Amendment 3 hits close to home

Overpassing the representatives:, an educational organization, initiated the amendment through a petition with signatures. Committees in the Missouri legislature in recent years have dismissed most of the ideas posited in the amendment. Amendment 3 will be on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 4. Photo by Madelyn Stewart.

Jenna Liu

Today some seniors will vote for the first time. As they file into their polling places, they may keep in mind one issue that will affect their younger classmates and their teachers.
The ballot features proposed Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3, which would implement performance evaluations of teachers that would be used to determine whether or not a teacher should be dismissed, retained, demoted or promoted.
Supporters of the amendment tout its ability to reward teachers for their hard work, which would ultimately result in better student performance., backed by Rex Sinquefield, a Missouri businessman, supports the amendment, which would lessen tenure and tie teacher evaluations to student performance.
“Many of the good [teachers] leave and go onto something else, and the bad ones stay,” Sinquefield said at Lindenwood University two months ago.
Jennifer Black Cone, who is the chair of the Working Conditions committee for the Columbia affiliate of Missouri National Educators, said while some parts of the public school system need reworking, Missouri voters should aid in reform by demanding smaller classes, paying teachers better and fully funding the Foundation Formula — a piece of 2005 state legislation that was intended to close the gap between rich and poor school districts.
At the start of September, rethought its support of the amendment and withdrew its active campaigning and financial backing, citing a lack of public support as the reason.
However, teachers such as Cone will still fight against the chance, although slim, that voters will vote in favor of the amendment come Nov. 4. Cone, an English teacher, is against the idea of using standardized test results to determine teacher pay, saying teachers and local school districts will lose control of education and teach to a test.
“I am adamantly against [Amendment 3,]” Cone said. “They [teachers] will be penalized by pay or job security.”
Debra Perry, an Advanced Placement government and freshman Civics teacher, said she also does not support the amendment.
Nevertheless, she believes it would not change her interaction with students in the classroom because she tries to create engaging lessons where students actively participate.
“It’s a paper and pencil exam because that’s fast and cheap and you do active learning in the classroom to promote thinking and Socratic discussion and all that but now we’re going to ask you to show that on a multiple choice or even constructed response that somehow there is a disconnect between the two to me,” Perry, who has taught in Texas schools, said. “If they could come up with a standard that actually evaluated that and showed progress, then that would be different, but I think that at the end of the day I have to … ask, ’What is good teaching? What does learning look like?’ and then that’s what you have to try to bring every day.”
Senior Brianne Arnett said that she does not anticipate any major modifications in the way her classes are taught if the amendment manages to pass.
“Teachers already do a good job of teaching, and like, I don’t think this will change much,” Arnett said.
Arnett, who is 18 and eligible to vote, believes one standardized test is not an accurate measurement of a teacher’s ability to do his or her job.
“Some people just aren’t the best at taking tests and some people just don’t try on standardized tests, even if the teacher taught them the information,” Arnett said. “That shouldn’t reflect upon the teacher.”
Ultimately, using one assessment to configure an evaluation of a teacher’s skill is not reasonable, Perry said.
“We’re not creating widgets here,” Perry said. “It’s complex. People come with different experiences and backgrounds and needs and so how is this one thing the measure of that? It doesn’t take into account the complexity of what education is about.”
By Jenna Liu
Lawmakers at the Capitol in Jefferson City will be tasked with legislating the new regulations. Photo by Sury Rawat.