The Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3 proposal, or Proposition A, that will be placed on the upcoming November ballot is about more than just teacher tenure, say the Blue Springs, Fort Osage and Independence superintendents.
If passed, the amendment could significantly raise the number of assessments a student takes during the school year, plus prove to be more costly for school districts across the state.
Three leaders of Eastern Jackson County schools, Fort Osage Superintendent Mark Enderle, Independence Superintendent Dale Herl and new Blue Springs Superintendent Jim Finley, all agreed that the amendment would be both burdensome and expensive for Missouri school districts, if passed. The three school leaders were the keynote speakers during the Independence Chamber of Commerce’s “State of the Schools” luncheon Wednesday.
“Teacher tenure is the least of the issues, because it really isn’t much of an issue at all,” Enderle told Chamber members about the ballot question. He also announced his retirement at the end of the 2014-15 school year. “Tenure is not an impenetrable shield.”
According to the ballot language, the state amendment question will ask voters whether to base a teacher’s salary and/or dismissal on quantifiable student performance data – which the superintendents said would have to be measured through assessments – as well as require teachers to enter contracts of three or fewer years and prohibit collective bargaining regarding the design and implementation of this proposed teacher evaluation system. Another fiscal note of the ballot language writes that “significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new evaluation instruments must be developed...” Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander announced earlier this month that Teach Great, the Missouri initiative that spearheaded the teacher tenure elimination proposal, collected more than 275,000 petition signatures, allowing the question to be placed on the November ballot.
Enderle said the Teach Great petition drive asked signers the question, “Would you like to support good teachers and get rid of bad ones?”
Teach Great’s website says the proposition means accountability for student progress. However, Enderle, Finley and Herl said there is already an accountability system in place in Missouri: The MSIP-5 Standards, which measure a school district on attendance, graduation rates, academic achievement and college and career readiness. This scorecard also determines a district’s accreditation.
Herl said teachers will administer more tests in order to keep their livelihoods – should the ballot question pass. He added that a student from kindergarten to high school graduation in Missouri takes an average of 26 state assessments. If the proposition passes, it could create an exponential increase of 267 state tests during a child’s K-12 education.
Enderle also said the amendment would be detrimental in several ways, some of these include forcing taxpayers to spend millions on new government mandated standardized tests, reduce cooperation between teachers and discourage teachers from taking on challenging students in their classrooms.
Finley pointed out that some things cannot be measured when valuing a teacher. His district’s mission is about more than a student just being a number. A great teacher, he said, is defined by how they impact their communities and positively change the course of multi-generation students.
“How many points is that worth?” Finley asked.