OLYMPIA – Members of Washington’s largest teachers union gathered on the Capitol campus Monday to oppose a bill that would tie teacher evaluations – and, potentially, salaries – to student test scores.
The Washington Education Association opposed Senate Bill 5748, an attempt to win back control of federal funding granted under the No Child Left Behind Act. Because the state failed to meet the requirements of that law, that student achievement be considered in teacher evaluations, school districts lost the power to decide how they spend roughly $40 million for disadvantaged students.
Sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, the bill narrowly passed the Senate earlier this month before moving to the House Education Committee, where it got a hearing Monday.
Supporters said it would hold teachers to a higher standard, allow school districts to operate more efficiently and help close the state’s achievement gap. Opponents – more than 100 from the Washington Education Association – said it would be unfair to teachers who work in high-poverty areas, where students face additional challenges beyond the teachers’ control.
“It’s a complex issue, obviously,” said Kevin Morrison, a spokesman for Spokane Public Schools. “At the national level they’re dancing around the issue as well, and that’s where the change needs to come.”
For years, Congress has not updated the clause of the No Child Left Behind Act that says any school where 100 percent of students didn’t reach proficiency on statewide assessments by 2014 should be deemed “failing.” So, 93 percent of schools in Washington are failing by national standards.
The U.S. Department of Education offered waivers for states that fulfilled certain requirements, such as including student test scores in teacher evaluations. Washington did not comply, so last year the department took control of the state’s No Child Left Behind money.
Spokane Public Schools got nearly $1.8 million in No Child Left Behind money for the 2014-15 school year, but it’s under federal control.
“When you’re being told at that high a level very specifically how to spend money, you’re probably not using it as efficiently as you can be,” Morrison said.
The bill would qualify Washington to get a new waiver and reclaim control of the money. It has support from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the state Board of Education.
But teachers argued that the bill would put more emphasis on standardized tests and narrow the public-school curriculum.
“When teachers’ evaluations are based on test scores, teachers will focus on the content that is assessed through those tests,” said Sunshine Campbell, a teacher who testified for the Washington Education Association.
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