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Bipartisan Deal In Works For Teacher Evaluations

Donna Gordon Blankinship, Associated Press
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(stock image / Photo by Chris ondros/Newsmakers)

(stock image / Photo by Chris ondros/Newsmakers)

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he has reached a deal with lawmakers from both parties to revise the state’s teacher evaluation system in a way that will satisfy the federal government.

The governor’s office says now education leaders in the Legislature will go back to their parties to gather support for the idea.

“Everybody agreed to work together and work with their caucuses to see what we can do,” said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. “It was generally a constructive and positive meeting.”

The proposal would extend a waiver from the federal government from rules of the No Child Left Behind law through the 2017-18 school year. It would allow Washington to continue working toward an alternative system of school accountability and keep control of more than $44 million in federal dollars.

The governor met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last weekend to talk about the waiver and teacher evaluations.

Many were hoping he would persuade Duncan to give Washington a pass on the federal requirement to include statewide student test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations.

No other states have been given a pass on this issue.

Duncan told the governor he wanted a change in Washington state law before he would grant the waiver.

Last week, the state Senate defeated a bill that would have made the required change in the evaluation law, from suggesting that school districts include statewide test results in teacher evaluations to mandating the requirement.

The difference this week is that lawmakers now know that the federal government is going to extend the waiver if they change the law, Smith said.

Sen. Steve Litzow, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn was drafting a new bill based on a proposal originally created by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell.

“We are encouraged that the governor and Democrats are finally realizing that we must make it a must,” Litzow said referring to using statewide standardized tests in educators’ evaluations.

The bill approved last year used the word “can” instead of “must” for statewide tests being used in teacher evaluations.

The proposed language for the bill would include a provision that the change only goes into effect if the waiver is approved, she said.

The actual proposal should be ready in the next day or so, Smith said.

She said all parties agreed to stay focused on preserving the waiver and federal dollars coming into the state and not to let other issues related to teacher evaluations drag the conversation down.

A spokesman for the state’s largest teachers union said they continue to believe using test results in teacher evaluations is premature.

Rich Wood said another change in the evaluation system would undercut the collaborative work teachers and school officials are doing to implement the new evaluation system.

“We need time to make sure the student tests we use are reliable and valid,” Wood said. “Forcing schools to use unproven test scores to evaluate teachers will undermine confidence in the fairness of the system.”

McAuliffe, who spoke against the previous bill endorsed by Litzow before it was voted down by the Senate last week, said she will be watching the language of the bill carefully before giving it her support.

Among the items she would like to see included was a timeframe of at least several years to implement the use of standardized tests, which is a provision the governor’s office said it wanted to see in the bill.

“I thought we had one of the best systems in the nation,” McAuliffe said, adding that she was disappointed in the federal government’s waiver requirements.

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AP reporter Lisa Baumann contributed to this story from Olympia.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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