Voters to Decide Teacher Tenure Amendment

Published 08/28 2014 10:44PM

Updated 08/29 2014 10:02AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The question of what makes a teacher a good educator will soon be answered by Missouri voters.

Education is the focus of Amendment 3, which would eliminate teacher tenure and create a system of teacher evaluation through student scores on a standardized test.

"You can look at simple test scores and what that can involve is a teacher that drills and drills and drills on a test performance or you can look at a teacher that builds students' lives," said Tom Brockett, the St. Joseph President of the National Education Association, which opposes the amendment.

The group Teach Great is in support of Amendment 3, saying that a streamlined, consistent method of evaluating teachers is necessary.

"The point of having an education system is to make sure students get an education," said Kate Casas, spokesperson for Teach Great. "We have standards in the state and we think it is prudent to ensure that students have adequate progress toward those standards every year."

Most school districts and teachers, including those in St. Joseph, are against Amendment 3, saying local schools lose control by relying on a statewide standardized test to evaluate teachers.

"It would be taken out of the hands of the local districts and placed on a bureaucrat in Jefferson City," Brockett said.

"We're in favor of local control," said Doug Flowers, Human Resources Director for the St. Joseph School District. "We want our Board of Education and our community and the district itself to make determinations on what's the best interests of our students."

Tenure provides teachers with protections by making it more difficult to fire them. In the St. Joseph School District, a teacher earns tenure after five years in the classroom.

"The first day of my sixth year of teaching, it was like a big sigh, and it was like, 'I can just work,'" said Katy Schwartz Drowns, a debate teacher at Central High School. "Tenure doesn't protect bad teachers. Tenure ensures that good teachers get due process."

An argument for many against Amendment 3 is that they say its putting blanket standards over very different school districts.

"Comparing a classroom at Building X, even though it may be the same grade level as Building Y, kids that come to that school, that classroom, could be totally different," Flowers said.

Amendment 3 will be on the ballot in November.

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