The measure, which now goes to the House, says teachers must be evaluated on eight measures, including improvement in student learning.
Washington state Tuesday took another step toward using improvement in student test scores as a factor in hiring, firing and tenure decisions for teachers.
The state Senate approved, on a vote of 46-3, a bipartisan compromise bill that says teachers must be evaluated on eight measures, including improvement in student learning.
If the bill passes the House and is signed by the governor, those evaluation results would be used as a factor in human-resource decisions starting in the 2015-16 school year.
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Senate Bill 5895 also sets some new guidelines for principals, including a requirement to use teacher feedback in principal evaluations.
Many lawmakers called the measure a move in the right direction, but others lamented that change in education is moving too slowly in this state.
“It is a giant step forward to making sure every kid, regardless of where they live in the state of Washington, has an excellent teacher,” said Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, one of the lawmakers who worked out a compromise in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, voted for the bill and said he hoped it would make a difference, but didn’t think any of the more progressive states would be impressed by Washington’s efforts on education.
He said lawmakers would need to keep a close eye on the process to make sure the evaluation system delivers on its promises.
Tom suggested a more effective way of improving Washington’s schools would be to rank all teachers in each district according to their evaluations, then fire the bottom 1 percent each year.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who went to the Senate to watch the debate, said it was virtually the bill she wanted and commended the negotiators.
“The folks at the table were thoughtful, and I think by the end of the day Washington state comes out as a model for the rest of the country,” Gregoire said.
The measure builds on the four-level rating system established two years ago by the Legislature.
But this time, the state will offer evaluation templates that districts can choose from instead of having local teachers and administrators design the system.
Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, one of three Democrats to vote against the measure, said he opposed it because it would interfere with a process that’s already succeeding at the local level.
He blamed the debate over teacher evaluations for Tacoma’s 2010 teachers strike.
The proposal goes into great detail about the way a poor evaluation could lead to a teacher being put on probation or losing his or her job.
It also offers specific guidelines concerning how often classroom teachers should be observed.
New teachers and principals in their first three years, as well as those who received a Level 1 or Level 2 rating in the previous year, would get annual comprehensive evaluations.
Others would get less comprehensive yearly evaluations that focused more on specific areas of their work.
Student-growth data — improvement in test scores from one period to the next — would be used in at least three of the eight criteria for both teachers and principals.
The president of the state’s largest teachers union Tuesday expressed concerns about the evaluation bill, but was less worried about this bill than about a proposal to revamp teacher health insurance.
“That’s a direct attack on our collective bargaining,” Mary Lindquist said of the insurance bill.
The teacher-evaluation measure leaves many details up to the local bargaining unit.