Amendment 3 (on November 2014 Ballot) Resolution For School Boards
This November you will be asked to vote on Constitutional Amendment 3, commonly referred to as the Teacher Tenure Amendment. The Missouri Education Watchdog has written several times about tenure and Value Added Modeling (VAM) here, here, here and here which should give you a good background on what tenure is and isn't and why Amendment 3 won't address what it says it will.
School Board members have a duty to advocate for issues impacting the school district, including ballot issues. Amendment 3 will dictate to districts how they must write teacher contracts, evaluate teacher performance and what legal options teachers have to redress grievances. School boards not only have the right, but the obligation to speak out against this form of top down control of the local district.
There are many legal methods for Board members and employees to do so without violating the law. The Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) has provided guidance about what school boards CAN do. The following information is from a toolkit that they have developed for school board members.
“Public Appearances” – Allowed! The law clearly allows public officials (presumably school board members and district employees) to make public appearances in support of ballot issues. That means that the superintendent, board members and other district employees may meet with groups to encourage community members to vote for a ballot measure or otherwise advocate in favor of or against ballot measures in public speeches or statements. Employees may attend rallies and wear T-shirts and buttons advocating a particular position on their personal time.
“Press Releases” – Allowed! The law allows public officials to issue press releases regarding a ballot measure. MSBA interprets the law as allowing districts to advocate for or against a ballot measure using the press release exception, even if district resources are used in generating and advertising the press release. So, for example, school boards may publicly advocate the school board’s position on a bond issue by approving a resolution in a school board meeting and issuing press releases including that position. Boards may meet using district facilities to discuss resolutions and press releases, and the Board may distribute the press release using district resources as well. Districts should clearly label any advocating statement as a “Press Release” to avoid confusion and must provide the press release to the media to qualify for this exception.
This said, the MEC has not yet issued an opinion on whether districts can use district funds or resources to issue press releases advocating for or against a ballot measure, as opposed to just providing neutral information. Districts that use the press release exception need to be aware that the MEC may not ultimately agree with MSBA’s interpretation of the law.
In addition, district employees as private persons have a First Amendment right to speak out on political issues, including ballot measures.
Below is a resolution that you should ask your school board to pass on Amendment 3.
SCHOOL BOARD RESOLUTION AGAINST AMENDMENT 3
WHEREAS, Amendment 3 requires teachers to be evaluated by a standards-based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding; and therefore, is a top-down mandate that shifts local control of children’s education and teacher evaluation away from elected school boards to unelected State Department of Education bureaucrats implementing the evaluation plans of non-governmental organizations such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education, as well as, private testing corporations such as Pearson; and
WHEREAS, Amendment 3 requires teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the teacher evaluation system despite recommendations from the the research community, including the American Statistical Association, the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center, the Rand Corporation, and the Economic Policy Institute, against the heavy reliance on test scores, even when sophisticated VAM methods are used, for high stakes decisions such as pay, evaluation, or tenure because estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair; and
WHEREAS, Amendment 3 requires incorporating statewide standardized tests not owned by Missouri into teacher evaluations, and requires teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts; thereby, removing the discretion of employment criteria from local school boards that ratify employment contracts between a school district and teachers employed in that district; and
WHEREAS, Amendment 3, under the current DESE assessment plan, grounds decisions about student performance and conditions of teachers’ employment in results of Smarter Balanced Assessments under the control of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as agreed to by the Commissioner of Education in April of 2010 before the assessments were developed and the reliability and validity of the assessments available for review, violating RsMO 160.526.2 which states: “. . . Within six months prior to implementation of the statewide assessment system, the commissioner of education shall inform the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house about the procedures to implement the assessment system, including a report related to the reliability and validity of the assessment instruments, and the general assembly may, within the next sixty legislative days, veto such implementation by concurrent resolution adopted by majority vote of both the senate and the house of representatives”; and
WHEREAS, Amendment 3 incorporates the misuse of standardized tests as high stakes tests, inappropriately forcing teachers to “teach to the test” rather than focusing on actual instruction and learning; and
WHEREAS, Real accountability for teacher job performance should come from school principals who conduct regular classroom observations, input from experienced teachers providing peer mentoring, and parents whose children are the beneficiaries of public school instruction;
RESOLVED: The _______________District Board of Education opposes Amendment 3 and agrees that it will hurt our public school students, their teachers, and the community.
A digital version of this resolution can be downloaded here.
New AP U.S. History (APUSH) Course Distorts American History
One example of the radical change in the coursework was discussed by Jane Robbins Senior Fellow at the American Principles Project.
"A particularly troubling failure of the Framework is its dismissal of the Declaration of Independence and the principles so eloquently expressed there. The Framework’s entire discussion of this seminal document consists of just one phrase in one sentence: 'The colonists’ belief in the superiority of republican self-government based on the natural rights of the people found its clearest American expression in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and in the Declaration of Independence.' The Framework thus ignores the philosophical underpinnings of the Declaration and the willingness of the signers to pledge 'our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor' to the cause of freedom."
For a more detailed analysis of the changes to APUSH read Larry Krieger's critque here. Mr. Krieger has taught SAT classes for over 20 years and AP classes for over 35 years, specializing in AP U. S. History (APUSH). You can also read Mr. Kreiger's response to AP's defense of the new framework here.
Local School Boards first of all should be made aware of these changes. Most of them do not know that the exam and frameworks have been changed. Secondly, they can have an impact by sending a resolution to the College Board and the State Board of Education asking them to delay implementation (and training which the state pays for) for the new APUSH until a more detailed analysis of the framework and exam can be made. An example of such a resolution, taken from one passed by New Hanover County North Carolina is provided below.
RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE NC STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION DEMAND A DELAY, AND REWRITE, OF THE ADVANCED PLACEMENT U.S. HISTORY CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK
WHEREAS, approximately 11,000 students in the state of North Carolina are enrolled in the College Board’s
Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) course this year; and
WHEREAS, the APUSH course has traditionally been designed to present a balanced view of American History
and to prepare students for college-level history courses; and
WHEREAS, the College Board has recently released a new Framework for the APUSH course; and
WHEREAS, the new APUSH Framework reflects a radically revisionist view of American History that emphasizes
negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects; and
WHEREAS, the Framework includes little or no discussion of the Founding Fathers, the principles of the
Declaration of the Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history, and many other critical
topics that have always been part of the APUSH course; and
WHEREAS, the Framework excludes discussion of the U.S. military (no battles, commanders, or heroes) and
omits many other individuals, groups, and events that greatly shaped our nation’s history (for example,
Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Albert Einstein, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks,
Dr. Martin Luther King, Tuskegee Airmen, the Holocaust); and
WHEREAS, the Framework presents a biased and inaccurate view of many important events in American
history, including the motivations and actions of 17th – 19th century settlers, American involvement in World
War II, and the development of and victory in the Cold War; and
WHEREAS, the Framework describes its detailed requirements as “required knowledge” for North Carolina
students and the College Board admits that the APUSH examination will not test information outside this
“required knowledge”; and
WHEREAS, to prepare their students for the APUSH examination, North Carolina APUSH teacher will have to
teach “required knowledge” rather than the state-mandated Social Studies Essential Standards; and
WHEREAS, the Framework will thus have the effect of usurping North Carolina graduation requirements;
THEREFORE, the New Hanover County Board of Education hereby petitions the North Carolina State Board of
Education and the State Superintendent, June Atkinson, to request the College Board to delay the
implementation of the new APUSH Framework for at least a year.
FURTHERMORE, the New Hanover County Board of Education strongly encourages the Legislature to investigate this matter.