Teachers, tenure and Rex Sinquefeld

tenureblackboardMissouri’s November 2014 ballot will include a constitutional amendment regarding a change to the the teacher tenure system in Missouri and development of a new standardized teacher evaluation system based heavily on test scores. Funding for the initiative is primarily from self-appointed Missouri state CEO Rex Sinquefield, who is once again using his millions to try to buy the state that he wants. Let’s be clear, this initiative has less to do with “rewarding and protecting good teachers” than emasculating Teacher Unions.

Tenure protects teachers who continue to push their principals, who may not have the same interest in trying new and innovative approaches rather than protecting the status quo. Tenure protects teachers from legislators’ indifference to public education, from being blamed for the failure of parents to actively engage in their children’s education, from reprisals from administrators who may be more concerned with their own perceived reputations within their district.

And how can we design a standardized evaluation system that relies heavily on test scores without also taking into consideration whether a student had a good breakfast, whether a student has engaged parents, how long a student spends on the bus. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are socio-economic differences from district to district, so how can we design a common teacher evaluation system based on test scores from, let’s say, the Sedalia district, the Mehlville district, the Kansas City district and the Ladue district.

Within one elementary school in one district, in the classrooms in the same grade level, one teacher may have a one or more students with a learning disability while another may not, making test scores just for the same grade in the same school difficult to compare. Successful schools have teachers who collaborate with each other, providing strong support systems for their students. Given the current emphasis on test scores, there is no incentive for any district to protect incompetent teachers. Rather than firing teachers, which will undermine moral, let’s give them the support and coaching that they need.

State legislators, doing Mr. Sinquefield’s bidding, are creating an environment in which current and future teachers will grow weary of the lack of respect, appreciation and support from the legislature, school administrators and parents, good teachers will get tired of being the focus of blame for the many variables that effect the learning experience, and will eventually just move on to another profession. How can that help our kids?