Recently I described proposed Senate Bill 5399 which was about firing teachers when there are to be lay-off’s based on student test scores.

This new bill proposed by, among others, our own Representative Reuven Carlyle who was instrumental in pushing through the ed reform Bill 6696 with the help of the Washington and Seattle PTA and the usual list of Broad backed, Gates funded suspects,  states that when there are budget cuts and a reduction in force (rif) is required, that teachers should be fired based on their “performance”. Another way of putting it is before the four-tier evaluation system that is going through a 2 year pilot program has proven to be of value and is put into place, firing a teacher due to layoffs should be based on student test scores.

Why test scores? Because it is the only part of the new evaluation process that is in place. Of course the MAP test was not designed to be used to evaluate a teacher’s performance but that is the only test that is available, thanks to our superintendent and her close ties with NWEA. The MAP test, which is developed by NWEA, was approved for use by the school board while the superintendent sat on the NWEA board. A fact that slipped her mind when she was to be disclosing to the school board all of her affiliations.

And as I stated in a previous post regarding a similar Senate bill:

  • We need to allow the 4 tiered teacher evaluation pilot program to work first. Then we will have research based indicators to use that are fair to all in terms of teacher evaluations.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The second part of this bill basically says that if a teacher is rif’d due to a school closure, that teachers will not have the automatic option of being moved to another school. They can be history, gone, hasta la vista baby, outta here. In Seattle, if there is a school closure, a teacher has the option of being moved to another school but with this proposal, that would not be a given.

What I find most frightening about this is the fact that ed reform Bill  6696, remember the one that Reuven Carlyle was so proud of passing last year with the help of the PTA and others, is about closing low performing schools and turning them around. In other states where charter schools are legal, that means converting the school into a charter school, a subject that our mayor has recently been chatting to Gates funded proponents about but more on that in an upcoming post.

So we close schools, fire teachers for good, turn the school around into a charter school and hire those Teach for America recruits that the superintendent was so keen on having in our district. Sound familiar? That’s what’s happened in New Orleans, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

This bill, along with ed reform Bill 6696, go hand in hand in an effort to privatize our schools which is the goal of the Broad Foundation and by way of training and association, our superintendent as well.

There is to be a hearing this afternoon regarding this proposed bill. The House Committee on Education after the hearings will determine if the bill should go to the House Ways and Means Committee to determine the cost of implementing the bill and then on to the full House for a vote.

Please contact the following representatives who are on the House Committee for Education and let them know that this is not the way to better schools or the right path in educating our children.

Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos

Majority Whip and House Committee on Education Chair


Rep. Kristine Lytton

House Committee on Education Vice Chair


Rep. Andy Billig


Rep. Fred Finn

Assistant Majority Whip


Rep. Kathy Haigh


Rep. Marcie Maxwell

Deputy Majority Leader for Education & Opportunity



For additional information see:

House Bill 1609;


John Okamoto’s DRAFT testimony against HB 1609:

Chairwoman Tomiko Santos and members of the committee, my name is John Okamoto. I am executive director of the Washington Education Association. WEA represents 82,000 teachers and support professionals who educate our state’s children every day.

First, let me say that WEA members share your concern with the achievement gap, and we hope to continue working with you and Rep. Pettigrew on solutions.

HB 1609, however well-intentioned, is not the solution.

Along with my colleagues from the major statewide professional education organizations, I am here to express our collective opposition to House Bill 1609.

Here are the primary reasons teachers and other school employees oppose HB 1609:

  • HB 1609 does nothing to prevent more teacher layoffs and budget cuts, which is the biggest problem our schools face. Washington is 49th in the country in class size. Only two states are worse. Our students are trying to learn in overcrowded classrooms without the support they need, and HB 1609 does nothing to change that. One important note: The Legislature has cut funding for more than 5,000 K-12 positions in the current biennium, but the vast majority of teaching jobs were eliminated through attrition, not layoffs. HB 1609 does not change that.
  • HB 1609 usurps local decision regarding school staffing. These decisions and policies are currently determined at the local level in a collaborative manner that includes superintendents, principals, elected school boards, educators and the larger community. HB 1609 forces every school district to follow the same statewide policy and fails to recognize that the needs of students in Skamania are very different from those in Seattle, where my daughters attended public school.
  • HB 1609 derails the good work school districts are doing to implement important education reform passed just last year, Senate Bill 6696. As you may recall, this legislation requires all school districts to adopt a more rigorous four-tier teacher evaluation system, and administrators are working with teachers across the state on pilot evaluation projects. These efforts are research-based, and they use student performance data to improve teaching. Teacher evaluation systems are designed and intended to help teachers improve their teaching, not for deciding whom to lay off. Please give these efforts a chance to work before we impose yet another new mandate on local schools.  In addition, SB 6696, which WEA strongly supported, extended the probationary period for new teachers from two years to three years, and HB 1609 does not change that.

Dozens of teachers and educators from across the state are here today, and since there isn’t time for all of them to share their opposition to HB 1609, with your permission, Chair Tomiko Santos, I’d like them to please stand for a moment.

Members of the Washington Education Association will continue to be leaders in our efforts to strengthen our public schools so every child receives the education he or she deserves. Thank you.

And this from Randy Dorn, the State Superintendent of Public Schools:

My experience as a teacher and a principal has taught me that a quality teacher has the largest positive impact on student learning. The most critical interaction in a student’s education is that between the teacher and the student.

Students deserve for that interaction to be one of quality.

How do we determine that? Unfortunately, at that moment we don’t have a system that properly evaluates teachers. We’ve talked about it for many years, and we’ve made a little progress. But the system we put in place years ago did not help ineffective teachers improve. And it did not go a good job of removing ineffective teachers.

In any business, a manager needs to objectively identify those who aren’t performing as well as others and give them the opportunity and assistance to improve. If they don’t, they should be removed.

That sums up my philosophy pretty well: “Improve or remove.” A teacher evaluation system first must do its best to improve teachers who need it most. If that doesn’t work, we need a reasonable process to remove teachers, regardless of seniority.

It’s important to understand that this is about funding. The bill we’re discussing today involves tying reductions in force to evaluations. RIFs occur because we don’t have enough money. But an evaluation system shouldn’t be tied to budgets; it should exist strengthen our teaching corps.

Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6696. That bill was in response to President Obama’s Race to the Top program. At the time the bill was being debated, I supported an amendment going farther on teacher evaluations. Even though my amendment wasn’t adopted, we wound up with a historic bill.

The probation period for teachers was increased from two years to three. And we started pilot projects that will help us develop a new system of teacher evaluations. This new system will place teachers on a four-tiered system, instead of just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

This will help principals to work at improving teachers and, as a last resort, to remove ineffective teachers.

We must give SB 6696 time to work before passing more legislation. The pilots need to be developed and tried. They must be fair. If they are to be changed before they get fully off the ground, no one will have confidence in the process. And they won’t have confidence in the final product: a new evaluation system.

As a result, nothing will get done.

We can’t let that happen. This issue is too important – both to our teachers, who need our support and help, and to our students.”

and a News Tribune Op Ed:

Teacher layoff legislation takes state in the wrong direction