Minn. Chamber fails to use common sense

Published 9:40 am Friday, June 11, 2010

Education Minnesota believes our state should be putting the very best-trained teachers into our classrooms. Our state became a national leader in education in part because we hold our teachers to the highest standards.

Minnesota is at or near the best in the nation in many measures of student achievement. Our ACT scores are the highest in America, and our graduation rates are among the country’s best. But we must do better to raise up the students who struggle.

That’s why Education Minnesota has put forward a detailed, research-based plan to close the state’s achievement gap. We’ve proposed a bill that focuses resources on schools where students struggle the most by creating Centers for Teaching Excellence in those schools. Our plan includes smaller class sizes, concentrated social services in the school buildings, longer school days or school years, more recruitment of teachers of color, and increased outreach to get parents more involved in the process.

Email newsletter signup

Unfortunately, there are those who would pursue a different course. Such is the case with Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President David Olson’s recent column regarding alternative licensure of Minnesota teachers.

At the latest session of the Legislature, Olson and others pushed hard for a program known as Teach for America. That program takes new college graduates, provides five weeks of training in “how to be a teacher” then puts them in full charge of a classroom.

And not just any classroom. Such alternatively licensed instructors would be put into classrooms where students struggle the most. These instructors might even be allowed to teach classes they didn’t major in at college. A majority of Minnesota lawmakers wisely recognized this was the wrong path. Yet Olson promises to try again.

He and others would have parents and the public believe that somehow such instructors can perform better than highly-trained teachers, and somehow eliminate the achievement gap between white students and students of color. It defies logic and Minnesota common sense to think that’s possible. It also defies research from Stanford University, which flatly states such programs don’t close the achievement gap. There are many alternatively licensed teachers who’ve written articles about their experiences, admitting they weren’t ready to teach and saying they felt sorry for the students under their care.

All of Minnesota’s children deserve the best education we can provide. As we move forward, it’s critical that we apply research and Minnesota common sense to Minnesota’s challenges, and do all we can to resist the temptation to seize on easy answers to complicated problems.

Tom Dooher


Education Minnesota

St. Paul