This post has been updated with a response from Washington Education Association head Mary Lindquist.

Washington state's school superintendent Randy Dorn sent out a letter to the state legislature today (signed by 36 district superintendents) calling for amendments to the education reform bill.

The state Senate passed the bill earlier this month, but two amendments about standardizing teacher evaluations and using student data in the evaluations—failed.

Dorn says, "the state needs to approve [those amendments] in order to compete for its share of the Obama Administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant."

The Senate bill, currently in the House, calls for local control of teacher evaluations.

On Friday, we reported that Republican state House Rep. Skip Priest (R-30) was going to introduce the amendments in the House. (The failed Senate amendments were proposed by GOP Sen. Curtis King, R-14).

In an interview with state teachers' union (WEA) leader Mary Lindquist at the beginning of the session, she told PubliCola, “one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to school districts” and the local stakeholders are the ones who have the best vantage point to evaluate teachers.

I forwarded Dorn's letter to WEA spokesman Rich Wood for a response to Dorn's push for less local control.

Dorn's letter, which is signed by Seattle super Maria Goodloe-Johnson, is posted in full below the fold.

UPDATE: Teachers' union leader Lindquist says uniform standards "fly in the face of all the research" that shows local accountability is best when it comes to schools. "Local districts have different needs," she says, "and you need to able to adjust evaluations at the district level."

She pointed out that the Clover Park district evaluation plan in South Tacoma is geared toward a lower socio-economic group of students who have troubled home lives and "classroom management" is a heavily weighted standard when evaluating teachers, while the Peninsula evaluation standards are more focused on engagement with parents. "One size does not fit all," she repeated.





Dorn's letter:


Washington State Superintendents Support Race to the Top Reforms


February 22, 2010

The Honorable Members of the Washington State Legislature:

As superintendents of school districts across the state charged with ensuring our students are prepared for college and careers, we are actively watching the Race to the Top legislation in the state Senate and House (SB 6696). We applaud the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and the many legislators who are deeply committed to this effort. The goals of the Obama Administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant—effective teachers and principals, turning around low-performing schools, better data systems and higher standards –not only call for the right reforms at the right time, they will help us accelerate the achievement of every student.

Right now, across Washington state, districts not only lack the ability to adequately identify, evaluate and compensate their most effective teachers and leaders, we are unable to support a system where they are teaching the students who need them the most.

This legislative session, we have a chance to change things: Race to the Top provides states with an opportunity to drive and fund bold innovations that increase student performance and close the achievement gap.

We know Washington is starting behind many other states, but we are up to the task the Obama Administration has set before us and believe that, with the political will and several critical reforms, our state could lead the nation with an education system that prepares all its students for the challenges of tomorrow.  In order to meet this challenge, our state’s Race to the Top legislation must include the following critical elements:




  • The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction must work collaboratively with the Washington Education Association and the Association of Washington School Principals to develop a common, required system for effective teacher and principal evaluation, including measures of student growth. Washington must agree on a common definition of an effective teacher, an effective principal and how to measure student growth statewide.



  • A significant portion of the teacher and principal evaluation system must include multiple measures of student academic growth. If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we need to make sure teachers and principals are first, supported to address the diverse learning needs in our schools and classrooms, and then, evaluated and held accountable for the academic growth of every student.



  • Once the new evaluation system is implemented, teachers and principals who receive unsatisfactory evaluations must be given professional development and support to improve. If these interventions do not impact a teacher’s or principal’s effectiveness for two consecutive years, the teacher should be placed back on provisional status and, after a third year of support that still results in unsatisfactory performance, the teacher or principal should lose his/her contract. Every student deserves an excellent teacher, and every school, an excellent principal. We need to make sure we are giving all teachers and principals the opportunity to grow and providing those who do not, an expedient way out of our schools.



If the state passes strong Race to the Top legislation, is successful in getting federal funds, and works together on a statewide system, we will be able to transform our present evaluation systems and create one that provides teachers and principals with support for effective professional development and meaningful feedback focused on increasing student achievement.

As a state, Washington must support educators who help our children learn, grow and succeed. It is the key to our future.


Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue.

Sincerely,


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn
Anacortes Superintendent Chris Borgen
Auburn Superintendent Kip Herren
Bainbridge Island Superintendent Faith Chapel
Bellevue Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro
Bethel Superintendent Tom Siegel
Clover Park Superintendent Debbie LeBeau
Dieringer Superintendent Judy Neumeier-Martinson
Eatonville Superintendent Ray Arment
Educational Service District 105 Superintendent Jane Gutting
Educational Service District 112 Superintendent Twyla Barnes
Enumclaw Superintendent Mike Nelson
Fife Superintendent Steve McCammon
Highline Superintendent John Welch
Kennewick School District Superintendent Dave Bond
Kent Superintendent Lee Vargas
Lake Washington Superintendent Chip Kimball
Mercer Island Superintendent Gary Plano
Nooksack Superintendent Mark Johnson
Northshore Superintendent Larry Francois
Northwest Educational Service District 189 Superintendent Jerry Jenkins
Odessa Superintendent Suellen White
Orting Superintendent Michelle Curry
Peninsula Superintendent Terry Bouck
Puget Sound Educational Service District Superintendent Monte Bridges
Renton Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel
Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson
Shoreline Superintendent Sue Walker
Skykomish Superintendent Jeff Long
Snoqualmie Valley Superintendent Joel Aune

Sumner Superintendent Gil Mendoza
Tacoma Superintendent Art Jarvis
Tukwila Superintendent Ethelda Burke
University Place Superintendent Patti Banks
Vashon Superintendent Michael Soltman
West Valley School District Polly Crowley
White River Superintendent Tom Lockyer