Required Weekend Reading

Today’s MinnPost has a great Community Voices submission from Ben MacKenzie, who teaches at the FAIR school in downtown Minneapolis. The piece describes the great experience MacKenzie had earning a teaching license via a process where a candidate submits a portfolio of materials demonstrating their skill.

MacKenzie’s voice is critical because the state’s uber-recalcitrant Board of Teaching recently announced that it will appeal a Ramsey County District Court judge’s ruling that it broke the law when it unilaterally discontinued the process that enabled potential teachers to submit portfolios several years ago.

The board has repeatedly ignored mandates from the legislature to clarify and open up Minnesota’s arbitrary and archaic licensing process. In a hearing before the aforementioned judge several months ago, the attorney for the board drew guffaws for describing the board’s belief that the new laws were actually requests by lawmakers for the board to think about whether the new laws jibe with board practices. Since they didn’t, the board set the “requests” down.

Did you follow that? Neither did the judge, who ordered the portfolio process reopened in January. Before announcing it would appeal the ruling, the board named a window of a few days in February–and demanded candidates signal their intent to apply 30 in advance. The judge, I am told, did not find this amusing.

So what did MacKenzie get out of the experience of documenting his skills?

“Building a portfolio as a teacher candidate helped me to get into the habit of reflecting on my practice and evidence of my growth,” he writes. “Developing a growth mindset through my teaching portfolio prepared me to be more public and collaborative with my craft and with my colleagues, and it has helped me model my love of learning to students throughout my career.”

Also over at MinnPost, education reporter Erin Hinrichs has a terrific article on the benefits of gathering more demographic data on student learning gaps and breaking it down–disaggregating it, in edu-speak–by individual ethnicity and language. She also takes a look at a MinnCAN report on Asian American/Pacific Islander achievement data released this week.

This is a stellar effort for two reasons: One, it’s potentially a huge leap forward in using data to tailor efforts to close gaps with different groups of students. You can’t fix what you can’t identify, right?

But maybe more to the point, Minnesota’s education reporting corps has been woefully thin in terms of journalists who truly understand assessment data. This shortcoming has allowed all kinds of chicanery wherein people who would like there to be evidence that their policy/agenda/belief set is working–or not. So three cheers for this thorough effort.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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