It was surprising to read The Olympian's editorial "Any layoff of teachers should be performance-based."
I take exception of two perceptions in the editorial.
One is that our schools are apparently filled with experienced teachers who are ineffective and poor-performing. The second is that such teachers can only be fired when there is a budget crisis. Both of these assertions are far off the mark.
Years of experience does not result in becoming an ineffective and poor-performing teacher.
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As a former teacher and North Thurston School Board member, and current legislator, I categorically reject both assertions. Good teachers come in all sizes and ages. There is nothing that guarantees all young or new teachers are better than their experienced counterparts.
To say that we need to wait until a budget crisis hits is absurd. We have a process in state law that enables bad teachers to be fired.
The process is one of classroom observation, conferences, and putting a teacher on notice prior to an actual firing. It works when used, and enables districts to weed out ineffective and poor-performing teachers. I have worked with school administrators who used the process to remove poor-performing teachers, and did it without having to face a court challenge by the teacher who (usually) resigned or was terminated.
Yes, it is possible to get rid of bad teachers – if the evaluation process is followed.
Many school districts use a more sophisticated evaluation tool than the one mentioned in The Olympian’s editorial. In my years as a classroom teacher, I never saw an evaluation that had only the “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” option. That is the minimum standard. In fact, many districts exceed the minimum in their evaluation process.
Don’t get me wrong; I favor the new four-tier requirement, but to infer that all districts currently use the minimum standard is not correct.
Last year, the Legislature did pass legislation to improve the teacher evaluation process. It is a tool, not a weapon.
North Thurston Public Schools is one of the 15 pilot districts in the state. I support that effort; making evaluations more meaningful is always good. And don’t forget that the primary goal of teacher evaluation is to help teachers improve.
Finding teachers who need help and those who are ineffective is also a result of the evaluation process. This process will help us improve teacher effectiveness, regardless of their age or experience.
Unlike other states, Washington is involving educators as an integral part of the development process. As Michaela Miller, project manager of the teacher/principal evaluation pilot at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said, “We have put this in the hands of educators, and that is different from any other state.”
Teachers are involved instead of having the new standards handed down from on high.
School districts should not wait, and need not wait, for a financial crisis to evaluate teachers and dismiss those who don’t meet effectiveness standards. Yes, it takes a little courage and some extra work. But the rewards for everyone, especially our students, are great.
Rep. Sam Hunt, a Democrat from Olympia, serves the 22nd Legislative District in the state House of Representatives.