Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced she'll be asking the Legislature to approve a series of reform proposals to improve the state's K-12 education system. Her proposals will support implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation system, provide opportunities for struggling schools to partner with universities, reduce some requirements for students and administrators so that more time can be focused on instruction, and create a new executive-level office that will focus on educational attainment.
"These reforms are needed and won't overly burden the budget in these tough times," Gregoire said. "To the contrary, they will help our kids and our businesses in the years ahead. And when the recession ends, our businesses will be able to hire Washingtonians ready to compete in global economy."
Gregoire will ask the Legislature to expand legislation approved in 2010 that created a fair, effective and transparent way to evaluate teachers and principals. Work has been underway in selected school districts to design the new system.
"The current evaluation system just doesn't work," Gregoire said. "It's too broad and doesn't really help anybody. Teachers need to know what they're doing well and where they can improve. The same goes for principals." Under Gregoire's proposal, the evaluation system will replace one in which teachers and principals are now rated as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Under the new system, teachers will fall within one of four categories: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient and distinguished.
"If teachers and principals are found "unsatisfactory' in the fall, they will be placed on probation," Gregoire said. "And if they haven't moved up to the next level by spring, they will no longer be teachers or principals in Washington state."
Gregoire said experienced teachers or principals who are placed in the "basic' category for two years in a row will have to move up to "proficient' to keep their job.
"I want every teacher and principal to be proficient or better," Gregoire said. "And I want to celebrate and honor those teachers and principals who are at the highest level -- distinguished. We owe this to them and to our kids."
Gregoire said today she would also introduce legislation addressing teacher assignments. Beginning next July, Gregoire wants school districts to be required to adopt or update policies for staffing decisions that, at a minimum, are based on certification credentials, evaluation ratings, expertise and length of service.
"Our school districts are innovating and serving the needs of students in more focused programs, especially in our under-performing schools and in STEM education," Gregoire said. "But how to assign teachers needs some work. In fact, it was at the root of the Tacoma teacher strike this fall."
Additionally, Gregoire is proposing to create an Office of Student Achievement. The office would have an advisory board, and report to the governor as part of the governor's Cabinet -- and would be focused on ensuring students attain continuously higher levels of education.
"This office will focus on students from high school through graduate school," Gregoire said. "We want to raise the level of learning among these young people so they can succeed, and our economy can succeed."
Gregoire is also asking the Legislature to designate up to six so-called failing schools in the state's K-12 system as "Laboratory Schools," and pair them up with colleges of education at public four-year universities to help improve student performance. The strategy would take full advantage of the university's research and innovation to develop practices in these schools that could be used at schools use across the state.
"This program is a two-way street," Gregoire said. "That's because our schools of education will be learning too. If done well, I believe this innovative approach will produce not only more educated kids and turn around low-performing schools, it will also provide more highly-skilled beginning teachers and education faculty."
To ensure limited school resources are focused on students, Gregoire proposes eliminating annual learning plans for struggling students. Schools currently update learning plans all year based on student progress and need. Additionally, Gregoire wants to free up auditing resources by changing the frequency of audits to once every three years for those districts that continually show their finances are in order year after year. Gregoire is also proposing exempting high school seniors already participating in programs like Running Start, Navigation 101 and Certification programs from completing the required "culminating project" so they can continue to focus on developing their careers.
To read more information on the governor's proposal, visit: http://www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/education/education_reform.pdf