Reimagining Education

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Consumers of Public Schools Overwhelmingly Support Reform

Kate Casas, State Director, Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri

The need for change is hard to accept and even harder to embrace. As such, I am not surprised that many are reluctant to acknowledge that the teacher tenure system in Missouri’s k-12 schools needs some major changing. However, the reluctance among editorial board writers, lawmakers, and the education establishment to reform tenure, doesn’t change the fact, that the system needs improvement.

In fact research tells us there are three improvements to the way teachers are hired, fired, and evaluated in Missouri that could improve the quality of education while protecting great teachers.

  1. End the practice of seniority based layoffs-when a school district has to reduce staff; they are currently required by statute to let the teachers with the least seniority go first. They are not allowed to layoff teachers based on their performance. The result of this practice is often times great teachers being forced out of the classroom.
  2. Link teacher evaluations with student performance-Currently, teacher evaluations have nothing to do with how well the students preform. There is a lot of research to demonstrate that using student growth (how much a child learns in one school year) is an effective way to evaluate teachers.
  3. End the practice of awarding indefinite contracts-In Missouri indefinite contracts are awarded when a teacher has taught in the same district for five years. Once they have been awarded an indefinite contract it is extremely difficult and in some cases, impossible, to dismiss an under-performing teacher.

Although many of Missouri’s decision makers are dragging their feet, Missouri’s citizens, the ones who send their children to Missouri’s schools, are embracing these common sense reforms. On March 9, StudentsFirst, a national education reform organization, released results of a poll that showed more than 70% of Missouri voters support each of these reforms. Today, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst CEO published this op-ed in the Saint Louis Post Dispatch which details why the families represented in this poll are right for supporting these common sense reforms.

The bold lawmakers, organizations, and the people across Missouri who support reforming the system obviously understand that the time for incremental change in Missouri’s k-12 system has come and gone. I, like them, would never want to have to look a kindergartener trapped in a failed school with a poor performing teacher in the face, and ask them to give me a little more time to get it right knowing full well that that child doesn’t have a little more time.

It’s time for Missouri’s decision makers to embrace the need for change.

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