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Lawmakers: Scrap tenure, social promotion

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder joined several legislative leaders Monday in calling for sweeping changes in how Missouri students and teachers are evaluated.

At a news conference in the Capitol building, Kinder gave his support to proposals that would change the tenure system for teachers and end a practice known as “social promotion,” in which schools allow students to advance to higher grades even if they haven’t met the academic requirements.

“Parents don’t want to wait for a (multi-year) reform plan,” said Kinder, a Republican. “A one-size-fits-all system designed 150 years ago is not adequate for the challenges we face as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. The time for complacency and writing off inner-city kids as if they’re expendable is over.”

The lawmakers also want to expand charter schools and provide tax credits for scholarships that allow autistic children to attend specialized schools outside of their districts.

Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, said he wants to change how teacher performance is evaluated. He said he wants 50 percent of teachers’ evaluation scores to come from students’ test results, and 50 percent of school administrators’ evaluation scores to be based on the evaluations their teachers receive. Dieckhaus said this would provide an incentive to keep and hire better teachers.

“If a teacher is adding a year or more of growth to a student, they’re doing their job,” he said. “If a teacher is not really moving the barometer very much with a student population, they’re not necessarily doing their job.”

Dieckhaus, the chairman of the House Education Committee, said he wants to do away with the tenure system entirely, even for teachers who have already earned it. That proposal is sure to face stiff opposition from teachers’ organizations.

“I would start everyone fresh,” he said. “I think teachers who are doing a good job are going to appreciate the opportunity to do well on their evaluations.”

Several state lawmakers said they want schools to do away with the practice of social promotion, in which undeserving students are moved to higher grades.

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said the practice does not help prepare students for college or the job market.

“Social promotion is damaging to fabric of education,” she said. “We have to do something drastic to eliminate social promotion within the state of Missouri.”

The lawmakers also talked about expanding charter schools and reviving legislation from previous years that would give tax credits to people who donate to scholarships for developmentally disabled children to attend special schools.

Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Manchester, said the tax credits would be useful because they would cut the state’s medical costs by helping those students get treatment sooner.

The legislators said their press conference was part of the inaugural National School Choice Week, which runs through Jan. 29. They said they will file their bills later this week and early next week.

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