Microsoft, Boeing and other big Washington companies have praised Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s teacher-evaluation plan, introduced today as a bill.
But it’s clear they want to go farther.
We got a look at just how far on Thursday with a new bill on teacher evaluations – as well as one allowing charter schools — backed by Microsoft, the Washington Roundtable that includes both companies, and education-reform groups like Stand for Children and the League of Education Voters. The Seattle Times’ Brian Rosenthal has details on the news conference announcing the measures.
The debate over education policy is tied to the debate over putting a sales tax on the ballot, which Microsoft and Boeing have supported. If they choose to spend money on a campaign, it could play a big role in convincing voters.
Microsoft was drawing no lines in the sand Thursday about how far education changes need to go for the company to help raise revenue.
“We need to see some things happen. We need to see education prioritized,” Microsoft spokeswoman Jane Broom said.
The company emphasized the teacher-evaluation aspect rather than charter schools in a news release quoting General Counsel Brad Smith:
There is a growing gap — and opportunity divide — between young people who are prospering and those getting left further behind. Education is key to bridging this opportunity divide and we know that great education comes from great teachers. Our teachers and principals need a fair and effective evaluation system that recognizes good teachers and helps everyone improve their performance.
So what’s the difference between this teacher-eval proposal and the one offered by Gregoire?
“They’re very similar,” a sponsor of the coalition’s eval bill, Sen. Steve Litzow, said Thursday. “We’re all headed in the same direction.”
Fellow Republican Rep. Bruce Dammeier, a co-sponsor, differed: “This bill is much more significant than the governor’s bill. It’s much more holistic.”
Despite those mixed messages, there are some clear differences, though both build on a four-tier evaluation system for teachers and principals due to take effect in 2013:
- The coalition would make student improvement, shown in hard data such as test scores, a “significant factor” in evaluations.
- The coalition would withhold tenure from teachers until they consistently earn a 3 or 4 out of four tiers.
- The coalition would require evaluations to be considered before seniority in decisions like moving teachers. Gregoire’s requires them to consider both.
- What happens to experienced teachers who get the second-lowest ranking in evaluations? The coalition doesn’t address those, but Gregoire wants to put them on probation after two years, which can lead to dismissal.
The most complicated question is what happens to teachers who get the very lowest ranking.
- Gregoire wants to keep rules that put them on immediate probation. The coalition says legal hurdles in the probation process make dismissal difficult in practice and says they should instead lose tenure — but only after two consecutive years of the worst rankings. This is the same as a proposal offered by Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.