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Pawlenty unveils plan to improve education

By Karen Colbenson

kcolbenson@postbulletin.com

Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled several initiatives aimed at improving teaching, increasing accountability and providing intensive intervention for eighth-grade students struggling in math and reading.

Pawlenty traveled to several cities Tuesday to discuss the three-pronged plan, designed to improve teacher effectiveness.

"This is not a criticism of teachers. It is not teacher-bashing in any respect," Pawlenty said, adding, "As times change and practices change and things change, we need to modernize and improve our expectations for teachers in Minnesota as well. And even we can improve, even though Minnesota has done so well for so long."

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Teaching transformation

The first part of the plan, the Teaching Transformation Act, aims to recruit the best teachers to the state; improve college teaching programs; provide a more supportive working environment for teachers; and implement salary increases linked to student performance.

The plan would order schools that don’t volunteer to take part in QComp — which emphasizes merit in pay decisions — to set aside new money in teacher contracts for raises pegged to student achievement. Test scores would be the main tool for measuring that progress, and accommodations would be made for teachers in challenging environments, Pawlenty said.

As he has proposed in the past, Pawlenty would open classrooms to scientists and other professionals looking for a change in careers. They would help fill teacher shortages in math and science.

The quality of teachers helps determine the success of students, Pawlenty stated in a news release.

Secondly, the plan proposes adding training for school principals and giving them more authority in personnel decisions.

Math and reading

The third part of the plan details an intensive intervention program targeted at eighth-graders who aren’t meeting math proficiency or reading standards. The program, called "Summer of Success," would be offered outside of school during summer, between eighth and ninth grades. The program is similar to a model used in North Carolina.

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According to a news release, about 30 percent of 11th-graders in Minnesota are proficient in math, compared to 64 percent of sixth-graders. About one-third of students entering college in Minnesota require remediation in math.

Democratic Rep. Mindy Greiling, chairwoman of a House education committee, said the package doesn’t contain new ideas and frustratingly avoids the larger-picture question over school dollars.

"The governor is putting a finger in the dike, spitting in the wind," she said, "but he didn’t talk about the elephant in the room."

The Associated Press contributed to this article. A version of this story appears in today’s Austin Post-

Bulletin.

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Minnesota Department of Education http://www.education.state.mn.us/mde/index.html

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