Educators across Missouri have been debating the issues of common core state standards and teacher tenure. Missouri National Education Association President, Charles E. Smith, said whatever route Missouri goes, teachers should be involved in the decision.
The bill that could replace national common core standards with a new set of standards developed by Missouri state educators is still sitting on Governor Nixon's desk.
Smith said the bill would require the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to form new work groups of teachers and school administrators to make recommendations for new standards and subject areas. The recommendations would take effect during the 2016-2017 school year.
While there have been several concerns over national common core standards, Smith said the implementation process is what the Missouri NEA is most concerned about because they want to make sure educators are totally involved in the process.
"Making sure that we have parents, and teachers and educators involved in the adoption of the standards and putting together the standards and making sure that they work for all communities," Smith said.
He said the goal of the national common core standards is to provide a clear, consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn to make sure children are well-educated and prepared for not only college, but for their careers.
This same concern for preparing children to be college- and career- ready bleeds into the other issue of teacher tenure.
The proposed "teach great" initiative has been sparking debate across the state for suggesting that teacher tenure be re-evaluated. It's sparked so much debate, in fact, that the "teach great" coalition is facing a lawsuit filed by two teachers on the ground that the petition is unconstitutional.
Smith said that while the Missouri NEA agrees the current teacher tenure law needs some improvement, they oppose elimination because they believe that would lead to arbitrary firings.
"Effective evaluative systems and a hearing before an impartial hearing board would provide a much better outcome in keeping the best teachers in the classroom but tenure certainly is not a guarantee of a job and some people believe that it is," he said.
He said defining an effective teacher evaluation system isn't as easy as it may sound.
"It requires time for observing, for conferencing, for examining work and evaluating evidence of student learning," Smith said.
Smith said only those teachers who are unable to improve with adequate time and assistance should be removed.
"And students and staff benefit when high quality evaluations reinforce good practice and help educators improve," he said. "And educators want to improve. The overwhelming majority of educators want to improve because they want to do what's best for students and they want students to be successful."
And what exactly is a high quality teacher evaluation?
Smith said for starters, the evaluation must rely on clear standards and use multiple indicators- not be based on a single standardized exam. He also emphasized that the most effective systems are developed in a joint effort between teachers and administrators.
The National Education Association holds its annual meeting to discuss these and other pressing education issues June 26-July 6 in Denver, Colorado.