Now is not the time to make more changes to teacher evaluations / ESEA waiver update
Washington’s teachers are hard at work making sure all of our state’s students get the quality public education they deserve.
But in Washington, D.C. and Olympia, politicians aren’t satisfied. They want more – and if they don’t get their way, they’re going to label us and our students as failures.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and state Supt. of Public Instruction Randy Dorn are pressuring Washington legislators to mandate that principals use state test scores in teacher evaluations. It’s an idea that doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons (including the fact that it has nothing to do with improving student achievement). If they don’t make the change, the U.S. Department of Education is threatening to yank our state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind, which means designating nearly every single public school in Washington as failing – even though Duncan himself recently called Dorn to congratulate him on our state’s strong student test scores. Listen to Duncan’s message. U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with the rest of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, have asked Duncan to renew our waiver without changes.
And despite claims to the contrary, we will not lose federal education funding if Duncan revokes Washington’s NCLB waiver.
Instead of playing politics with our kids’ education, the politicians should focus on what would really benefit students – fully funding K-12 education as the Constitution requires and the Supreme Court ordered in its McCleary decision. Our class sizes are 47th out of 50 states, a ranking the Legislature has done little to change. Teachers and other school employees have gone five years without a state-funded COLA, and our teacher salaries are dead last among Pacific states.
Yet instead of funding smaller class sizes for all of our students, or providing a modest COLA for educators, politicians want to change teacher evaluations for the fourth time in as many years. They don’t seem to realize that making yet another major change in the teacher evaluation law is going to wreak havoc with the collaborative work teachers and administrators are doing to implement the new law as it currently exists.
As Everett Education Association President Jared Kink told KIRO TV: “Any change to it would just derail it, would just wreck it. We’re just getting used to the current system now.” (Watch the news story.)
Here’s a fact sheet WEA lobbyists prepared for political leaders in Olympia. (Download the PDF.)
DATE: December 5, 2013
RE: ESEA Waiver – Background Information
Supt. of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and some state legislators are proposing legislation to mandate that teacher evaluations include state test scores.
The current teacher evaluation law allows school districts to use state test scores, but doesn’t require it. Use of test scores is decided locally, allowing for flexibility based on local needs.
Supt. Dorn claims Washington will lose its waiver from the federal ESEA (No Child Left Behind) requirements unless state test scores are a mandatory part of teacher evaluations. He falsely claims we’ll lose millions in federal funding.
Here are the facts:
- The Legislature and Supt. Dorn already have made dramatic changes to our state’s teacher evaluation law. They’ve changed it three times in the last four years. The proposed change would be the fourth major change to the teacher evaluation bill in four years.
- Contrary to Supt. Dorn’s claims, the loss of the waiver will not result in a funding cut. There will be no loss of federal funding if the waiver is revoked. If the ESEA waiver is revoked, a small amount of federal funding in some school districts will have to be spent on the purpose originally designated by ESEA, such as after-school programs for students. (http://www.K12.wa.us/Communications/pressreleases2012/WASecuresESEA-Waiver.aspx) (“School districts will see the results of the waiver immediately. Before the waiver was granted, districts had been required to set aside a statewide total of roughly $34 million in their budgets to pay for outside service providers with little accountability. Now that Washington has received the waiver, districts will be allowed to spend that money in ways they determine most appropriate, within ESEA Title I rules.”)
- Teachers and administrators in all 295 school districts are working diligently to implement the new teacher evaluation system. Our state’s evaluation system is designed to improve teaching and benefit students.
- The state test the Dept. of Education is attempting to mandate does not measure student growth as defined in state and federal law: “from one point in time to another.”
- The state test was developed to measure the system not individual students;
- Because it is administered only once and doesn’t reflect what the teacher is currently teaching, the test does not measure student growth;
- Scores are received late in the summer, after the school year is over and students have departed.
- Only 16-18 percent of Washington’s teachers teach subjects covered by state tests.
- If U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan does revoke Washington’s ESEA waiver, nearly all of Washington’s nearly 3,000 K-12 public schools will be declared “failing” by the federal government. As a result, principals in those schools will be required to send letters to parents in 2014 informing them that their entire school is failing because some students did not meet federal standards.
- There’s no way to predict what the federal government will do regarding ESEA. However, it is unlikely that any changes will be made this year.
Here’s what teachers are saying:
- It’s time for the politicians to stop playing politics with our kids’ education.
- Now is not the time for politicians in Olympia and Washington D.C. to make more changes to our teacher evaluation system. It’s a distraction from dealing with the real issue: neglect of our public schools as a direct result of inadequate school funding.
- “Any change to (the current teacher evaluation system) would just derail it, would just wreck it. We’re just getting used to the current system now,” Jared Kink, Everett Education Association, KIRO TV, 12/4/13.
How much “reform” is too much “reform?”
In the last five years, in the name of education “reform,” lawmakers have passed bills making major changes to teacher evaluations, student assessments and the definition of basic education, among other things. Meanwhile, legislators such as Sen. Rodney Tom and Sen. Steve Hobbs demand even more changes. Yet since House Bill 1209 launched the education reform movement in Washington 1993, elected leaders and other officials have passed or adopted nearly 150 education “reform” laws or policies at the state and national level.
WEA researchers recently compiled these reports:
- Education reform bills since 2008 PDF
- Education reform bills since 1993 PDF
- Education reform policies PDF
- Education reform from the federal government PDF
Seattle educators boycott standardized test
Teachers and staff at Seattle’s Garfield High School. Orca K-8 and Salmon Bay K-8 attracted national attention for their boycott of the district-mandated MAP test. They say the test takes too much time from student learning and that it doesn’t align with district curricula or state standards. The concern over too much student testing extends beyond Seattle. Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol and other education experts signed a letter supporting the boycott.
National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten also voiced support for the Seattle test boycott.
“Educators across the country know what’s best for their students, and it’s no different for our members in Seattle. We know that having well-designed assessment tools can help students evaluate their own strengths and needs, and help teachers improve. This type of assessment isn’t done in one day or three times a year. It’s done daily, and educators need the flexibility to collaborate with their colleagues and the time to evaluate on-going data to make informed decisions about what’s best for students,” Van Roekel said.
Media reports about the Seattle test boycott
Wall Street Journal: ”…an escalating fight nationwide over using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools.”
KUOW/NPR: “Teachers at Seattle school refuse to give standardized test”
The Stranger Slog: ”I don’t think the district is going to be in a bind to not administer the test between now and end of the year.”
The Seattle Times: ”…this particular test has a number of problems, everything from what it covers to how well it measures achievement.”
Seattle Times op-ed by Jesse Hagopian: ”Garfield teachers refuse to administer an ethics violation.”
Labor Notes: ”A tremendous sword now hangs over these teachers’ necks. They will need our solidarity in the days and weeks ahead.”
The Nation: ”The backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country.”
Democracy Now! ”And I just see no use for it at all. And so, I’m not going to do it.”
KING 5 TV: ”Teachers say they understand the risk, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Central District New: ”Garfield High teachers refuse to administer District-mandated MAP test”
KIRO radio: ”…eleven teachers at ORCA alternative school in Seattle are also boycotting the test…”
Capitol Hill Times: ”There have been increasingly public rumblings in the academic world over what some call the overuse of standardized tests…”
West Seattle Blog: ”Garfield and all high school teachers find themselves in a Kafkaesque situation…”
Share other news links about high-stakes testing and quality teaching
Another NPR interview with Diane Ravitch: ”… the unions really aren’t the problem in education.”