Missouri Ballot Initiative Could Fundamentally Reform Teacher Retention and Dismissal

Missouri voters will vote on Tuesday on a constitutional amendment requiring school districts to implement new performance evaluations for teachers. Though individual districts would have some freedom in developing evaluation mechanisms, the proposed amendment mandates that a majority of the evaluation must be comprised of quantifiable student growth measures. In other words, Missouri teachers would be evaluated mostly on the performance of their students on end-of-year tests, a practice that has gained national traction among lawmakers and spurred criticism from teacher unions.

If passed, the amendment would overhaul teacher compensation systems in the state. Districts would be required to use data from performance evaluations to make decisions regarding teacher retention, promotions and dismissals. Additionally, districts would be barred from giving teachers contracts longer than three years.

Of note, the amendment explicitly prohibits collective bargaining regarding performance evaluations.

Currently, all but nine states require student growth to be a part of teacher evaluations, although their weight in evaluations varies, as do the consequences of such evaluations. For example Missouri already requires student growth to “significantly” inform evaluations, but they do not allow ineffectiveness as grounds for teacher dismissal.

 The Missouri ‘Teach Great’ campaign, which gathered over 275,000 signatures on a petition to add the amendment to the November ballot, asserts that the amendment would:

  • “ensure teachers are evaluated based on an objective measure: their students’ academic growth;
  • protect great teachers and their students by requiring teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted, and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system;
  • end the unfair “last-in-first-out” rule, which often means that effective teachers are let go, while ineffective teachers stay;
  • require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts, so that their performance can be re-evaluated as it would be in any other profession; and
  • protect the rights of educators to collectively bargain for salary, benefits, and working conditions.”

Opponents – including school boards and Missouri teachers - employ an array of arguments, from costs of standardized testing to the sabotage of local control over education to the inability of teachers to affect out-of-school factors that affect student performance. The Bloomfield School District passed an official resolution opposing the amendment in September, stating that it would have damaging unintended consequences, take away local control and undercut the use of teacher evaluations as a mechanism for teacher improvement.