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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Zalis says proposal takes control from districts

  • The proposed Missouri constitutional amendment that changes the way teachers are evaluated—and bases their pay on how well their students do on tests—goes too far in taking power away from local school boards, according to Rolla’s superintendent of schools.
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  • The proposed Missouri constitutional amendment that changes the way teachers are evaluated—and bases their pay on how well their students do on tests—goes too far in taking power away from local school boards, according to Rolla’s superintendent of schools.
    “I’m for local control of school districts,” Dr. Aaron Zalis said, adding that the ballot issue voters will decide Nov. 4 takes that control and puts it squarely in Jefferson City.
    Moreover, he said, implementing the requirements of that amendment will result in even more testing of students using standardized tests. That could lead to more “teaching to the test,” Zalis said.
    The language in the proposed amendment targets teachers by basing their employment and pay on how well students do on standardized tests.
    If the amendment is approved:
    • No new teachers hired after its effective date would ever be eligible for tenure.
    • Teacher contracts would be a maximum of three years.
    • Local schools would have to develop and put into use a system of standards to be used to measure teacher performance.
    • Most of the standards in the teacher evaluation system would be based on measuring student performance in an “objective” and “quantifiable” way.
    • Student performance data would be used in decisions on whether to keep teachers, promote teachers, demote teachers, fire teachers, remove teachers from classrooms and set the rate of pay of teachers.
    • A local school district’s evaluation system must be approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
    There are also provisions in the amendment regarding the removal of mentally ill teachers, immoral teachers and teachers with felony records.
    Zalis said a constitutional amendment is not needed, for current law already allows the removal of problematic teachers.
    The amendment as written appears to have a priority of eliminating teacher tenure and eliminating teacher salary schedules.
    Zalis said the notion that once teachers are hired, they can bide their time and receive raises simply for being a year older is a wrong notion.
    “I’m not against teacher tenure,” the superintendent said, but it doesn’t carry a great deal of importance in his daily administration of the district and its teachers. “We hire them, not to get rid of them, but to develop them,” he said. Faculty performance is stressed heavily in Rolla Public Schools.
    Zalis is also bothered by the requirement that teachers are evaluated by the performance of students.
    “We’ll be testing more kids” with statewide tests, he said. Currently, Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests are administered at certain grade levels, but the amendment appears to be requiring statewide core standards that will be measured on statewide tests.
    Page 2 of 2 - Such a system does not acknowledge differences in students and schools.
    “And we’ll be paying teachers based on that,” he said.
    Zalis is also bothered by reports that retired investor and political activist Rex Sinquefield gathered the signatures to put this measure on the ballot by paying a cadre of petition gatherers.
    “Something is wrong when a single person can pay to get enough signatures to change the state constitution,” he said.
    “There’s really nothing wrong with accountability. We already have that in the district,” Zalis said. “The wrong way is to do it with the state constitution.”
    Furthermore, Zalis wonders what this proposed amendment would do to the full spectrum of education. How could woodworking, shop, agriculture, band, art, creative writing and other such courses reduce students’ work to data on computer print-outs that would be used to determine instructors’ annual pay?
    Developing such evaluation plans for all teachers will be costly to districts and to the state, Zalis said.
    RCTA opposes initiative
    A Rolla Public Schools educator, representing the Rolla Community Teachers Association, told the Daily News that the Rolla teachers’ group is opposed to Amendment 3.
    “We have a strong stance against it,” said Steve Blakley, who teaches math at Rolla Junior High School.
    Blakley said this proposal is one of many times that the main proponent, Rex Sinquefield, has tried to “railroad teachers out of jobs.”
    “This is bad for education in Missouri,” Blakley said.
    The initiative also would limit tenure at public schools. Blakley said that tenure at public K-12 schools is not like the tenure that college and university professors have.
    At public schools, teachers with tenure can still be fired or punished for violations.
    In addition to tenure, the amendment also proposes a change in how teachers are evaluated.
    “They want to quantify teacher performance by testing,” Blakey said. “Students are already tested — a bunch of times.”
    Paul Hackbarth contributed to this report.

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