Legislature mandates principal and teacher accountability

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The 2011 Minnesota Legislature enacted laws that make principals and teachers accountable for teaching students. The mandates will cost the Little Falls School district tens of thousands of dollars, the School Board learned Monday.

The accountability for principals begins during the 2013-14 school year and the teachers’ the following year.

In 2012, the legislature also made the academic growth of each student account for 35 percent of the principals’ evaluations.

Superintendents are required to use a performance-based system to evaluate their principals which is implemented to improve teaching and learning. The principal should be able to shape the school’s environment and support and improve school performance, student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

The annual teacher evaluations will be done by a locally agreed-upon process or by a process developed by Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius. The accountability evaluations were designed to develop, improve and support qualified teachers.

“The sheer cost of this unfunded mandate will be hard on districts,” said Little Falls Superintendent Stephen Jones. “Peer evaluations, critiques by other teachers, will cost Little Falls to hire substitute teachers to take over classrooms when one teacher is evaluating another.”

Jones said that the mandate is not much to get anxious about now, more information will be distributed in December.

Board Member Cathy Adamek wanted the public to know principal and teacher evaluations occur now in the district, and that the legislature has mandated new evaluations.

“Teacher evaluations have been done in Little Falls since I began teaching, which would have been at least 42 years ago,” she said. “The district set up an evaluation system with changes made to it over the years. This system was not necessarily created by our district as there were evaluation systems out there, but it was tweaked by the district to work for us. The principals have always been evaluated by the superintendent.”