JEFFERSON CITY — Teachers would no longer have tenure and student test scores would play a larger role in teacher evaluations under legislation considered Wednesday by a Missouri House of Representatives committee.
The bill would require half of a teacher's evaluation to be based on students' scores on state tests. Teachers would be organized into four tiers within their school district based on those evaluations and on students' academic performance. Teachers would be given different salaries based on their tier and would no longer be guaranteed extra pay if they have a master's degree or 10 years of classroom experience.
The legislation would start to take effect in July 2012.
Teachers currently receive tenure after teaching in the same metropolitan area for five years.
Joe Knodell, the state coordinator for the Missouri Education Reform Council, said he has seen teachers' performance change after they earn tenure.
"They go into what I call 'cruise control,' where they won't be the teacher they were for the first five years," said Knodell, who is a former school superintendent.
The legislation would also change how teachers' salaries are calculated.
Teachers that are ranked in the bottom third would be paid the lowest. The amount they're paid would be calculated based on the school district's teacher payroll for the previous academic year and the number of teachers who work in that district.
Higher ranked teachers would get larger salaries. Teachers ranked in the highest tier would be paid more than twice the salary of teachers in the bottom third.
Teachers who are ranked in the top 16 percent based on their district evaluations and students' test scores would be in the first tier. The second tier would cover those ranked from 17 percent to 34 percent. The third tier would be those ranked from 35 percent to 67 percent. The rest would be in the final tier.
School districts generally would not be required to spend more on teacher salaries and would instead allocate the money spent on salaries differently. However, teachers would still need to be paid at least $25,000 annually.
Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, said the measure could prompt teachers to compete against one another to be assigned the top students while ignoring those who need extra help.
"I'm worried it will create a dog-eat-dog environment among teachers," said Aull, who is a former school administrator.
Teachers union officials also said the bill would be an intrusion by state government into the way local school districts operate.
"This bill is nothing more than the big arm of state government reaching into every classroom in Missouri and telling the local school boards, 'We know better than you do,'" said Mike Wood, a lobbyist with the Missouri State Teachers Association.
Sponsoring Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, said the ranking system is necessary to improve the state's schools.
"I think we need to raise the bar in education because I think Missouri and America have a lot of catching up to do," he said.