Minnesota has a long and well-deserved reputation for excellence and innovation in public education.

The fact that Minnesota will not be reapplying for the Obama administration's Race to the Top challenge after the stalemate on education reform during this legislative session may lead some to mistakenly assume that Minnesota is no longer a leader in education innovation.

However, while this represents an opportunity lost for our students, it does not spell the end of reform.

In fact, we are bringing significant change to the education landscape in our region by partnering with other universities and the Bush Foundation to transform the way that teachers are recruited, trained, placed and supported in their new careers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We will develop 25,000 effective teachers over the coming decade - enough to replace all the teachers expected to retire or change careers in that time in the three-state area - and guarantee their effectiveness.

These teachers will be re-cruited and trained to meet the specific needs of the school systems, schools and students we serve. We will be able to measure results and know whether the work that we've undertaken has made a difference.

While we are doing the hard work of enacting reform, too much of this year's education reform debate - among policy makers and in the Race to the Top application - has centered on alternative licensure, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of teachers obtain their teaching education through traditional routes in the higher education system. Instead of arguing about who can prepare them, we believe that our states should approve teacher preparation programs that are willing to do what we are doing - guarantee the effectiveness of their graduates to the P-12 districts that hire them.

These programs must agree to support their graduates through their first three to five years of teaching through a variety of methods such as mentoring arrangements, in-service workshops and additional on-campus seminars during the summer.

This collaboration between universities and our P-12 partners strengthens an important relationship that has not always been as strong as it should be. We need better information on how our teaching graduates are faring and how we can use their experience to improve our teaching preparation programs. Our partners in the schools need an ironclad guarantee that the graduates they hire will be able to meet the challenges they will face in the classroom. We have welcomed our P-12 colleagues, included them in our planning process and will work alongside them as we prepare the teachers who will work with students in our three states.

Working with our P-12 partners, we are making the kind of bold changes necessary to meet the needs of students across our region. Together these changes would form the most innovative system for assuring the effectiveness of new teachers and principals in the country. Even without new federal education funds, this system will allow our students to literally race to the top.

The 10 university presidents who signed this guest column are Judith Ramaley, Winona State University; Jay H. Barnes III, Bethel University; Robert H. Bruininks, University of Minnesota; Richard Davenport, Minnesota State University, Mankato; the Rev. Dennis Dease, University of St. Thomas; Linda N. Hanson, Hamline University; Robert Holst, Concordia University, St. Paul; Sister Andrea J. Lee, St. Catherine University; Earl H. Potter III, Saint Cloud State University; and Paul C. Pribbenow, Augsburg College.

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