Teacher Evaluation Bill Summary

Because of time constraints,  I confess to not following the various teacher evaluation bills in the Legislature.  In this morning's Times, Brian Rosenthal does a good job in laying out who is offering what. 

All of the systems involve moving from a two-level rating — satisfactory or unsatisfactory — to a four-level rating system that would give teachers more feedback and thus help them improve. Under the earlier system, almost all teachers were rated satisfactory.

The current law leaves the specifics up to individual districts, while the bill supported by the union would fill in some details and provide training. The reform-minded bill, on the other hand, would require student test scores to be used in evaluations and evaluations to be used in hiring decisions.

The proposals from Gregoire and Dorn are similar to the bill backed by the union but have not generated much discussion this session.

What is interesting to me is that, just like the charter bills, the most reform-minded bills come from Rep. Eric Pettigrew and Senator Rodney Tom.  Both legislators seem to be staking out the ed reform path.  Their bill would require the use of test scores as a factor and allow seniority, currently the only factor, to be one of the factors.   What worries teachers most:

Finally — and perhaps most alarming to unions — the bill would allow for veteran teachers to lose their right to due process if they receive the lowest rating two years in a row.

Unions view that as unfair, but those advocating for change consider being able to more easily get rid of bad teachers a necessity.

The bill supported by the union seems to mirror what Seattle School district is doing with a few tweaks but would require the state to provide funding for evaluation training.  I have to say if the Legislature feels so strongly about teacher evaluations, they should be paying for making sure they are done properly. 

Two issues I need help with to understand:

One, as Brian lays it out, the Seattle agreement, already in place, does much of what the Legislature seems to want including probation and performance improvement plans for both new and veteran teachers.   So, if I'm reading this correctly, the difference is that the ed reform bill doesn't provide for the performance improvement plan but just tells the teacher to do better or they will be exited?  Is that right?

Two, as one commenter points out at the Times, nine districts besides Seattle are already piloting different evaluation programs as set up by OSPI?  Why aren't we waiting for the results of these pilot programs (especially since the taxpayers are paying for the programs)?   Why waste the time and money doing this? 

I would really like to hear from teachers on this issue so I can understand what you see in the bills and how you view this issue.


suep. said…
This is yet another attack on seasoned teachers and teacher's rights by the corporate ed reformers, and an attempt to tether teacher's evaluations to standardized test scores, which is fraught with error and unfairness and does damage to both teaching and learning.

Equating "effective" teaching with a rise in student standardized test scores is an incredibly narrow and shallow definition of teaching.

Enough already with this Gates-fueled obsession with "bad" teachers and teacher "evaluations."

How about we start talking about "ineffective" or "bad" venture philanthropists and evaluate what they do and how "effective" they are? Small schools initiative anyone? --Failed.
"School of the Future"? --Failed.
$335 million invested in "merit pay"? --Failing. Millions invested in the MAP test? --Screwed up.

Also, the ed reformers continue to conflate seniority with bad teaching. The two are not one and the same.

The fact is, it is the principal's responsibility to assess and maintain a strong teaching staff in her/his school at all times -- not just when there are budget cuts.

Bills (like some of these) that take aim at "last in, first out" falsely link budget cuts with the issue of weak teachers and unjustly target veteran teachers. If there are weak teachers in a school, a principal should not wait for a budgetary crisis to address the issue. We should not let principals off the hook.

Also "Last in, first out" (LIFO) is not some policy voodoo invented by the teachers union, but a common practice even in other professions. In times of budgetary cutbacks, it is common for companies to lay off the most recent hires, keeping the most experienced workers on staff. It's common sense.

Corporate ed reformers and anti-union politicians from Wisconsin to Michigan to Florida and now, it appears, Washington, are using the issue of weak teachers -- which is a statistically minor occurrence, by the way -- to weaken the teachers' union and strip teachers of protections and rights. It is no secret that more experienced teachers are largely targeted by these ed reformers because they earn more and are more likely to speak up for themselves and their students.

Furthermore, some of my children's -- and my own -- best teachers have been the more seasoned, experienced teachers.

And can we stop using euphemisms like "exited" when we mean fired. (I know you didn't start that trend, Melissa.)

Do we have a veritable plague of "bad" teachers in this nation? No, we do not. But arguably we do have a plague of feckless and opportunistic politicians.

We already have a new teacher evaluation system in place in Seattle. It should not be tied to the MAP test, although to some extent it is. Let's fix our system locally. We don't need any state mandates on how to grade our teachers.

