Sunday, March 11, 2012

An unwanted signature . . .

Last week following passage by the House, the Governor signed the new teacher evaluation bill into law.  In this Seattle Times article, she used these words to describe what this legislation will do for our state's public schools.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she expected the measure to make Washington a national model in teacher evaluations. Dozens of states are working on similar systems, but many are struggling to make them work.

She said Washington state succeeded by designing the system from the ground up, involving teachers, principals, parents, administrators, education researchers, lawmakers and community groups.

"This law will help ensure every public school student has the good teacher he or she deserves, and every neighborhood school has the good principal it deserves," Gregoire said.
I struggle to share her positive thoughts.  This legislation builds off of work done by the groups she mentions above that was passed two years ago with what I see as significant changes.  The changes are the result of compromise between the democrats, republicans, and the Governor behind closed doors without the groups she mentions above.  Though not present, however, the "reform" advocates position had an influence on the negotiations reflected in the changes to the use of student achievement data in the process. 
The change that I find most objectionable is the requirement that every district must choose from one of three identified instructional models.  This means that our Classroom 10 instructional model cannot be the framework for evaluating our teachers.  Years of collaborative work is now in jeopardy as we face difficult choices on how to proceed.  So Governor Gregoire, I respectfully disagree that "This law will help ensure every public school student has the good teacher he or she deserves,".  Allowing us to continue our focus would have been better for the seven plus thousand in our system and for thousands in other systems who have also been engaged in similar work over time.
Realizing the glowing "expectations" she has for the law will be much more difficult than simply requiring the use of achievement data as one of the evaluation components.  If the intent is to support growth for every teacher it will require a significant increase in the professional development time currently available in our school system.  If it is intended to rid the profession of "bad" teachers it will not without additional changes.  Creating change intended to have significant impact on all public schools in this state should not be the result of compromise with a handful of people struggling to overcome budget issues and seeing this issue as a pawn in that process.
I have respect for our Governor and the difficult issues that she has faced over the years.  At the same time, I am saddened to see us lose the autonomy to continue our work knowing it will be aligned with how we hold ourselves accountable for the success of all students as part of a compromise in Olympia.


Jonathan said...

That part about teacher feedback being part of principal evaluations in interesting. I was wondering, though, is there any monetary compensation attached to teacher evaluations?

Jonathan said...

I would have caught that typo (in=is) but for some reason I can no longer use the preview function.