Senate Bill 5399 proposes that when there are teacher layoffs, referred to as rif’s (reductions in force), that teachers should be laid off, fired basically, based on the performance of their students.

This proposed bill is unnecessary and destructive.

There is already a four-tiered teacher evaluation system in place that the teacher’s union in Seattle, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) as part of WEA, the Washington Education Association, the superintendent of our schools in Seattle, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Randy Dorn, the superintendent of education for the State of Washington, have agreed to. This system is going through a two-year pilot program to ensure that this evaluation system works and is fair to all parties, including our children.

In the meantime, a bill was introduced by a representative in the House and a senator in the Senate last week that would circumvent the agreement that has been put into place by the teachers and Randy Dorn.

The bill proposed is in anticipation of layoff’s that might take place this year and next due to even tighter budget constraints because of the lack of money in our state budget.

The concerns are many and if this bill were passed it would have serious ramifications. To list a few:

  • We need to allow the pilot program to work first. Then we will have research based indicators to use that are fair to all.
  • If this bill is passed into law, it would make it easier for our superintendent to use test scores as a way to determine who gets rif’d this year. To hastily put together some sort of evaluation system within the next few months, rif’s usually happen in May, is foolhardy. Because the four-tiered evaluation system will not have been ironed out by this spring, the principals and superintendent would have to rely on test scores, specifically the MAP test, to evaluate a teachers “performance”. The MAP test was not designed to evaluate a teacher’s performance but is to be used for the sole purpose of measuring a student’s growth and mastery of a particular subject (specifically, math and reading) over time, through several years.
  • Because of budgetary cuts, class sizes are increasing which is putting an even greater load on our teachers. The last thing they need is to now be concerned about how their students perform on a standardized test, and which is not even necessarily aligned to the curriculum they are teaching.
  • We will lose highly qualified teachers who will not want to teach in our state due to this proposal and it will make it even more difficult to attract nationally qualified teachers to our state.
  • Seniority has a value to it. Once a teacher has seniority, they feel more comfortable trying out new ideas and approaches in the classroom. A teacher with seniority also feels more comfortable speaking up without fear of losing their job when they believe that an idea or program would not work for their students.
  • If teachers are rif’d based on a student’s test performance, then it is not equitable for teachers who have Special Education students in their classrooms, English Language Learners (ELL), or children who, for whatever reason, do not fare well on tests. Standardized tests generally only measure math and English. How is it equitable to only measure and reward or punish the teachers of those subjects?
  • It would create a tremendous amount of pressure on the students to perform knowing that if they don’t do well on a test that a favorite teacher might be fired.
  • It creates a greater emphasis on test scores and would cause teachers to teach to the test and nothing more, therefore not allowing for a broader approach to educating our children.
  • This approach also makes the assumption that the greatest factor in a child’s success in school is how a teacher “performs” and does not take into account class size, availability of adequate books and materials, as well as social, economic and physical factors that can affect the ability of a child to focus and learn.

Because of all of these factors and more that others can suggest, Parents Across America does not see any value in this bill and recommends that it not pass.

There is no value to this bill and in fact can be of great harm to our children and our teaching community.

I spent a full day last Wednesday meeting with our representatives regarding this bill and they want to hear from you.

Please contact the following state representatives who will be key in determining whether this bill passes or not and let them know that this is not the way to address what is basically an opportunity gap for many of our students.

Senator Lisa Brown          (360) 786-7604

Senator Maralyn Chase   (360) 786-7662

Senator Nick Harper     (360)786-7674

Senator Bob Hasegawa   (360) 786-7862

Senator Adam Kline      (360) 787-7688

Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, Chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee  (360) 786-7600  mcauliffe.rosemary@

Senator Sharon Nelson  (360) 787-7667

Senator Rodney Tom     (360) 787-7694

Also, you will be hearing more about “Value Added Measures” which is basically basing a teacher’s evaluation on test scores. For more information on the subject, I would suggest reading an excerpt from the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch, specifically pages 179-180,  and The Problems with Value Added Assessments.

Additional studies on teacher evaluations based on test scores include the Great Lakes Study:

Gates Foundation report on teacher evaluations seriously flawed, leading economist finds

The NEPC Study:

Getting Teacher Assessments Right

Also read A Teacher Pushed to the Edge.

Below is a video of Dr. Ravitch at the conference that she refers to in the article noted above.