What Amendment 3 Really Means: A Look Into the Crystal Ball
Don’t fall for the talking points from Teach Great, the Rex Sinquefield funded group pushing for Amendment 3 passage to end teacher tenure and require “teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted, and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system”. (For the full language of Amendment 3 click here.)
1. The Amendment dictates to districts how they must write their employee contracts: they cannot be longer than 3 years, they must include a very specific employee evaluation system etc. It even dictates the terms of law suits that can be brought against the district by employees limiting their ability to receive due process. These are arbitrary measures with no data to support their effectiveness in achieving the supposed goal of improving student education. Codifying arbitrary, unproven measures into the state constitution so that the legislature cannot continue to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness in terms of meeting the goal and make adjustments based on data and experience is never a good idea. The amendment opens with the assertion that the districts owe something to the state in exchange for receiving state funds for education. This flies in the face of Article IX Section 1(a) of the state constitution regarding education which says, “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties and the people, the general assembly shall establish and maintain free public schools for the gratuitous instruction of all persons in this state.” Gratuitous means given unearned or without recompense. This makes clear that the state has an obligation to the people for education, not the other way around. Amendment 3 turns that completely on its head.
2. Amendment 3 will cement into place, as a constitutional obligation, the use of standardized tests in school. In fact, it will promote the increasing use of standardized tests now for the benefit of teacher evaluations not pupil education. We currently test for Language Arts, Reading and Math. There are a few End Of Course tests for specific subjects like the Constitution and biology. But we have teachers for a wide range of subjects. Are we only going to hold SOME teachers accountable for student test scores? Will we hold non-subject-related teachers accountable for students scores on tests on subjects they don’t substantively address in class? There will eventually be a push to develop tests for those teachers’ evaluations. Do we really want our kids to be spending even MORE time taking standardized tests?
3. Previous posts have covered the idea of the extreme limitation of standardized tests to demonstrate teacher effectiveness. This is a one size fits all type of approach to evaluating our teachers. Amendment 3 will be most detrimental to teachers of our neediest students, the ones who have developmental or physical issues that make learning difficult, who receive special services by very dedicated special education teachers. There are also the teachers in our poorest districts whose students bring entire steamer trunks of social and emotional baggage into school from home and who struggle to learn as a result. These kids are not going to do well on standardized tests and this amendment will penalize their teachers the most. It’s one thing to say that schools will account for these conditions in their evaluation system, but the language of Amendment 3 does not specify that. Children, especially those who come from unsupportive homes or deep poverty mostly need a relationship with their teachers. [Check out this TED video by 40 year veteran teacher Rita Pierson who talks about the importance of relationship in teaching.] If we keep booting those teachers out the door because their kids score predictably low, we will remove one of the children’s best chances for an education.
Look into the crystal ball via a teacher’s experience with mandated assessments and see what’s coming if Amendment 3 passes. This is how a mandated evaluation system would play out if implemented. It does NOT protect teachers or create better education delivery for children.
Vote NO on Amendment 3. It is a ruse for the state to assume even more control over local school districts. Listen to this teacher. We don’t want this for Missouri schools.
Published August 22, 2014