Hanauer: On Education, “McKenna Is On the Right Track, We Are Not.”

This letter originally appeared in Publicola.

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your recent open letter to me and PubliCola. It will not surprise you to hear that I disagreed with some of it.

Can you seriously argue that the kids and families in South Seattle don’t deserve better educational opportunities?

As a lifelong Democrat and committed progressive, I too believe that McKenna’s reflexive Republican positions on social issues, taxation, and the role of government are deeply misguided.

But if McKenna and Republicans are wrong in some areas, it hardly excuses us Democrats from being wrong on school reform. Here at least, McKenna is on the right track, and we are not.

Looking at the student achievement data, it’s absurd to assert that our public school system in Washington is sufficiently innovative or accountable. We may be headed in the right direction, but we aren’t in the right lane.

Other states that have aggressively tackled education reform are closing their achievement gaps. Meanwhile, while we resist meaningful accountability and innovation, our achievement gaps are widening.

Read the rest of the letter here.


Editorial: Put teeth into evaluations

This editorial originally appeared in the Everett Herald.

Stating the obvious, the state Supreme Court ruled recently that Washington is underfunding basic education, and must come up with a reliable revenue source to meet its constitutional duty.

But since our state Constitution also gives voters a direct voice in such decisions, through referendum and initiative, citizens must first be convinced that the money will be spent efficiently and effectively.

To that end, lawmakers need to add teeth to the teacher and principal evaluation system currently being piloted in 11 districts (including Snohomish). The sharper the teeth, the better.

Various ideas are reportedly under negotiation in Olympia, ranging from filling in details in the current law to requiring student test scores be a significant factor in evaluating teachers and principals, and having those evaluations count in employment decisions such as placement, transfers and, when necessary, layoffs.

Read the full editorial here.

Seattle Times: Gregoire signs teacher-evaluation measure

This article was originally published in the Seattle Times on Thursday, March 8th.

The governor on Thursday signed a measure that will add improvement in student test scores to the list of factors that principals use to evaluate teachers.

The law also changes the way principals are evaluated, adding teacher feedback as an element of their reviews.

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 for school districts to choose from, instead of having teachers and administrators design local systems.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she expected the measure to make Washington a national model in teacher evaluations. Dozens of states are working on similar systems, but many are struggling to make them work.

Read more here.

Opinion: Protect effective educators, rethink “last in, first out”

This opinion piece originally appeared in the Seattle Times. It is written by Christopher Eide, a former teacher and executive director of Teacher’s United, and Kirby Greene, a fourth-grade teacher in the Seattle Public Schools.

Recently, two teachers from South Seattle drove down to Olympia on a school night to testify against a long-standing labor-union policy in Washington. The policy under scrutiny, commonly referred to as “last in, first out,” has been adversely affecting students in Washington for far too long. “As adults, oftentimes we lose sight of what is most important … our kids,” one teacher testified.

Whether to restructure this policy and build up our ability to identify effective educators is a decision currently in front of Washington legislators.

As teachers, our primary goal is to ensure that we put our students on a track to ultimately graduate high school ready for college or their career. We want all students to go on to earn a living wage and be productive members of our state.

But in Washington, more than 16,000 kids drop out of high school every year. More than half of low-income students and students of color are not reading at grade level. We are 43rd in the nation in terms of college participation for low-income students. Clearly, we are missing the mark, and our most at-risk kids suffer disproportionally.

To read the full article, click here

Article: What happens when Senate Chair spikes ed bills

This article originally appeared in the Washington State Wire on Saturday, Feb. 4.

A decision by a Democratic chairwoman to kill a pair of high-profile education bills has triggered an all-but-unheard-of standoff in a Senate committee and a backroom blowup among the Senate Democrats.

Senate education chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe says she isn’t going to allow a vote on a pair of K-12 reform bills that is backed by a broad coalition of business and education advocacy groups.

And so a majority of senators on the committee says it won’t vote on anything else.

The impasse shut down the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, prompted Gov. Christine Gregoire to try to broker a compromise, and brought Senate Democrats to a boil during a closed-door session Friday.

Read the full article here.

Editorial: WA legislative education chairs stalled reforms to improve education

This editorial originally appeared in The Seattle Times on Friday, Feb. 3

State lawmakers are again punting on sensible education reforms.

Senate education committee chair Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and her counterpart in the House, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, used their gavels to doom promising legislation adding accountability to teacher evaluations and allowing a small number of charter schools into our state.

“It is discouraging that two individuals could completely block the dialogue from happening,” said Ramona Hattendorf, of the Washington state PTA. “The idea of having a good evaluation and discussing how it should be used is not radical.”

McAuliffe and Santos were aided by a stunning lack of political courage by all but a handful of Democrats.

Many thought the moment for true progress had come in the Senate, where the charter and evaluation bills have broad support.

But McAuliffe and the majority of her committee were at an impasse Friday. She refused to let her committee vote on a single education-reform bill, even canceling Thursday’s committee meeting where votes were expected. Colleagues, led by Republican Sens. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, and Rodney Tom, D-Medina, refused to take a vote on any bill if McAuliffe refused to consider charters.

Read the full editorial here.

Comparing and contrasting the teacher evaluation bills

This article appeared in The Seattle Times on Sunday, Feb 5th

Washington state already has a law, approved two years ago, to reshape the way public-school teachers are evaluated.

Now it’s looking at several proposals that would reshape the reshaping — one pushed by the business community, another backed by the state teachers union, one from Gov. Chris Gregoire and yet another from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

So how do all of these differ from yet another system — one recently put in place by the state’s largest school district, Seattle Public Schools?

There are only a few differences, it turns out, but they concern major issues, especially pertaining to how the evaluations can be used in hiring decisions — a flash point because some think the evaluations are too subjective for that.

Read the full article here.