Letter to Susan Ohanian (not yet published)
As a school
board candidate in Minneapolis, MN I am emphasizing the issue of high teacher turnover in most schools serving high-poverty,
high-minority neighborhoods. That is because I believe that differences in education-related outcomes between racial
groups, and between high and low income students is more a reflection of differences in school characteristics (educational
inputs) than students background characteristics (innate ability of students).
The Minneapolis School District saves
tens of millions of dollars in teacher payroll expenses annually by having a revolving door for low-seniority, low paid teachers.
In 2004 there were 455 probationary teachers (employed for less than 3 full years), which included about one-fourth of regular
Ed teachers and one-third of special Ed teachers. Yet, more than 20% of the teacher positions
that were filled in 2001
had been cut.
The School Board keeps teacher turnover rates insanely high by sending layoff notices to lots of teachers
who are not going to be laid off. Many of those teachers have to be replaced. For example, in 2004 the Board sent layoff notices
to 608 teachers, but actually planned to layoff about 150 licensed, classroom teachers. In 2005 the Board sent layoff notices
to 575 teachers, but actually planned to lay off about 100.
I propose that the Board refrain from sending lay off to
teachers who are certainly not going to get laid off. I also advocate modifications in the teacher assignment system (in the
teachers contract) so that teachers with less than 5 years recent teaching experience are more evenly distributed throughout
the district's schools / programs. For example, teachers with less than 5 years
current experience might be designated
as "teachers in training." I am opposed to watering down teacher tenure and seniority rights beyond what would be minimally
required to phase in teacher in training positions.
Insanely high teacher turnover rates are a serious obstacle to
improving student achievement and closing the academic achievement gap. We can't expect to close the gap in outcomes without
closing the gap in inputs.
For more information about my campaign, go to
2006 Minneapolis School Board Candidate