Voters Guide

Educators are taking no chances against dormant campaign on teacher tenure and evaluations

If the public debate seems one-sided against the proposed Constitutional Amendment 3’s call for test-performance-based teacher evaluations and the end of tenure, it’s because it is.

It’s not that supporters of the Nov. 4 statewide ballot issue don’t believe they have salient arguments in their favor.

They simply saw they were not ready yet to mount a successful campaign against the wave of school boards, teacher unions and educational agencies amassing against them.

So Teach Great, the political action group pushing the ballot measure, dropped its campaign, even with $1.6 million in its pocket from multimillionaire and persistent conservative education reformer Rex Sinquefield.

But since the measure is still there for voters to see, the anti-Amendment 3 forces aren’t letting up.

One after the other, area school boards are listing their grievances against the amendment.

The proposal would require public school districts to develop evaluation systems in which a majority of its factors are based on quantifiable student performance data. Those systems would have to be used in any moves to hire, fire, promote, demote and compensate teachers. It would also have to be used in the case of layoffs.

Teachers could still seek a hearing to challenge personnel decisions. They could still organize under unions to bargain over other working conditions, but not over the evaluation systems.

School boards argue that the measure would take away local control, undo the work already done on evaluation systems and potentially incur substantial costs by requiring districts to develop assessments for the many teachers whose students currently are not subjected state tests.

Careful evaluation of teachers should include student performance measures, the districts argue, but must have latitude to co-opt many evaluation tools. The state’s current evaluation model calls for districts to make student performance a “significant” factor.

Supporters of the amendment argue it would protect high-performing teachers, prevent districts from simply letting go of the most recently hired teachers during layoffs and make it easier for districts to dismiss poorly performing teachers.

The measure does not specify what assessments would be used, and proponents say districts could use varying student assessments to mitigate costs — though any evaluation systems would have to be approved by the state school board.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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