amendment 3 teachers

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.)

These are the reasons to oppose this special interest amendment:

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.

Fidelity of Implementation (FOI) has been around for a while now and has probably been mandated in more places than we would think.
 
A few years ago, I let my teaching job go after the school year ended.  It was after teaching sixth grade for several years.  The last three of those years I had to use Connected Math Project (CMP) for math.  The last year was the first year for a new principal whose leadership/management style was predominantly that of a controlling bully.  The district had adopted Everyday Math (EDM) for K-5.  We had just spent a year of gearing up for implementation the following year by having weekly hour-long staff meetings focused on the EDM program.  At the end of the school year, the principal told all of the K-5 teachers they had to follow the EDM program and could not vary or supplement in any way whatsoever.  He then extended his FOI edict to the reading/language arts program.  This meant I was not going to be able to use a grammar program I had been using for years.  Since the reading/language arts program left a lot to be desired, this basically meant I would not be able to teach my students the grammar they would need in junior and senior high.  I knew what was coming next—and it did come—the FOI edict was extended to the CMP math program in sixth grade.  This would mean my sixth grade teaching partner and I would not be able to continue supplementing CMP by actually teaching real math with an example based explicit instructional approach in addition to using CMP.  I couldn’t lower my standards and subject students to an imposed substandard level of instruction. 
 
By imposing a FOI edict, the principal was setting teachers up for dismissal on grounds of insubordination if they supplemented the programs in any way.  Now, with Common Core and many new teacher evaluation systems in place across the country, FOI to the “Common Core way of instruction” (remember the embedded pedagogy and the indoctrinating professional development teachers are subjected to) is expected as part of CCSS implementation.  There are going to be a lot of excellent teachers receiving poor evaluations  for exercising their professional judgment and providing students with quality instruction based on what they know about their students rather than just getting with the program.

 

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

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