Audrey Spalding
Missourinet reports today that legislative attempts to reform Missouri teacher tenure laws are being stopped in the Senate. Missouri Sen. Kevin Engler (R-Dist. 3) is concerned that proposed changes to teacher tenure go too far, saying "I think we should probably revise tenure . . . but I don't know if we should just get rid of it."

The Show-Me Institute is in the process of researching the impact of Missouri's existing teacher tenure laws. We have made hundreds of information requests to school districts throughout the state to discover just how many teachers have been terminated in the past decade. Generally, we are seeing few — and in some cases no — teacher terminations. Clearly, some of these school districts continue to employ bad teachers.

I have listed teacher termination statics that we have received from school districts that fall within Engler's Senate district. Three districts report that they have not terminated a single teacher since the year 2000.
Senator Kevin Engler's Area:

Arcadia Valley R-III: Reports terminating one teacher since 2000.

Belleview School District: Reports that the district has not terminated any teachers since 2000.

DeSoto School District: Reports terminating one teacher since 2000.

East Carter County R-II: Reports terminating one teacher since 2000.

Potosi R-III: Reports that the district has not terminated any teachers since 2000.

Van Buren School District: The superintendent writes that "There were no teachers [since 2000] that were asked to leave, terminated, or were fired by the district."

Legislators should remember that the purpose of public education is not to employ as many teachers as possible; it is to provide education to Missouri students. As we have pointed out on this blog, we must acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that not all teachers are above average. A consistent finding in academic studies is that teacher quality matters. In fact, a study by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University found that students can learn three times as much from a good teacher than they do from a bad one.

Restricting school districts' ability to fire bad teachers ensures that some Missouri students are receiving a poor education. As shown in the school districts from the area Engler represents, some districts rarely terminate teachers. Is this practice the best for Missouri students?

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Audrey Spalding