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The Doors Have Shut, but the Amendment Stands

Not long after we published this post explaining what Teach Great was and what the Teach Great initiative was all about, news broke that the organization, backed by activist Rex Sinquefield, had ended its Amendment 3 campaign.

Just a few days later Teach Great made the news again. This time it announced that the organization was closing down completely. This is good news for public education, but although Teach Great’s doors are shut and its website is offline, the damages it initiated still threaten Missouri schools: Constitutional Amendment 3 is still on the November 4 General Election ballot.

What Amendment 3 Will Do
Amendment 3 will cause an increase in district expenses that could crush lower-income schools. It will require students to take even more standardized tests in even more subject areas, and those tests, along with their direct ties to teacher evaluation and pay, will take local control away from schools.

Learn More: What Amendment 3 means for Missouri schools.

1) State-Approved Standardized Tests in All Subjects
Amendment 3’s standardized tests will take control away from families, teachers, and principals in local districts at a time when the majority of citizens believe that the local school board should have the greatest influence—more so than the state or federal government—on what is taught (and tested) in public schools.

Teachers, including Katie Webb of Hannibal, Missouri, oppose this increase in state-run tests:

“As a teacher I oppose Amendment 3 because I dislike the increase in state mandated testing. As a music teacher, I celebrate achievements in my students that might not be academic.” (source)

Webb isn’t the only teacher who is concerned that Amendment 3 will over-simplify the meaning of achievement in public schools. College and career ready students don’t simply test well, they have good attendance, exhibit leadership and teamwork skills, and they often demonstrate success in non-traditional skill sets like those in physical education or creative arts.

Amendment 3 puts undue emphasis on a single test (per subject) that is administered once each year—something most students are not likely to experience again in college or career. It does not help Missouri’s students to become college or career ready; it forces an impractical “one-size-fits-all” approach on teachers and students, alike.

Learn More: Amendment 3 & teacher tenure.

2) A “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach
By tying teacher pay and evaluations to state-mandated tests, Amendment 3 forces a one-size-fits-all approach to education. A teacher’s livelihood will be directly connected to how his or her students do on state testing, incentivizing teachers to “teach to the test” rather to teach to the needs of the individual student’s disposition, skills, and situation.

Amy Kelsey, a teacher in East Buchanon Co. C-1 Schools says:

“Every kid is different. Every kid has different needs, and it’s very important that we meet with those needs. Our society, I would think, would not want everyone to be the same. It is important for the teachers, the parents, the administrators—we are one community as a school—and for that community to work, we need to work together.” (source)

Students learn in different ways, and they express their knowledge and understanding uniquely, as well. No one knows this better than the teachers who work with students, their parents, and their districts every day. The kind of partnership that Ms. Kelsey alludes to—in which schools and the community work together—could crumble under the financial burden of Amendment 3.

3) Cost to Local Schools
Amendment 3 will cost upwards of $1 billion; an expense that would fall on the shoulders of local school districts. An expensive top-down mandate would introduce new financial concerns to already strapped school districts like many of those in rural Missouri.

“I live in a rural community. My school is not going to be able to afford the hit it’s going to take if this bill passes. My school district will not be able to come up with the money it’s going to take to create these tests and then to maintain them,” Kelsey told the Missouri State Teachers Association. (source)

Learn More: The Facts About Amendment 3.

To add insult to injury, student test scores would be linked directly to their teachers’ evaluations and pay scales. Schools in low-income schools like many of those in rural Missouri already struggle to hire and retain great teachers.

If student performance (which is negatively impacted by factors outside the teacher’s control) is poor, teachers in those schools could lose their jobs. These schools can’t afford one more barrier to entry in their pursuit of great teaching professionals.

These costs, the one-size-fits-all approach that Amendment 3 will force onto schools, and the loss of local control are altogether bad for Missouri public schools. Teach Great’s doors might be closed, but Amendment 3 remains on the ballot.

Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to go to the polls on November 4th to vote “no” on Constitutional Amendment 3.

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