Missouri lawmakers call for tougher tenure, end to social promotion

Monday, January 24, 2011 | 9:18 p.m. CST; updated 9:37 p.m. CST, Monday, February 28, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Led by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a group of House Republicans and two Democrats called for changes in the evaluation of Missouri teachers Monday.

Kinder pledged support to proposals that would make it tougher for public school teachers to earn tenure, which protects them from being fired. He said "enough is enough" when it comes to poor public school performance.

Two St. Louis Democrats, Rep. Jamilah Nasheed and Rep. Tishaura Jones, joined the call to reform education. Nasheed said it was "an indictment on society" to continue letting Missouri public schools operate in their current state.

Despite the Republicans' insistence that the changes are bipartisan, Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, cautioned that the proposals may not have much support from across the aisle.

"Not necessarily everyone up here is endorsing each of the ideas we talk about today," Dieckhaus said. "But the folks behind me do recognize that something needs to be done and that we do need to shake up our education system."

The push for new proposals stems from growing concern over the condition of the state's two metropolitan school districts, Kansas City and St. Louis.

The lawmakers' first proposal promises to change the tenure system. The bill would change the way teachers are evaluated for tenure. The new evaluation format would include a combination of student performance and other guidelines set by the teacher's local district, making it tougher for teachers to earn tenure. The new system would also hold school district administrators accountable by changing their evaluation format to include teacher performance.

"The teacher tenure system I believe is broken in the state of Missouri," Dieckhaus said. "I think it is and has been a hindrance to educating children in the way they deserve to be educated."

But one longtime educator in the House disagreed.

"There is a peace of mind that comes with the comfort of tenure that allows teachers to try new ideas," said Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield.

Lawmakers also promised to introduce a bill eliminating what critics call "social promotion," the practice of promoting a low-achieving student to the next grade solely to keep up with his or her peers. Rep. Cole McNary, R-Chesterfield, said the proposed bill would include provisions for extra reading practice and address the growing concern that student literacy levels are below standards upon grade completion. Nasheed echoed McNary, calling the current system "damaging to the fabric of education."

Other proposals laid out include Jones' call for the expansion of charter schools. Jones stressed that the proposed bill would add "another tool in the toolbox" for struggling school districts. Additionally, Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Manchester, pledged to refile Bryce's Law, a bill from a previous session that would allow a scholarship tax credit for children with autism.. Scharnhorst said the bill would allow children to "fulfill their promise."

These proposals will be filed by the end of this week or early next week, according to Dieckhaus. As Missouri lawmakers move forward to address these proposals, Kinder said he sees promise in their success.

"Better and more school choice has more momentum and more strength then we've ever seen in the 18 years I've been in this building," he said.

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Michael Williams January 25, 2011 | 9:01 a.m.

The article says, ""There is a peace of mind that comes with the comfort of tenure that allows teachers to try new ideas," said Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield."

This statement needs further explanation.

What "new ideas"? Teachers neither have the ability to change the curricula nor when to teach it. This is determined at state and federal levels, not local or individual levels.

While I can certainly see good reasons for tenure at the university level, I cannot see good reasons for it in K-12. Indeed, I believe tenure is now one of many hindrances to improving K-12 education.

I see no good reason the teaching profession should have more job security than the rest of us. But I'm willing to listen and discuss the issue.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 25, 2011 | 10:17 a.m.

"...I believe tenure is now one of many hindrances to improving K-12 education.

I see no good reason the teaching profession should have more job security than the rest of us"

I second this notion

(Report Comment)
Carey Wolf February 26, 2011 | 5:34 p.m.

Please be aware that states do not-at this time-teach the same goals and standards nor do we use the same test. We have one of the hardest state tests out there. The issue is you cannot compare our performance unless we are on the same playing field. Secondly tenure does not guarantee me my teaching position, just a position. We have been reminded that tenure does not mean that we have a job. Even though I have tenure I consistantly am working towards the achievement of my students. My frustration comes when government is harping on performance yet yanking money. They are looking at providing missouri schools with ZERO bus money by 2013. How are schools supposed to improve when classroom sizes are growing due to cuts. I can focus on each
student when I have 18 - 20 students rather than 25-30. Performance is going to hurt by our government cuts. We need smaller class sizes, the new common core standards, and our aides put back in our classrooms. I truly think anyone who has negative comments about teachers should teach a classroom of 25 kindergarteners and have them test ready by March. On top of social skills, following directions, writing their names, identifying letters and sounds, making predictions, summarizing, main idea, self to text, punctuation, print tells the story, sight words, fluency, numbers and quantity,
non standard measurent, shapes, solid figures, number lines, counting to 100, using a calendar, identifying coins and values, identifying #s to 31, using the restroom appropriately, how to wash their hands, lining up, and test taking skills - just to name a few.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 26, 2011 | 6:19 p.m.

The single largest correlation to student performance, by a wide margin, is (drumroll please)... childhood poverty. Poverty = poor performance. Correlational coefficient is 59%. No other measured correlation even comes close.

Teachers unions, tenure, terminations, and teacher pay have almost no correlation to student performance. In fact, the presense of teacher unions has a small positive correlation, and teacher terminations had a negative correlation to student performance (although at -2%, it's statistically insignificant).

Expenditures per pupil have the 2nd largest correlation to student performance. More money per pupil = better performance. But again, this correlation is very weak (~17%) compared to childhood poverty.

Teacher unions and teacher tenure are popular talking points among anti-labor hacks, but in reality, these factors are just a red herring. Politicians who think teacher tenure impacts educational performance are just plain wrong. They need more education.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield February 26, 2011 | 7:08 p.m.

Half of all infants are on WIC. Are there really that many parents choosing to have kids even though they know they cannot support them?

(Report Comment)
Fritz Otweiler February 26, 2011 | 7:55 p.m.

Any instructionally ineffective or incompetent teacher can be terminated for cause regardless of tenure status, so long as due process is observed and appropriate documentation is provided. The issue is not tenure, but poorly executed, off-task, subjective, and ineffective teacher, principal, and superintendent evaluations executed by those positions' supervisors. Ultimately, the belief that tenure protects bad teachers stems from a systemic failure in the performance-based evaluation of school personnel, the standards for which are set and approved by locally elected school boards. Start electing boards who hire adminstrators who focus and measure the right things, and tenure becomes moot.
Continue electing boards to fire the coach or cherry-pick their favorite curriculums or sacred cow programs, and you will continue to get the quality of schools such simplistic thinking deserves.

(Report Comment)
Carey Wolf February 27, 2011 | 4:06 p.m.

AMEN Derrick!! I work in an area with a very high level of free and reduced lunch students. I have at least 3 families that have one car for the working parent. I have heavy concerns for the families when the state terminates bus funding. How are the kids going to get to school if the caretaking parent does not have a car? The government is shooting themselves in the foot yanking all support out from under our children.

(Report Comment)
Judy Dains March 7, 2011 | 11:02 a.m.

Maybe just maybe some of these politicians COULD come into some of these classrooms before making bills that pertain to something they know NOTHING about. A classroom is only a small portion of what goes on in a child's life. How many kids spend countless hours on their own with parents who have no clue what they are doing OR WHERE they are???? If all kids were living perfect lives with perfect parents who believed education was important, I'm POSITIVE our educational system would improve. How many teachers first of all have to make sure their students have been FED and have SLEPT before they can teach them ANYTHING?????

(Report Comment)

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