Thursday, April 5, 2012

Struggling to heal . . .

I’ve been sitting on this short piece from Education Week wondering if I should share my thinking and with nothing but finger pointing happening in Olympia decided that it was worth a post. The opening paragraph captures it all.

Gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee on Thursday praised a new law that passed the state Legislature this year making evaluations a part of how teachers are judged.

Yes, this is a sore subject for me, one that won’t heal because of all the reminders such as this piece. Just when the scab is about to fall off I read something that results in more scraping. So, our Governor candidates praised the new law that will likely force our system to adopt an evaluation model mandated by the state legislature as opposed to continuing our Classroom 10 driven model. Is this aligned with what we hear from many politicians suggesting that government should get out of education and allow for local control?

In honesty, I don’t yet know a great deal about either candidate’s education position though later in the article I learn more about McKenna as he is also supportive of charters and merit pay. What I am wondering is just what do they know about the new evaluation model? What level of detail has been shared with them by their staff?

I read the statements about now being able to use student assessment data in the evaluation, the same statements that come out of every politician’s mouth when discussing this issue. How much detail on this topic is enough for a governor candidate that wants education to be a major part of his campaign? I don’t have answers, but I want them to know that yes, assessment data will become part of the process, but each individual district will bargain what that will be. Do they think that process will result in all 296 school districts using state assessment data to evaluate teachers? If they do then they need to rethink it because WEA may influence locals in another direction.

One of the major reasons for the change to the legislation was to ensure that student assessment data was included in the process. This was a celebration by those pushing for reform, yet what did they gain, unless this is simply the first step in moving towards legislation that mandates the use of state assessment data. Perhaps this is part of what McKenna and Inslee are referring to in statements in this Tacoma News Tribune link from the Education Week article.


We’ve had a good start with the pilot programs. We’ve had a good start with this new legislation. … I do think there’s at least one additional change we need, which is to make sure these evaluations are a significant part of personnel decisions in the schools, and I think that probably is a statutory change that we’ll need at some point.


The way it’s written now, the state isn’t really involved in its implementation, and I think that’s going to pose a challenge … We’re probably going to need additional legislation that allows the state to make sure that the new teacher-evaluation and educator-evaluation system is implemented.

Without giving it a great deal of thought I think I could have been more supportive of changes in legislation that gave more direction on what and how data was to be used and left the option for districts to choose or create a model. That mandate would be something that reformers could celebrate and that would also give us the flexibility I believe that we have earned through our work and through our achievements. Well, maybe I don’t feel that way, but I sure wish that this hurt would heal and the scab would fall off.

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