Over my next two blog posts, I examine the issue of teacher tenure reform and local control.
It is no secret that I support reforming teacher tenure, using value-added student achievement to evaluate teachers, and removing ineffective teachers from the classroom. Therefore, you might expect me to completely support a bill that would do these things. Yet, I find it very difficult to support legislation that does these things at the expense of local control.
While it is true that some tenure reform proposals in the Missouri Legislature may not be completely pro-local control, we must remember that the status quo is not pro-local control, either.
Last week, the Missouri House of Representatives voted down a bill (102 to 55) that would have changed the way teachers are evaluated, tenured, and dismissed. In response to the vote, Missouri State Teachers Association lobbyist Mike Wood stated, “We were very excited to see that kind of support for local control of public education.” This sounded very much like comments from former Missouri Speaker of the House Jim Kreider. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote, “We want less government in local schools, not more needless government mandates.” You can read my reply to Kreider here.
The problem with both of these arguments is that doing nothing to reform teacher tenure is not a pro-local control position; it is a pro-tenure position or a pro-state restrictions position.
When it comes to tenure, a true pro-local control position would support:
- Removing provisions from state statutes that require districts to award permanent contracts after a teacher’s fifth year.
- Removing restrictions that prohibit schools from laying off low-performing veteran teachers before high-performing novice teachers during a reduction in force.
Local school districts are limited in many ways and the bill that was voted down did not infringe on local control any more than the current policies do; the bill simply infringed in a different manner.
In my next post, I will discuss how we square the circle. How do you get school districts to implement rigorous evaluation systems and remove low-performing teachers, while still giving school districts maximum local control?