Today the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on Senate Bill 5895, which will create a more comprehensive system of teacher evaluations.
A compromise was reached on this bill because of the great work of the Senate's Chair on Early Learning and K-12 Education, Rosemary McAuliffe, House Education Vice Chair Kristine Lytton, as well as Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, Rep. Bruce Dammeier and Gov. Chris Gregoire.
The bill passed the Senate 46-3. I was one of the yes votes. Let me tell you why.
Personally I think this bill does a lot of good things, but I do have some concerns and I think some aspects will need to be fine-tuned as we move forward.
The bill itself will follow an existing state effort to move to a statewide four-tier teacher evaluation system by 2015-16, after eight pilot programs have completed tests of what works best. Before 2010, teachers were given either a satisfactory or unsatisfactory grade under a two-tier system.
On the positive side, student growth data will be a substantial factor in evaluating both teachers and principals. The criteria for this, as I understand it, will be flexible from district to district and school to school, which I believe will allow all schools to craft a plan that best suits its individual needs.
This bill also requires that principals and administrators must receive professional development training designed to implement the system prior to evaluating teachers and principals under the new guidelines. We must make a commitment to keep up our end of the bargain and ensure that we do fully fund this aspect of the bill.
I’m also pleased that this bill will protect collective bargaining rights and the due process of our local school districts which should allow them to work within the changes required in this bill.
The bottom line is that our K-12 educational system must provide our principals, teachers and especially students with all the tools at our disposal to ensure that we improve the outcomes for our kids – which is the ultimate goal of every piece of education legislation.