January 2012 - State Superintendent Randy Dorn is pleased that education reform will be front and center during the 2012 legislative session. Dorn believes – and hopes legislators agree – that discussions around education reform must be mindful of the Supreme Court’s January 6 ruling on McCleary v. State, which held that the state isn’t providing adequate funding for basic education.
Here are Dorn’s positions on the major reform issues:
Teachers who are not successful ought to be given every opportunity to improve. If they cannot improve, superintendents need the flexibility to remove those teachers without employing current expensive and unwieldy legal procedures. The Superintendent’s request legislation would change a teacher’s tenured status to “provisional” (instead of “continuing”) if that teacher gets two consecutive “unsatisfactory” ratings.
- Charter schools.
Charter school legislation has been voted down three times by Washington voters, in 1996, 2000 and 2004. While much can be accomplished through charter schools, public alternative schools and other school district-managed schools also can foster innovation. Washington has many very innovative schools in our state. We need to encourage more innovation in our public schools, but any move to create charter schools should go to a vote of the people.
- University laboratory schools.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed that six university-led “laboratory schools” be created. The universities would partner with the state’s lowest performing five percent of schools, measured in terms of student achievement. Together, the universities and schools would implement innovative practices to help the schools improve. The idea of university-led schools is worthwhile, but the program should be managed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Improving the transition between high school and college is a worthwhile goal. The Washington Constitution, though, is very clear about K-12 public education. Article III, Section 22, states that the State Superintendent “shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools, and shall perform such specific duties as may be prescribed by law.” Any laws passed that create new education agencies or structures must keep that in mind.
- Health care.
A recent report by the Health Care Authority looked into whether consolidating health insurance plans for public school employees might save the state money in the long run. At this time, there are about 200 plans available for the state’s 200,000 workers. Now is the time to support reform to make the K-12 health care system more efficient and uniform.
- Teacher/Principal evaluations.
The new evaluation system for teachers and principals will transform the way those educators are evaluated, which in turn will have a profound effect on how students are taught. The work is crucial to the future of education in Washington. The program must be fully funded, and we should support any ideas to strengthen it. The Superintendent supports a more efficient system to evaluate and, if necessary, remove low-performing teachers.
- Reduction in force, assignment and due process.
Proposals to alter how teachers are laid off due to reductions in force, or how they are assigned to specific buildings, must consider the reality of collective bargaining and existing contracts.