JEFFERSON CITY - Since the public school districts in the two largest cities in Missouri became unaccredited, education reform has become a topic on the tip of everyone's tongue. A bill in the Missouri House intends to end tenured contracts for teachers in an attempt to increase the quality of Missouri's schools.
The bill, also called the Teacher Multiyear Contract Act, would eliminate the permanent contracts awarded to teachers with a certain amount of seniority. Tenure, a type of contract only used in the field of education, would be replaced with yearly contracts supplemented with annual evaluations.
Missouri joins several other states considering ending tenure, including Illinois, Idaho, Louisiana, New Jersey and Indiana.
Currently tenured teachers, as well as those new to their jobs in education, would have their contracts replaced with continuing or multi-year contracts, lasting a maximum of four years.
All contracts would be eligible only for renewal after evaluations of the teacher's classroom performance and "student growth." Student growth would be measured through data, including the students' improvement on statewide standardized test scores.
"Student growth is significantly more than standardized test scores," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington. "It's tracking where the students are and where the student winds up."
The state will develop recommended standards for student growth, Dieckhaus said, but local school districts will ultimately have the ability to develop their own standards for "growth."
While student growth accounts for 50 percent of teacher evaluations, the other 50 percent consists of how well the teacher fits the Missouri Teacher Educator Standards. These standards measure how well educators understand student learning, incorporate different techniques into their curriculum and develop their own skills over time. The bill also expands who can perform these evaluations from solely administrators to department heads and retired teachers, Dieckhaus said .
Those opposed to the bill have voiced concerns that the bill will impose a statewide testing standard on districts with varied populations and school quality.
"A lot of classes don't have state-wide test scores," said Krista Meyer, Political Action Manager for the Missouri State Teachers Association, who testified against the bill. "So maybe on the local level there are better measures of student growth other than state-wide test scores."
As a response, Dieckhaus said he would address language in the legislation to give local school boards the ability to define "student growth" based on their own district.
The committee did not vote on the bill and plans to address it in the coming weeks.