Washington State House Democrats


House education leadership team reaches agreement on teacher evaluations

Olympia – The House Democratic education leadership team announced today that an agreement has been reached with the four caucuses and the governor’s office on a proposal to implement a statewide school teacher and principal evaluation system.

Lawmakers are calling the proposal a “professional growth model” as its primary focus is to build upon the strengths of each teacher and principal in Washington schools. The bill also ensures that districts will have the tools and resources they will need in order to implement the evaluation system statewide.

“Having a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school is key to student success,” said Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes). “Quality teaching leads to powerful learning.”

Teacher and principal evaluation reform has been in the works for two years. During the 2009 legislative session, Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) led House efforts to create the Washington State Teacher Principal Evaluation Program (TPEP). TPEP created a new evaluation system that is currently being piloted by a handful of school districts.

The statewide model is largely based on the expertise provided by the pilot schools. House leaders emphasized this model was adopted in large part due to the findings that the pilots submitted to the legislature.

“The pilot schools have done a tremendous job testing the framework established by the legislature,” said Maxwell. “With the data we gathered from the pilot schools, I’m confident we have a model that focuses on collaboration and professional development and will ultimately lead to greater student achievement in the classroom.”

One of the key issues during the negotiations was the idea of using student growth data as part of the evaluations. Measuring student growth data is a complex process as the data varies by district. A one-size-fits-all statewide approach would have been nearly impossible to implement.

Under the proposed agreement, student growth data will be used. However, safeguards will be put in place to make sure the data is used objectively, fairly, and consistently across districts.

The model recognizes and preserves the long-standing tradition of local control and local collective bargaining. But it also allows schools to make human resources and other personnel decisions partly based on evaluations.

“We’re venturing into uncharted waters with the use of student growth data in teacher evaluations,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle), chair of the House Education committee. “We need to make certain we have safeguards in place that accurately reflect performance while also taking into consideration the diverse characteristics of our classrooms and our communities.”

“While we continue to work toward fully-funding our schools,” said Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) “we need to make sure we are getting the best results for our students. This tool will help us assess that.”

Districts must begin phasing in the new evaluation system by the 2013-14 school year. Districts are allowed to phase in the new system over three years. It must be fully in place by the 2016-17 school year.
Maxwell, who is also the Deputy Majority Leader for Education & Opportunity, disputed recent claims that a TPEP bill would not be passed by the legislature this session.

“Contrary to some recent media reports, this issue was never dead,” said Maxwell. “My colleagues and I have been working hard on this issue long before session began and that work hasn’t stopped. No issue is ever dead until we go home at the end of session.”