In a recent article, Minneapolis Public Schools data shows that the worst teachers are in the poorest schools, indicates that students who attend the most affluent neighborhoods are more likely to have the most experienced teachers. This new data has surfaced in the mist of a federal investigation regarding the achievement gap between White and minority students.
The Minneapolis Public Schools is one of the first districts in the state to evaluate teacher performance based on classroom observation, a student survey, and student achievement data. District and union officials believe that the evaluation system in need of improvement.
For example, the believe that Burroughs Elementary Minneapolis Public School has not benefited from the evaluation because they ranked above average in the teacher observation category, but scored below average on the student survey.
The demographics for the Burroughs Elementary Minneapolis Public School is 81% White, 9% Hispanic, 6% Black, 4% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native. The Minneapolis Public Schools administrators and union officials are implying that the evaluation instrument is flawed because it does not reflect the assumed alignment of relationships between White teachers and White students. However, it indicates a bigger problem in the school district that exist between teachers and students that the Minneapolis School Districts seems unwilling to provide an effective response.
In order to respond to this challenge, the Minneapolis Public School District has responded by firing numerous teachers last year. They have created programs to encourage effective teachers to teach at the poorest schools as well as mentoring for the newly hired teachers. If a teacher is deemed as deficient, they are provided with immediate training.
An affective response would include looking at the teacher assessment from a complete perspective. One-third of the assessment involves an administrator response to the teacher interaction with the students – classroom observation. One third of the response involves student responses to the teachers instruction – state assessment. The final response involves the students response to the teacher – student survey. The student is involved in each section of the evaluation. It imperative that the Minneapolis Public School District implement an initiative that involves improving teacher students classroom relationships instead of looking at their challenge from an economical perspective.
Classroom observations continue to contribute to already dysfunctional schools. Since a better part of the classroom observation is centered on duties other than the direct instruction between teachers and students it minimizes teacher classroom effectiveness. For a tenured teacher, there is an opportunity to rebuke any observation rating that is less than satisfactory which can include representation with a union representative. It is much different for a non-tenured teacher. A non-tenured has an opportunity to make the necessary adjustments until they become tenured.
The second part of the Minneapolis Public School teacher evaluation system includes students achievement. The district has assumed that there is link between student achievement and poverty. For decades educational reform efforts designed to increase minority student achievement have focused on economical differences instead of racial differences. Some educators believe stereo-type threat causes academic performance challenges among poor minority students. Stereotype threat results in inadequate academic performance among students who know about the historical performance of their group.
Past experiments indicate that when Black and White students were told that they were being tested on their academic abilities, White students outperformed Black students. However, when the control group was told that the tests were irrelevant the results indicated that the difference in achievement was nonexistent. While stereo-type threat has provided education with insightful information, the performance differences among minority and White students results from the racial differences that educators and minority students bring to the classroom.
The final part of the Minneapolis Public School evaluation system includes student feedback. As previously indicated, it is troubling for a school district where White students believe that White teachers underperform. If the White students believe that White teachers underperform, then that belief will be elevated by Black students due to the racial differences between White teachers and Black students.
Instead of continuing to fire teachers, which can become costly for the Minneapolis Public Schools, develop a process that bridges the racial gap between teachers and students. Since students are involved in teacher observations, it will greatly enhance the evaluator perception of the teacher. Since students are involved in students achievement, bridging the racial gap can only enhance instruction in the classroom which will ultimately impact student achievement. Finally, since students are involved in the survey process of teacher it will only enhance the overall student perception of teacher.
This type of process will ultimately save the Minneapolis Public School District millions of dollars because it will reduce teacher turnover. For each teacher that is fired from the school district it cost one and one half times the cost of that teachers salary. In the previous year the Minneapolis School District fired 200 teachers. According to NEA, the average starting salary for a teacher in Minnesota was $34,025. To rehire 200 additional teachers it cost the Minneapolis Public School District $10,207,500. Ten million dollars that could be better spent for instructional supplies for teachers and students.
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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
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