. A key component of that agenda is ensuring that every Minnesota student has a great school, a great teacher and a great principal. Supporting and evaluating our teachers and leaders and giving them meaningful feedback is essential to our vision of world-class, nation leading schools in Minnesota. This feedback will assist in updating and creating new professional standards and supports for school educators that make sense and get results.

Through this “Idea Exchange,” teachers across the state – professionals who hold the great responsibility of striving every day to educate our youth – will ensure their voices are heard. Their input will be invaluable during the process of developing these evaluation systems.

The Idea Exchange operates online in two phases. Made possible through a $61,000 grant from the Bush Foundation, Phase I will include a moderated brainstorming session where Minnesota teachers will be asked to share their ideas about the role of a school principal as well as his or her impact on student and teacher performance, and exchange wisdom gained from their classroom experience. During Phase II, a small collaborative made up of teachers, will summarize and synthesize the ideas into a written report. Members of the writing collaborative will be chosen based on technology-driven quantitative analysis of the quantity and quality of their participation in Phase I. They will present their recommendations during an in-person meeting with the Governor Dayton and MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius in February.

“Teacher voice in decisions that impact them is critical. This project will help us bring the conversation to all our teachers across the state. Principals and teachers work together every day on behalf of our kids, and this innovative strategy to bring professional voices and opinions into our decision-making process will help us ensure more robust meaningful evaluations,” MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “We are excited to be at the forefront, using technology to engage our teachers and gain their input in this very important discussion. We are especially pleased to partner with Education Minnesota as we continue to model collaboration that works for teachers, principals and our Minnesota students.”

The VIVA Teacher Project recently completed an Idea Exchange for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in which Chicago Public School teachers offered 49 innovative ideas for how to better use time in school as a part of Chicago’s plan to revamp the school calendar and day next year. CPS is currently using their report as a primary resource in redesigning the school calendar.

According to Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher, "Teachers are the key component to student success, and the voices of teachers are critical in helping to build learning environments that will help students reach their potential. We are excited that the VIVA Idea Exchange will allow authentic classroom ideas and experience to be recognized and shared with policy makers and the public. This project represents a great opportunity to engage our members on how to best evaluate principals and their leadership.”

About Education Minnesota

Education Minnesota represents 70,000 professionals working together for excellence in education for all students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and educational support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

About the Minnesota Department of Education

In the last year, the Department of Education has taken great strides in ensuring high quality education for all youth. Under the leadership of Commissioner Cassellius, MDE has worked collaboratively to provide all Minnesota children with the equitable opportunities necessary to succeed in school and in life. Key agency efforts include applying and receiving a Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Education, implementing new teacher and principal evaluation and alternative teacher licensure laws enacted during the 2011 special session, and working with the Legislature on bipartisan early literacy initiatives. Commissioner Cassellius has also been a leading voice in Minnesota’s efforts to create a better accountability system for Minnesota schools, acting early to secure a waiver from elements of the current No Child Left Behind law and positioning Minnesota as an early contender among 37 other states applying for similar waivers.

About The VIVA Project

The VIVA Project is operated by New Voice Strategies, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality and reach of government service by engaging front line professionals and citizens in key policy decisions. The VIVA Teachers’ Project was created to raise the level of classroom teachers’ voices in education policy. As a neutral third party, VIVA partners with local stakeholders, advocates and public officials seeking to make positive change in their public education system.

Media Contacts:

• Doug Dooher, Education Minnesota, 651.292.4820, douglas.dooher@educationminnesota.org
• Keith Hovis, MDE, 651.582.8275, keith.hovis@state.mn.us
• Paul Jean, The VIVA Project, 617.482.0042