Blaine schools waiting for specifics on new faculty evaluation rules

Published on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into law new evaluation procedures for Washington teachers and principals, but school districts are still waiting on direction from the state school superintendent on how the rules should be implemented.

The law will introduce a four-tier rating system for teachers and principals in which they will be rated as unsatisfactory, basic, proficient or distinguished. This replaces the satisfactory/unsatisfactory system that has been in place for decades.

“This is the culmination of hard work that we began two years ago,” Gregoire said at the bill’s signing. “Our ground-breaking teacher and principal evaluation system was designed by everybody working together from the ground up. That includes teachers, principals, school associations, administrators, researchers, the PTA and legislators.”

School districts statewide must begin implementing the new system no later than the 2013-2014 school year and have it fully in place by 2015-2016. Once in place, experienced teachers or principals – those with more than five years of experience – who are rated at the “basic” level for two years in a row will have to improve to “proficient” to keep their job.

The law creates a number of frameworks for teacher and principal evaluation based on the new structure, and the state superintendent of public instruction has been tasked with selecting three options from which districts may choose. These decisions, however, have yet to be made, so school districts cannot prepare their staff for the new evaluation procedures.

“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” Blaine school district superintendent Ron Spanjer said. “We’re still waiting on tangibles, if you will.”

Spanjer said the main difference to the current evaluation rules is the addition of a scale of faculty effectiveness, represented by the four categories. Faculty will be evaluated using specific criteria as benchmarks, though the state superintendent has yet to determine those criteria, Spanjer added.

“What those benchmarks along the continuum are is what we’re waiting to find out,” he said.

Another unknown  is funding. The state legislature predicted training faculty statewide on the new evaluation rules could cost $5.7 million, but did not offer a possible funding source. Spanjer said it’s too early to tell if this cost will be passed along to the districts if the state cannot find the funds.

“It would be premature to say the districts would have pay for it if the state can’t,” he said.

Spanjer said he’s not aware of any specific dissatisfaction with the old system driving this particular change.

“Our system has been working well and we’re excited about the opportunity to improve upon it,” Spanjer said. “We’re doing great work, and we can continue to do better work.”