Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Center stage for "high risk" waiver . . .

In the last few days there have been multiple articles about a major focus of the upcoming legislative session on the need for legislators to amend the teacher evaluation law to mandate use of state test scores in a teacher' evaluation.  In this Seattle Times article they show how"easy" it could be and the reason why many believe that it must be done.

The Washington law says statewide test scores can be a factor in teacher evaluations. The federal government wants the word “can” to be changed to “must” or the state will not meet its requirements for a waiver from the federal education law, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

State Superintendent Dorn has made this one of major goals in his legislative package for this session with the other being increased revenue for K-12 of $540 million.

“When the Legislature was debating this back in 2010, I said the language didn’t go far enough,” Dorn said in a statement.
He noted, however, that test scores should not be the only measure to judge teachers. “But they must be one of the tools we use in our new accountability system,” Dorn said.

He wants and needs this change in the law to secure the waiver.  If the waiver were not granted nearly every school in the state would need to inform parents that they are not meeting the NCLB standards.  This would then lead to other federal mandates under the NCLB legislation.  He and policy makers are in a difficult situation because they know there will be a lobby effort to maintain the current level of flexibility and "local control" at the same time they face this federal mandate for change to maintain the waiver status.

I think there also may be some inaccurate information about what districts are doing based upon this comment in the article by Deputy Superintendent Burke.

At a recent meeting of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, Deputy Superintendent Alan Burke said districts are ahead of schedule in implementing the new law and that so far all districts that have adopted a new teacher-evaluation system have included student growth on statewide tests as a factor.

Every district is required to have an adopted model at this time and I know that our district does not currently have an agreed upon process to use statewide tests as a factor and I don't know that I have heard of any agreements at this time that include that factor.

This is a BIG DEAL and one that will influence our belief in the primary purpose of this effort being to support teacher growth as I blogged about here.  If changed, it would add additional complexity to the process in the first year of implementation and make it even more difficult to maintain the focus on teacher growth.

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