The jobs of Missouri's teachers may no longer be secured by tenure
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The jobs of Missouri's teachers may no longer be secured by tenure

Date: March 23, 2011
By: Kadee Brosseau
State Capitol Bureau

Missouri's lawmakers introduced a bill that would eliminate teacher tenure and change the way teachers are evaluated and paid.
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Currently, it takes a Missouri teacher five years to gain tenure, which is longer than any other state. 

Once a teacher is given tenure, they cannot be removed from a school district without a legitimate reason for termination. According to teachers and administrators, teacher tenure provides greater protection for teachers.

Republican Representative Scott Dieckhaus sponsored the bill that would ultimately eliminate teacher tenure in Missouri.

Dieckhaus and the bill's supporters say this bill would prevent districts from having to keep ineffective teachers in their schools because of tenure.

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Description: "I think that it is going to result in poor-performing teachers being removed from the classroom."

Janice White from Nixa, Missouri taught for 28 years before retiring in May. She says she would not want to see the effects of this new bill for teachers.


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Description: “I can understand where they’re coming from as far was the tenure because they always say, 'OK you’ve got tenure you can’t touch me so, you know, I can do whatever.' But I have known very few teachers in my lifetime that have been that way.”
White opposes eliminating teacher tenure and says it would hurt teachers who are good at what they do.
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Description: “Teachers are teachers. They work, they promote the best for their students. And you’re going to get a bad apple somewhere but for the most part, most teachers are good educators.”

Superintendent of Jefferson City Public Schools Doctor Brian Mitchell  opposes this legislation, saying this bill is not a suitable solution for education reform needs.

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Description: “I’m not so sure that we don’t have folks that their intentions are to destroy public education, not help us reform education.”

According to the spokesperson for Missouri State Teacher's Association, Todd Fuller, the five-year period before a teacher gains tenure is crucial. He says during this period, administrators are to evaluate teachers and then determine whether or not they should be given tenure in that district.

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Description: “What happens in that process or during that time is teachers have already, number one decided if want to stay in that particular district or number two they and the administration has decided if that district is a good fit for that particular teacher.”

Fuller is opposed to the elimination of tenure and says even a tenured teacher can be removed from a district if they are not performing.

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Description: “If an administrator is doing his or her job and a teacher is not a good teacher, then they shouldn’t be in the classroom. And the administrator can make sure that teacher is not in the classroom regardless of whether the teacher has tenure.”

However, Superintendent of Excelsior Springs Doctor Jim Horton  says removing a tenured teacher is not as easy as it may sound.

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Description: “The process is lengthy, the process is costly, you know, usually you have to get an attorney involved in the process. And so it does get in the way."
Another major change under this bill is the way teachers are evaluated. Student performance would determine 50 percent of their evaluation score, and their pay would change accordingly.
Based on her 28 years in the classroom, White suggests the quality of a teacher is not based on the progress of their students. She says every year brings a new group of students into a teacher's classroom.
“But then let’s say the next year your class comes along and you’ve got one of those classes that, you know, you just worked yourself to death and, the next thing you know, they still, they just are not good students. And we know that happens.”
Russell Smithson, from Warrensburg has been a third grade teacher for 12 years. He says basing pay on student scores stifles teacher collaboration.

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Description: “If their pay is going to be based off of that, Susie down the hall is not going to share with Jim across the hall what she’s doing in her classroom that works really well.”

Jefferson City's Superintendent says basing teachers' evaluations on their students' performance would cause teachers to try to pick and choose their students.


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Description: “It would lead to teachers, you know, wanting to pick their classes as to who they want to serve and who they don’t want to serve.

However, the Excelsior Springs Superintendent says as an administrator, evaluating teachers based on student progress is important.

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Description: “To evaluate teachers I think student progress, student achievement should be used as part of the evaluation process.”

He says students' progress should be measured over the course of the school year.

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Description: “You may have a teacher that has a very difficult class of students, very low- performing and so it’s important to look at how those students progressed during the year, not necessarily the end point where they finish.”

Missouri lawmakers are to continue this debate over education reform throughout the legislative session. 

From the State Capitol, I'm Kadee Brosseau.