New bills emerge to address teacher evals and No Child Left Behind waiver

Staff writerMarch 3, 2014 

Gov. Jay Inslee and state schools chief Randy Dorn said last week they’d be introducing a bill to bring Washington state’s teacher evaluation system in line with federal demands.

That bill showed up Monday. Sponsored by House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, House Bill 2800 would require that student scores on statewide tests be used in teacher and principal evaluations -- a fix the federal government has requested if Washington state is to keep its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

But a second bill to address the waiver issue also made its debut in the state Senate Monday, and it lays out a plan that departs from the one preferred by Inslee and Dorn.

The legislation Inslee and Dorn introduced would delay the requirement that teacher evaluations incorporate statewide testing data until 2017-18. It also would require that districts use the statewide testing data in evaluations only if Washington state remains exempt from cumbersome parts of the federal law.

Meanwhile, the Senate bill wouldn’t delay the new requirement, nor does it include language that that would void the change to Washington’s teacher-evaluation system if the state doesn’t keep its waiver.

Senate Bill 5880, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond, is scheduled for a public hearing and a vote Monday in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The legislation closely resembles a bill that the state Senate voted down last month.

Besides not allowing for a two-year delay before evaluations must use the statewide tests, Hill's proposal also would direct the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide “state-level assessment information” to school districts so they can determine student growth for the purpose of teacher evaluations.

That language is absent from the Sullivan bill backed by Inslee and Dorn.

The state’s teacher and principal evaluation system already requires school districts to use student test results -- also known as student growth data -- as part of evaluations. But districts can choose which tests they will use; it's not mandatory that they use the statewide tests.

The U.S. Department of Education told state officials in August that the Legislature must change state law to require the use of the statewide tests, or else Washington could lose its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

That would mean that about $38 million in federal education funds for low-income students would have to be redirected to private tutoring efforts, and nearly every school in the state would be labeled as failing. Schools would also have to send letters home to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school.

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