OLYMPIA - February 15, 2011 - State Superintendent Randy Dorn testified today to the House Education Committee on
House Bill 1609, which would base reductions in force on teacher evaluations. Below is a statement by Superintendent Dorn. Please note that it is not a verbatim transcript of his testimony.
The issue of teacher quality is a national one, not just a state one.
My experience as a teacher and a principal has taught me that a quality teacher has the largest positive impact on student learning. The most critical interaction in a student’s education is that between the teacher and the student.
Students deserve for that interaction to be one of quality.
How do we determine that? Unfortunately, at that moment we don’t have a system that properly evaluates teachers. We’ve talked about it for many years, and we’ve made a little progress. But the system we put in place years ago did not help ineffective teachers improve. And it did not
do a good job of removing ineffective teachers.
In any business, a manager needs to objectively identify those who aren’t performing as well as others and give them the opportunity and assistance to improve. If they don’t, they should be removed.
That sums up my philosophy pretty well: “Improve or remove.” A teacher evaluation system first must do its best to improve teachers who need it most. If that doesn’t work, we need a reasonable process to remove teachers, regardless of seniority.
It’s important to understand that this is about funding. The bill we’re discussing today involves tying reductions in force to evaluations. RIFs occur because we don’t have enough money. But an evaluation system shouldn’t be tied to budgets; it should strengthen our teaching corps.
Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6696. That bill was in response to President Obama’s Race to the Top program. At the time the bill was being debated, I supported an amendment going farther on teacher evaluations. Even though my amendment wasn’t adopted, we wound up with a historic bill.
The probation period for teachers was increased from two years to three. And we started pilot projects that will help us develop a new system of teacher evaluations. This new system will place teachers on a four-tiered system, instead of just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
This will help principals to work at improving teachers and, as a last resort, to remove ineffective teachers.
We must give SB 6696 time to work before passing more legislation. The pilots need to be developed and tried. They must be fair. If they are to be changed before they get fully off the ground, no one will have confidence in the process. And they won’t have confidence in the final product: a new evaluation system.
As a result, nothing will get done.
We can’t let that happen. This issue is too important – both to our teachers, who need our support and help, and to our students.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.
OSPI Communications Manager
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