As we approach the November elections, education groups and public schools in Missouri are lining up in opposition to Amendment 3. Here is what you should know about this constitutional amendment:
- It applies to only new teachers. Teachers who are currently under contract with a school district remain under the current tenure system.
- It limits all new contracts with teachers to no more than 3 years.
- It requires school districts to “implement a standards based performance evaluation system approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education” The majority of the evaluation system “shall be based upon quantifiable student performance data.”
- These evaluations must be used in staffing decisions (i.e. hiring, firing, promotion, etc.)
A group called “Protect Our Local Schools” has organized opposition to the amendment. On the group’s website, they claim the amendment would:
- “Take away local control of our schools from teachers, parents and school districts, and hand it over to Jefferson City politicians.”
- “Take a one-size-fits-all approach to education, forcing teachers to “teach to a test” rather than focusing on actual instruction and learning.”
- “Force taxpayers to pay for costly government-mandated standardized tests even though school funding is already a problem.”
Now, please don’t mistake my criticism of “Protect Our Local Schools” as support for Amendment 3. There are many valid arguments against this proposal, these are not those arguments. I take that back. These may be very effective arguments against Amendment 3. They are just not very valid arguments.
These claims from “Protect Our Local Schools” have some serious problems. First, it is not entirely clear that Amendment 3 will lead to an increase in standardized tests. Amendment 3 does not specifically call for more standardized tests. It says that the evaluation must be based on “quantifiable student performance data.” A school district could create a common assessment and give a pre- and post-test. That would be considered “quantifiable student performance data.”
It is possible that DESE would approve evaluation systems that use this type of data in alignment with Missouri’s Educator Evaluation System. That is to say, the amendment may not significantly change evaluations from what DESE has already provided as a model. Under the current evaluation system and the one proposed in the amendment, school districts still have a lot of flexibility within the parameters.
Is Amendment 3 a “loss of local control,” as opponents claim? Yes and no. The amendment does not put any authority in the hands of “Jefferson City politicians;” maybe in the hands of DESE bureaucrats, but not politicians. However, it does place some rules in place that limit local control; such as restricting contracts to three years.
The question, however, is whether Amendment 3 would result in a greater loss of local control than the current system. When a teacher receives tenure, Missouri state statutes mandate that school districts issue a contract that “shall be known as an indefinite contract and shall continue in effect for an indefinite period…” What’s more, current statutes mandate a specific process for removing a tenured teacher. The graphic below details this process.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it; setting teacher tenure rules and establishing the teacher tenure dismissal process in state statutes constitutes a loss of local control. Amendment 3 would restore this local control, but would impose other restrictions. It is up to you to decide if the changing the state’s constitution, as Amendment 3 does, is a positive or negative change in local control.