OLYMPIA — A meeting with America’s top education official has apparently convinced Gov. Jay Inslee that Washington state must act to require public-school teacher and principal evaluations to take into account student scores on statewide tests.
Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said the governor met Tuesday afternoon with lawmakers from both parties to hammer out a compromise that would establish the requirement to allow the state to keep its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law — and keep control over some $40 million that comes with the waiver.
The compromise would delay the move until the 2017-2018 school year and include a provision that voids the requirement if the state cannot retain the waiver, Smith said.
Inslee, a Democrat, and Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public instruction, were drafting a bill to be introduced this week, Smith said.
It is expected to win over enough Democrats to join with Republicans for the bill to pass.
The compromise likely ends a drama that started in earnest last week, when seven members of the Republican-led state Senate majority caucus joined with minority Democrats to reject the inclusion of state test scores in evaluations.
The Democrats, who had supported the bill earlier in the session, said they reversed course after hearing testimony from educators and parents that local tests would provide better information for evaluations.
Currently, teacher and principal evaluations can include either state tests or local measures.
On Tuesday several Democratic state senators indicated Inslee’s compromise would likely win support.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, of Bothell, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, said she and others would wait to take a position until they saw the bill. But she said the delay, in particular, would “make some of us feel more comfortable.”
State Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, also wants to see the measure first. But he said the basics of Inslee’s compromise seemed a “logical solution.”
Why the sudden movement toward compromise?
Last Sunday, Inslee met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the issue during a visit to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the National Governors Association.
While some Democrats hoped Inslee could persuade Duncan to issue the waiver without the legislation requiring state test scores in evaluations, Smith said the secretary “made it pretty clear” the legislation was important.
“This funding is crucial in our efforts to support struggling students, and I think everyone in Olympia agrees we must do everything we can to preserve it. … Doing nothing is not an option if we want to preserve that funding,” Inslee said in a news release.
Inslee’s decision is not without opposition, however.
Rich Wood, a spokesman for the state teachers union, said teachers “still believe mandating the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations is premature and will undercut the collaborative work we’re doing.”
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.