Evaluations, education costs, employment all on teachers\' political agenda

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COLUMBIA - More than 700 Missouri teachers gathered in Columbia to prepare an agenda for the 2018 legislative session.

"Everything is done from the bottom up, our members discuss the platform, adopt the platform and ultimately the association will go to the legislature with our priorities and discuss those with those members," said Matt Michelson, government relations manager for the Missouri State Teacher's Association.

Delegates had the opportunity to discuss almost 50 proposed resolutions, focused on things like free public education, sources of school revenue, employment conditions and teacher education and professional standards. 

Many teachers want to reintroduce the topic of teaching evaluations to legislators. Michelson said some teachers are concerned about the lack of clarity in standards and not being evaluated properly by trained evaluators.

"They don't really know where the goalposts are, when those goalposts continue to move, they don't know what the standards or expectations are and that can be difficult," Michelson said.

He said there are a few set models that evaluators follow, but teachers want a more localized evaluation that directly affects their students.

"One of the hallmarks of a grassroots organization is allowing our members to set the legislative agenda based on what is important to them and what they see going on in their classrooms and school districts," Executive Director Bruce Moe said.

In addition to discussing legislative change, teachers are attending professional development workshops to sharpen their skills inside the classroom.

All of the workshops were certified by Learning Forward, an association that focuses on advancing professional learning for student success.

"It's quality, certified professional development. It's not just 'rah-rah' stuff, it's meat and bones, educational doctrine on established principles," President Brett Hoch said. "It's been researched and the teachers and presenters that are doing the work have put the time to make it meaningful."

Workshop topics include diversity and cultural proficiency, ways to further engage students and building better lesson plans.