Sunday, February 12, 2012

Evaluation bills are about helping kids learn

Dear advocates,

The evaluation work being piloted in this state is about taking responsibility for the needs of students and the support that requires. The teacher, principal, school district, family and greater community all play a role in helping kids learn. The evaluation work is one piece of the puzzle. It's the part that lets teachers and principals know how they are doing, and helps them identify what they can do better.

The evaluation reform is also the piece that helps school board directors fulfill their legal obligation to set staff assignment policies that:
  • Support the learning needs of all the students in the district; and
  • Give specific attention to high-need schools and classrooms

In the system we have now, some kids flourish, others don't. Some are lost in high achieving schools – the 15 or 20 percent not meeting standard. Others are lost in schools where most kids struggle. From state data, we know where and who these kids are. But what we haven’t done in a systemic way is align professional support to these children and their particular needs.

When systems align and work together, real progress is made in ensuring great outcomes.

All children can learn -- including students of color, students of diverse cultural or linguistic backgrounds, lower income status and students with special needs. But years of data tell us not all children are getting the educational opportunities they need. Even as the state does a better job with outcomes for the "average student" the gaps remain entrenched. These gaps are not limited to state assessments; these gaps spill over into who has access to highly capable programs, AP or IB programs, and career and technical classes; who is being disciplined; who is being suspended and expelled, and who is dropping out.

The system is improving, and we’ve seen amazing work at reaching a diverse student body at some schools. But we want all schools and all educators able to meet the varied and challenging needs of our children. Having an evaluation system that supports and informs student growth, and that helps us identify great teaching and ensure positive learning environments is essential.

Evaluation reform helps every student, every educator, every school and every district. And in our state it is being done collaboratively, thoughtfully and with integrity. Washington State PTA serves on the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Pilot steering committee along with the Washington Education Association; the Association of Washington School Principals; the Washington Association of School Administrators, the Washington State School Directors Association; the governor’s office and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
House Education Committee, 2/10/2012 work session, Use of Student Growth Data in Educator Evaluations. TVW video
Accompanying presentations:
(It would be most helpful to listen to the TVW tape while following the presentation slides on your computer. Evaluation pilot participants also spoke to the types of growth data they were using, but their materials are not posted on the legislature's website. Participants from two sites said they found classroom-based materials were more helpful in teacher evaluations; this session didn't really delve into use of data in the principal evaluations.)

You can also search for "TPEP" in the iTunes Store for evaluation pilot videos.
New evaluation criteria for teachers and principals, and new requirements that staff assignments must support the learning needs of all students, were set in 2010 with passage of Senate Bill 6696. The same education reform bill required four-tiered evaluations to be implemented in all school districts beginning in the 2013-14 school year. A pilot program was established to develop and model a new system and help officials make decisions about implementation.

Evaluation bills under discussion as of February 12, 2012:
These bills could work in conjunction or separately.
SSB 5895:
  • Sets requirements for implementation
  • Allows for a three-year phase in
  • Designates funds for evaluation training
Some, but not all, requirements align with what schools Superintendent Dorn recommends. The pilot steering committee is still reviewing feedback and has more recommendations to make.

SSB 5896:
  • Addresses using the evaluations to ensure staff assignments support the learning needs for all the students in the district, giving specific attention to high-need schools and classrooms (per state law)
  • Requires educators to be proficient or distinguished before being granted "continuing contract status" (what some think of as "tenure")
  • Moves more aggressively to exit the few poor performing teachers from the system. (If experienced teachers or principals get two unsatisfactory ratings in a row, they would lose continuing contract status. This means they could be fired at will. "Provisional employees," currently defined as those in their first three years of employment, can be fired at will. Currently there are no requirements other than length of service for moving out of provisional status.
  • 2012 legislative platform, No. 1: Improving basic education – This includes implementing and funding a new definition that emphasizes and supports college and career readiness and that improves the system of delivery, as laid out in ESHB 2261 (passed 2009), and SHB 2776 and E2SSB 6696 (passed in 2010)
  • 2012 legislative platform, No. 4 : Changing layoff policies to include more than just seniority
  • 2012 legislative platform, supported: Adopt strategies to eliminate achievement gaps and improve educational opportunities
  • Long-term legislative principle, Public Education Policies: Washington State PTA shall identify and initiate education and action on public policy that will strengthen public education for our state's children and youth, including: Continued support for education reform efforts; reducing the achievement gap;  reduction of high school dropout rates
  • Resolution, EXCELLENCE IN OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM 4.3 , Adopted, 1983. Resolved, That the Washington State PTA work together with other members of the education community to recommend improvements for evaluative procedures and/or changes in policies, where needed, that will enable the schools to encourage and reward those educators who upgrade their skills and work effectively in the schools and to provide counseling for those who need to become more skilled or those who need to consider other employment; and be it further ... Resolved, That the Washington State PTA encourage local units and councils to provide information to members of their school communities on procedures for expressing concerns about staff members.
-- Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator


  1. Thank you for the update. It should be noted in the description of SB 5896 that it now mandates the use of student growth data. After viewing the work session and accompanying slides (thanks for posting BTW), it seems quite clear that it is very premature to move forward at this time with 5896. To quote from the AIR slides, "There is no specific evidence about the impact of including student growth in educator evaluation on students, teachers, or systems. Many systems are just getting off the ground, and there is little evidence as yet on either intended or unintended consequences." The presentations on TPEP also make clear that further work is needed on the pilots. It's also clear that to effectively make use of student growth data entails significant costs, which neither the state or districts are in a position to bear.

  2. Student growth is a critical element in measuring teacher and principal effectiveness. Measurements of student growth could include a value-added model, something Washington hasn’t developed yet. “Measurements of student growth” also includes the very familiar unit assessments and samples of student work, as well as benchmark assessments.

    Gauging whether or not students are learning and being able to adapt as necessary to ensure they are learning is the essence of Washington’s new evaluation system. At least three of the new evaluation criteria rely on some use of evidence:

    • Criteria No. 3. Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs.
    • Criteria No. 6. Using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning.
    • Criteria No. 8. Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning.

    The TPEP task force on measuring student growth acknowledged challenges connecting student learning to individual teachers "but ultimately concluded the overriding belief that ALL students can learn is paramount. Therefore, student learning/growth that is used to measure teacher effectiveness must be made at multiple points in time to track improvement or lack of improvement."

    • The taskforce recommends that teachers be evaluated for whom and for what they are teaching. The student growth measures must be attributable to the teacher responsible for that particular group of students.
    • The taskforce also recommends that the use of student growth measures in a teacher’s evaluation must be aligned to the evaluation criteria.
    • The taskforce recommends that the “multiple measures” outlined in current statute be deeply explored and analyzed for use in the 2013-14 school year by districts adopting the new evaluation system.

    - Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA gov't relations

  3. Thank you for clearly showing how these bills align with long-standing PTA priorities (1983!!)

  4. The task force did not state an opinion on 5896 which mandates use of student growth data for high-stakes decisions. I'm not arguing with the generally excellent work being done via TPEP. I'm simply arguing that these tools should not be mis-used. It's seems quite clear that no magic formula (or even guidelines) has come out of TPEP that would allow such a mandate. And, it seems equally clear that many districts would not be ready nor could afford such mandates.