It seems that in their zeal to promote charter schools, these same individuals who were giving impassioned speeches on how charter schools would provide equity to our students during the WSPTA convention, forgot about the other component of ed reform that they championed through Olympia and hailed as an advance in terms of educating our children, teacher evaluations based on “student growth data” (test scores).

At the convention there was a total of 10 minutes allowed for pro and con remarks on the resolutions before they were put to a vote. Many members were not able to provide their viewpoints. One of these PTA members was a teacher who had insight into the new teacher evaluation system and how that would not impact charter schools. Below was the testimony that she had planned to give:

Charter schools are not bound by the new TPEP (Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot) law that affects all public school teachers and principals in Washington. This new law is extensive and prescribes strict conditions by which teachers and principals will be judged.

Bellevue and about 20 other districts are part of the pilot right now. We will all be piloting this new instrument during the 2012-2013 school year. At least 20% of our teachers, including experienced teachers who volunteer, all new teachers, teachers on non-continuing contracts, and teachers on provisional contracts will be evaluated using the new criteria. Bellevue went with the “Danielson” framework, which defines excellent teaching using eight criteria. (Districts could go with one of three acceptable structures, including Danielson, that the state decided to allow.)

This pilot project is a very important part of the reform measure passed by the legislature in the last session. Each teacher involved will be evaluated on 8 criteria (high expectations for students, effective teaching practices, individualization, content/curriculum focus, positive learning environment, use of student data to plan/modify instruction, communication/collaboration with parents and community, focus on improving practice) using a four tier rubric that describes levels of accomplishment (unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished) in EACH of these areas. In the past, our evaluations have been satisfactory or unsatisfactory overall.

The state is working in collaboration with committees of teachers and administrators in the pilot districts to further refine the system and define how the scoring will work to come up with the overall score. There will be defined courses of action for teachers at certain levels. Professional development will be offered to teachers who need to improve. “Distinguished” teachers will have opportunities to be mentors.

The point is that this whole process will be very extensive and resource intensive. All of us will be devoting many, many hours to this project, applying ideas and new learning in our classrooms, observing each other, collaborating, and working to improve in areas that we self-assess, and providing input for the final product. It will be on-going for years. There will clearly be more classes needed and there may be more testing of students, depending on how the “student data” piece is defined.

Charter schools are completely exempt from all of this! And charter schools, if enacted, will drain resources away from K-12 no matter how you slice it. So people should be aware that, if they want this new evaluation system to result in improvement to teaching and learning, they should be prepared for devoting resources to it. And, if they believe in it, they should not be allowing schools to come into our system that can’t show they have anything close to this sort of framework required of their teachers and administrators. Charter schools, in fact, are exempt from any sort of accountability measures that the State requires for our public schools. They are public schools only in the sense that they USE public dollars to operate.

Linda Myrick, teacher, Bellevue School District