Bernadeia Johnson: Teachers in struggling schools have the lowest average performance


A communication from Bernadeia Johnson to Minneapolis Public School teachers informs them of a pending story in the Star Tribune that might show teachers in struggling schools have the lowest average performance. The implications are huge.

For years MPS has endured battles of equity among competing school constituencies, with those in wealthier parts of town accused of using politics to gain advantages for their schools. This includes the ability to get poor performing teachers removed. Those teachers are suspected to end up in poorer schools where the political power of parents is routinely defeated by district brass.

The revelation that Minneapolis may be housing its least effective teachers in schools with high populations of poor children of color follows national research that shows students who need the best teachers often get the least effective their districts have to offer.

To that end a study from the Center for American Progress has found that the “data confirms previous findings—in many places, poor children and children of color are less likely to be taught by a highly effective teacher.”

Here is Johnson’s letter to teachers:


I believe one of the most critical factors in improving student achievement is through the continued development of our teaching force. You are doing the highest-impact work in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), and it is my job to ensure that you have the tools and resources you need to excel in your role.

I want you to be aware that the Star Tribune recently requested and received aggregate teacher evaluation data. We are required by the Minnesota Data Practices Act to comply with the data request.

MPS’ General Counsel was in communication with attorneys from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) to determine the level of information that we were required to release in accordance with state law.

We expect the Star Tribune to publish its story in this Sunday’s paper.

I know you are working extremely hard to prepare our students for their futures. Teaching is a selfless profession that takes heart and demands greatness, and you deserve credit for choosing to dedicate your lives to our students. We all know that a strong education is a gateway to infinite possibilities. I visit many classrooms throughout the school year, and I am inspired by your quality work and commitment to our students’ futures.

Our interest is to support you to be the best possible teacher you can be. Throughout the data request process, we made it a priority to protect our teachers’ privacy. I want to be clear that individual teachers cannot be identified in the data, and that only school-level data was provided to the Star Tribune.

 The data provided to the Star Tribune represent information generated for school reporting purposes from Standards of Effective Instruction (SOEI) observations and student surveys. These reports, along with school-level aggregate value-added data, represent a good-faith effort to fulfill the Star Tribune’s data request.

It is my understanding that the newspaper may publish a map that displays average teacher performance by school, which will show that schools in high-poverty areas have lower average teacher performance.

 This type of map does not accurately reflect the diversity in skill and performance of our teachers. The story will likely include the status and significance of teacher evaluation at state and national levels.

The newspaper does not represent MPS’ interests or my personal views, so I want you to hear from me about why our teacher evaluation system is important to the success of our teachers and students.

The system is one of several components needed to make the appropriate systemic changes to accelerate growth, but more importantly, it’s in place to support all of you. The teacher evaluation system helps us:
· Identify teachers who are making significant gains with all of our students, especially our lowest-performing students so that we can learn about and replicate your practices.

It also helps us identify teachers who are not making gains with students;
· Give you meaningful feedback to strengthen your teaching and provide you with targeted professional development to support your professional growth;
· Recruit highly-effective teachers to coach and mentor colleagues; and
· Build stronger and more effective teacher teams and schools

I hear from many of you that you welcome the opportunity to develop and strengthen your skills. You take pride in your work, and you want to be the best teacher possible for your students. This is the type of mindset and expectation I have of all of our teachers.

 On occasion, there are teachers who struggle, and we provide help for them to improve or transition them out of the profession.
Many MPS teachers have been involved in the creation and implementation of our teacher evaluation system. We couldn’t have built this system without your engagement and input.

As with any big system change, we continually adjust and improve the system to ensure it is beneficial to teachers, leaders and ultimately, our students. I appreciate hearing from teachers about this system’s successes and challenges.
Thank you for choosing Minneapolis Public Schools as the place to make a difference in the lives of students—they deserve you.

 Bernadeia Johnson.

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