Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

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12/16/2004

Pawlenty's Quixotic Quest for Education on the Cheap

Canada officials disagree with Pawlenty on education initiatives

Norman Draper, Star Tribune
December 11, 2004

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Edmonton officials threw some cold water on two of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's education reform ideas: merit pay for teachers and offering shortcuts into teaching to professionals in fields like science and math.

This afternoon Pawlenty and a delegation of educators and politicians wrap up a two-day visit to examine the way Edmonton schools use "site-based management." The system of allowing schools to make most of their own spending and hiring decisions has Edmonton world-famous among education reformers.

Pawlenty and Edmonton schools folks might share a similar idea of shifting decision-making from districts to schools. But there are some big differences in how they think about other things.

Pawlenty's major education initiatives include paying teachers based on their performance rather than their experience. But during a round-table briefing, Edmonton school officials told the Pawlenty delegation that pay-for-performance plan was attempted in 1995, but "failed miserably."

And how about fast-tracking those professionals into teaching?

"The notion of bringing in a scientist to be a teacher does not happen," said another Edmonton official.

In addition, delegation members discovered that the site-based management may bring teachers into the decision-making but it doesn't always create harmony: There was a teachers strike in 2002 that lasted 13 days until the government ordered teachers back to work, causing hard feelings.

And here's one thing that Minnesota students might find hard to swallow: Edmonton kids go to school from the first of September to the end of June, weeks longer than most Minnesota public schools.

Norman Draper is at

ndraper@startribune.com. ©