Local school districts in opposition of controversial Amendment 3

Local secondary education leaders — and those around the state — seem steadfastly united against Amendment 3, a statewide ballot measure up for vote in Missouri during the Tuesday, Nov. 4 election. If approved, the controversial initiated constitutional amendment would implement teacher performance evaluations based on student performance that would be used to determine whether a teacher should be dismissed, retained, demoted or promoted. It would also prevent teachers from collectively bargaining over the terms of these evaluations.

The North Platte, West Platte and Park Hill school district boards of education all spoke out against the measure during recent meetings. Platte County R-3 did not adopt a resolution against it, but superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said in an email that the proposed amendment goes against the district’s adopted platform, which values local control of evaluations as a priority.

West Platte, North Platte and Park Hill did adopt resolutions in opposition to the measure in recent weeks.

“Our board members felt it would erode local control of our schools,” said Park Hill superintendent Dr. Scott Springston of the district board’s vote. “Decisions about our community’s schools should be made here in our community.”

Under the proposal, teaching contracts would be limited to three years to provide for proper evaluation through what supporters believe is quantifiable measurement.

Much of the criteria would fall on standardized test scores, but the National Education Association (NEA) warns that using student test scores to determine educator salaries “only (measures) a narrow piece of the teacher’s work.”

However, student outcomes are generally included in objectives for teachers, and supporters argue that it only makes sense to have a system that holds them accountable for those outcomes, much like public sector jobs. The hope is to ensure teachers are evaluated based on an objective measure to help district’s retain and reward effective teachers.

West Platte interim superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst said he fears the proposed amendment could double or triple the amount of standardized testing students would be forced to complete during the course of a school year. This would be a potentially unfunded mandate to taxpayers.

“We already have to teach to the test to a certain degree, and this could exponentially increase that,” Harpst said.

Districts would also lose local control on how to evaluate their teachers, who often struggle to bring up test scores for some students from lower income backgrounds dealing with other issues besides education.

Platte County recently adopted a new and innovative teaching model entitled EPIC — Educator Performance Improvement Cycle. The purpose of the new system, built from scratch around Missouri Department of Secondary Education mandates, is to foster growth within the teachers, while allowing them to be a part of their own evaluation.

This seeks to build trust between teachers and administration, which opponents fear will be lost if Amendment 3 passes.

“I think that’s what makes me aggravated is taking local control away from us,” North Platte board member George Hoeffner said during the district’s recent meeting. “Who knows the North Platte School District better than the North Platte patrons and us?”

The supporting group had until May 4 to turn in at least 157,788 valid signatures to get Amendment 3 on the ballot. Missouri law states that signatures must be obtained from registered voters equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the 2012 governor’s election from six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

A simple majority is required to pass the measure.