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Changing Teacher Tenure and Pay, the Minnesota Edition

We've seen a flurry of proposals to limit teacher tenure and curtail seniority-based job protections grab the spotlight in states across the country. But there are plenty of lower-profile measures playing out in the shadows. Such is the case in Minnesota.

Legislation put forward by state Republicans would allow superintendents to waive practices in current law that require teachers hired more recently to be laid off first, if a district is shedding employees.

The proposal, which recently cleared the state Senate, would also grant tenure in five-year blocks, and offer renewal based on educators' ability to produce student learning gains, among other factors. Additionally, it would require that at least 50 percent of teachers' salary increases would be tied to student achievement (50 percent seems to be the magic number these days among proponents of tying teacher pay to student performance.)

Any salary increases in Minnesota, however, would have to wait a while: The measure proposes a two-year salary freeze, a cost-control that supporters say would save jobs and services during this bleak budget period.

The omnibus bill also delves into the unrelated topic of academic standards. It would bar the state's education commissioner from adopting the "Common Core" standards during upcoming revisions of those documents.

Minnesota, which traditionally scores highly on national assessments, has already adopted the Common Core standards in language arts, but not in math. State officials reasoned that their academic expectations in that subject are better than the Common Core, the multistate academic expectations crafted by researchers, policymakers and others over the past couple years. The new legislation appears to be designed to prevent the commissioner from adopting future common core standards without lawmakers' approval. (Check out Section 1 of the legislation and give me your interpretation.)

State education commissioner Brenda Cassillius does not support the legislation's change to the standards-approval process

"She believes that adoption of or changes in standards should be addressed through rule-making," spokeswoman Charlene Briner said in an e-mail, "in order to allow for teachers, academicians and practitioners to have input about standards which serve Minnesota students best."

The chances of the overall bill making it into law remain unclear. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and Cassellius have reportedly voiced skepticism about the legislation.

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