Amendment May Change Statewide Teacher Tenure and Evaluations

By Linda Ong |

Published 08/27 2014 07:10PM

Updated 08/27 2014 07:22PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Teacher tenure has been a standard practice in American public education for over a century. Amendment three on this upcoming November general election ballot may change this-- weakening tenure laws and tying teacher evaluations to students' performance.

Amendment three would require Missouri teachers to be dismissed, promoted, and paid using an evaluation system of quantifiable student performance data, while also limiting teacher contracts to three years in public school districts.

But of greatest debate-- how the amendment may require more standardized testing to determine teacher evaluations.

What makes a good teacher in Missouri may soon be tied to a standards-based performance evaluation system. Amendment three would base teacher evaluations on this model.

"The point of having an education in the system is to make sure students get an education and we have standards in the state and we think it is prudent to ensure that students are making adequate progress towards those standards every year," said Kate Casas, Spokesperson for Teach Great.

Springfield Public Schools evaluates teachers annually by watching teachers instruct and offering feedback. SPS Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said the amendment is a dangerous proposition.

"I think it's a little frightening to be honest that we change the mentality of what learning looks like and scale it down into a standardized test score," said Jungmann.

The evaluation model would be up to local school boards, and require state approval to continue to receive funding. According to the Missouri State Teachers Association, the amendment would take away local control.

"Failure to get that evaluation approved, the state will then withhold all state and local funding for that school district," said Mike Wood. "Really, the control of the evaluation goes to Jefferson City."

Those against Amendment 3 said this would create a one-size-fits-all mandate, hurting teachers, and eventually, students.

Opponents say an emphasis on testing would take away valuable instruction time. Jungmann said he doesn't discount the value of standardized tests, but that it's just one piece of the puzzle.

"The best model is keep it local," said Jungmann. Let our let our teachers, let our administrators, and school boards decide how to appropriately evaluate our teachers and that's our best solution.

Jungmann said the district is working on a pilot program to improve its teacher evaluation system.

He added that basing teacher evaluations solely on student testing may discourage teachers from taking on more challenging districts where student performance is low.

The official ballot title reads:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding; 
  • require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system; 
  • require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts; and
  • prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system?

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