A key policy goal of MinnCAN’s inaugural legislative campaign, Minnesota School Emergency in Effect, was the creation of a barometer of teacher effectiveness: a trusted evaluation system that measures the impact of teachers on their students’ achievement. As the end of the legislative session was approaching and Democrats and Republicans were struggling to find common ground, we knew we needed to do something beyond the issue briefs and one-on-one meetings we had already done to relieve any doubt about how important this policy change was to closing Minnesota’s achievement gap and the research foundation that would help them craft great legislation.
We wanted to create a closed-door, safe space for policymakers to talk frankly with the national experts to make sure all their questions were answered and there was no reason to leave a teacher evaluation system on the table this year. So, we came up with the idea of a series of three separate forums (MinnCAN Policy Forums) where we brought Republican legislators, Democratic legislators (or the DFL as they call it in Minnesota) and grasstops leaders into the room with top teacher evaluation experts like the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Sandi Jacobs as well as some homegrown ones like the Data Quality Campaign’s Aimee Guidera.
On May 5, 2011 we held three separate policy forums for dozens of policymakers and civic leaders. The discussions were frank and smart and helped clear up misconceptions about how to develop evaluation systems and identify common ground between the parties. We then crafted compromise legislative language grounded in these discussions. Despite one of the most contentious legislative sessions in a generation, the final budget deal reached by both sides and signed into law established a statewide teacher evaluation system that uses student achievement as one measure of teacher success.