Constitution / Education

Shackling Educators to Test Booklets

As Election Day nears, voters are faced with a variety of decisions that will affect aspects of their life from healthcare to education. In Missouri, an amendment to the state constitution that is on the November 4th ballot could have resonating effects on the state education system, teachers and communities.

Amendment 3, which would be inserted in Section 3, Article IX would be an addition to the Missouri State Constitution that would hinder the teachers of the state in multiple ways. First, and most importantly, it would bind teacher evaluations to student test scores. Second, it would limit the length of teacher contracts. Lastly, it would reduce the ability of the teachers unions, barring them from negotiating any aspects of the teacher evaluation system. This amendment would cripple Missouri’s ability to provide its students with stable and quality education for a multitude of reasons.

First and foremost, by basing teacher evaluations on student test scores, the state would be forcing educators to “teach to the test” and reduce creative, interesting and innovative teaching methods in the classrooms. In addition, it places emphasis on student achievements standards that teachers do not always have control over. Some outside factors that are detrimental to student performance in classrooms have profound effects on student test scores but are often extremely difficult to address as a teacher. While teachers can provide a positive learning environment, increase student interaction and attempt to help the student in the classroom, at times the teacher cannot help the child overcome the obstacles that are hindering their test performances because they stem in great, outside issues.

By passing this amendment, the state would also reduce stability in the teaching industry. It would make it so that test scores would solely determine if teachers kept their job or received a promotion or a pay raise.

As a profession, teaching is highly unappreciated. This is apparent by the level of funding and support educators receive, despite the value we place on education as a society. This disconnect of values and priorities is exemplified in the first part of the proposed amendment but is even more obvious in the next two next sections. The amendment prohibits teachers from entering contracts with school districts that are longer than three years. This restriction would decrease stability in the profession and hinders teachers who are trying to gain experience in the field.

The next section bars teacher unions from participating in any negotiations regarding the process of teacher evaluations. Therefore, the standards that would determine who is teaching the best, implementing positive curriculum and ultimitly educating students at a high quality would not be decided in any part by those who are actually in the classrooms. Unions would have no say in the matter of how teachers are evaluated and therefore no say in who or how teachers are fired, promoted or how they receive raises.

While the foundation of the proposed amendment is faulty, so is its platform. Even if this was a beneficial action for the state education system, it is being introduced in the wrong arena. If this were to be passed and added to the state Constitution, it would be very difficult to change or remove in the future. This poses a problem no matter what the body of the amendment states because our society changes, especially in regards to our educational needs. It is safe to say that our education system and education needs are very different than they were one-hundred years ago. However, if this amendment is passed, it would be very difficult for the education system to evolve with changing societal needs in the future.

Backed by Rex Sinquefield, the amendment has lost support in recent weeks, a trend that is highlighted by Teach Great’s end on campaigning for the amendment. Teach Great, the group primarily responsible for getting Amendment 3 on the ballot, ended its stream of funding to campaign for the amendment a few weeks ago.

If the voters of Missouri recognize the fault in this amendment, they too will move with this trend and vote against Amendment 3, due to the binding and negative effects it will have on the education system in Missouri. If we continue to place such high value on the importance of quality education, we must ensure that our nation’s voting, legislation and government action reflect this belief as well.