OLYMPIA - January 25, 2010 - I’ve been asked many times if Washington has a chance to acquire a federal Race to the Top grant. My best response is that Senate Bill 6696 will move us past the starting line but will not win the race.
There are good points to the bill. An evaluation system that divides teachers into four levels of effectiveness, instead of the current two, will better pinpoint both good teachers and poor teachers. Principals will receive similar four-level evaluations. Teachers will receive tenure after three years, instead of the current two years.
However, OSPI’s evaluation of RTTT criteria, and my discussions with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other federal officials, indicate that we still fall short in a number of areas, such as:
- Our lack of truly independent charter schools. The 500-point scale on which grant applications are scored assigns 40 points for charter schools. Even with some innovative schools, such as the School of the Arts in Tacoma and Aviation High School in Des Moines, we likely will receive no more than 10 points. Other states that are more competitive for RTTT money are allowing the poorest performing 5 percent of schools to become charter schools or innovation zones.
- Our cumbersome process to remove poor teachers. Currently it takes too long to remove a poor teacher in Washington state. RTTT guidelines don’t assign a specific point value to the removal of poor teachers but include many categories for ensuring effective teachers.
- Our need to link data and teacher performance. To comply with RTTT guidelines, the bill needs stronger language that student achievement – how they perform on statewide and other tests, and how they might improve over time – be one of multiple measures of a teacher’s success. A total of 58 points are given in RTTT scoring for this category.
These are initiatives that President Obama wants, and they will make us more competitive for an RTTT grant. My staff and I are prepared to answer any questions you might have.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
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