Another point to keep in mind. As many as 80 percent or more of public school teachers in America are women. So this endless attack on teachers is largely an attack on women.

It's time for this witch hunt to stop.
mirmac1 said…
I'm disappointed in Pettigrew. He seems content with carrying water for these business interests. Tom is an obvious yoeman.

Pettigrew may sincerely feel this will help schools in his district. I strongly disagree. I want great schools for all as much or more than he does. I don't wish to enrich the free-enterprisers in the process.
Maureen said…
@suep, yes, yes, yes!
suep. said…
More fun reading on the conservative* corporate ed reform agenda (of which union-busting and obsessive standardized testing is a large part):

ALEC Exposed: Starving Public Schools - July 14, 2011 by The Nation, by Julie Underwood

ALEC Education "Academy" Launches on Island Resort
Thursday 2 February 2012

An excerpt: Legislative efforts to weaken and defeat unions were so successful in places such as Florida, Indiana and Wisconsin last year that, according to the authors, we have entered a new era for ALEC's education policy agenda.

Comparing the union fight to Britain's defeat of Germany in Egypt to secure the Suez Canal, Lardner and Lips crow that in 2011, "For the first time, the unions suffered major policy defeats in a large number
of states across a wide array of policy issues."

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wrote the report card's forward, lamenting how the unions in his state once had a voice in issues such as the length of the school day, academic freedom and, generally, the
content of their work, says his state has turned the corner. "Collective bargaining will now be limited to wages and benefits and will no longer stand in the way of effective school leadership or
student progress," Daniels writes.

*Note: This does not mean Republican only. So-called "Democratic" entities like Lisa Macfarlane's new employer, "Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)" also push this corporate agenda.
basically said…
Rock on, Sue P, rock on!!
Anonymous said…
Sue P.,

You said it all and then some. I'm a veteran teacher who now works in a place that values experience. Guess what? We have some the the top test scores in the nation because we are actually teaching--and our evaluations aren't tied to the test.

I saw the writing on the wall (which is why I left SPS).

Sue P. always reminds me that good and wise people are fighting the good fight, and that makes getting out there each day a lot easier. Thanks for your advocacy.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
After over two decades of teaching I have recently been told that my classroom "must be a vibrant place where all students express an urgency about what is being taught".
Creative and solid teaching with students meeting standards is not enough to classify as a "good" teacher. It is not enough to have lessons and assessments that fit a range of students from those who have spent years in refugee camps to those who can easily meet the demands of college entrance. It's not enough to have most students happily engaging in rigorous curriculum. It's not enough build confidence and see high achievement in students who have spent years struggling with reading and writing. It's not enough that parents think you are the best teacher their student has ever had. For the reformers in SPS and elsewhere doing everything with no support is never enough.
The message to veteran teachers who are being targeted is that you can never do and be enough.

I have had enough.

Urban Legend
Anonymous said…
I find it deeply disturbing that some teachers featured on the LEV blog publicly bash their co-workers. Melissa has rightfully called them out on this unprofessional conduct but Charlie actually engages in dialogue with this crowd, including using "I've missed you" talk for one such teacher who trashed a co-worker in another piece.

Having dialogues under such conditions rewards disgraceful behavior, in my opinion.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
Suep says:Another point to keep in mind. As many as 80 percent or more of public school teachers in America are women. So this endless attack on teachers is largely an attack on women.

Great point!!!

Is there a gender bias regarding who is attacking teachers?

Anonymous said…
These evaluation changes will cost money. I find it ridiculous that the legislature is entertaining anything about education other than how to fund it when we can't afford to keep our kids in school for the minimal amount of 180 days.

Eric M said…
My 2 cents:
The new evaluations in Seattle cost teachers time.
They cost the schools time & therefore money.
They don't help teachers any more than the previous system. Almost all teachers were rated "proficient" (that's the 3-star level, the new "satisfactory"). Actual observation time is minimal, and seems focused on finding fault.

And worst of all, they're predicated on the absurd idea that there's a vast army of bad teachers that has to be ferreted out and fired.

The atmosphere of fear in school staffs is ratcheting up, and it really is disconcerting.

I agree with suep.'s comments, particularly the characterization of this as a "witch hunt". Women are often targets, as are older teachers, because they're more expensive.
Anonymous said…
Everything SueP says and then some!

Teachers: You continually amaze me every day with your dedication, passion and talent. I pray the scapegoating by cocky, ignoramuses will cease soon, but until then, know that tens of thousands of parents have your backs.

I also pray your union is reading this blog. WSDWG

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