Missouri to Vote on Tying Teacher Evaluations to Learning

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Missouri will be voting on tying student learning to teacher evaluations within the state constitution during the November election.

The proposed amendment, Constitution Amendment 3, would base the majority of the state’s teacher’s evaluation scores on objective student performance data, including standardized tests.

The amendment would also put a cap on teaching contracts at three years, which would end the current tenure system allowing for indefinite job security after five years of employment.

The political action committee who stands in support of the measure, Teach Great, spent over $1 million on petitioning for the cause, but has recently said they will not be continuing to promote it.  Teach Great leader Kate Casas said in a news release, “It has become clear that now is not the time to further pursue the Teach Great initiative.”

Casas went on to say that while the group does still support the issue, there is a lack of support according to a recent public opinion poll.

“This is a unique election,” she said. “Voter turnout is kind of a wild card, and it is difficult to get people to vote yes on a ballot initiative.”

However, Mike Sherman, leader of Protect Our Local Schools, a group who does not support the measure, believes Teach Great saw some bad polling.  He said someone was polling voters over the phone about Amendment 3.  He believes that “someone” to be Teach Great.

Some education groups in the state are still planning to campaign against it, as they believe the measure could cause teachers to “teach to the test,” as well as take away local control from schools.

“We’ve had lots of Republicans come out against this amendment,” said Sherman. “Most of them talk about the need for local control and the evaluation process for the school board and teachers, and the bureaucrats in Jefferson City shouldn’t get their hands involved.”

Anthony Rosetti, superintendent of Webb City Schools, is one of those ensuring that people remember to vote against the measure.

“The best thing that could happen is this amendment is defeated and defeated soundly so that the next time someone wants to rearrange the Missouri Constitution specifically to target teachers, they might think twice,” he said.

Boards of education across the state are formally announcing their opposition to the amendment, and the Webb City School Board may soon join them.

Earlier this year, Missouri did initiate new performance-based teacher reviews as part of their agreement with the federal government in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act waiver.  Rosetti sees problems with requiring over half of the evaluation to come from student performance, as there is no way to quantify or define it, giving examples of PE teachers and special education teachers.

The Jasper School Board has also announced it’s opposition to the measure.  Superintendent Rick Stark has said that making student performance count for over half of a teacher’s review could limit the number of high-quality teachers they see sign up to teach a classroom of low-achieving students, which could in turn hurt the students even more.

The measure is also seen as an added cost to districts, who will have to pay to provide the additional tests, taking money away from other much needed educational costs.