Renton teachers urge Olympia on evaluations

About 35 Renton and Highline teachers came together recently to urge state legislators not to tie teacher evaluations to state standardized tests as a way to measure student growth.

The educators wrote holiday cards expressing their concerns about the issue and others. State senate bill 5246 will be voted on after the 2014 Legislative session begins on Jan. 13. The bill requires that teacher evaluations be linked to standardized test scores to determine student growth.

Some teachers and administrators say this is not the best measure of success.

"School districts need the flexibility to design teacher evaluation systems that meet local needs, not a top-down mandate from politicians in Olympia," said Becca Ritchie, a Nelsen Middle School teacher.

Ritchie spoke out at the Dec. 11 Renton School Board meeting, urging the Board to promote the district's model for teacher evaluations, which doesn't rely as heavily on standardize test scores.

"So far, we find the revised evaluation system is much improved; the standards of high-quality instruction provide a consistent basis for fostering high-quality work on a daily basis," Sheryl Moore, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Renton School District district, said in an email.

"We are excited about seeing how this system improves the focused, professional discussions between the principals and teachers about how we measure student growth and accountability for that growth," she added.

The Renton School District is transitioning about 330 classroom teachers onto the new state system of evaluation this year and has plans to continue transitioning the remaining teachers during the next few years.

"While annual state assessment measures may play a role in the evaluation work (depending on future legislative action), developing and using classroom based assessments that are promptly available, relevant to the content being taught, and that provide timely assessments for our students and teachers is much more useful at this point," said Moore.

For now, teachers in the area seem poised to get their message across to state Legislators. Ritchie hoped to raise awareness about the issue at the school board meeting by citing Florida's history with teacher evaluations and assessments.

"It will do nothing to help students, and it doesn't even capture a student's academic growth, which is what we're evaluated on," she said via email this week. "It's a single test, and we don't get the results until months later, after the students have left our classrooms. In Renton, we have definitely developed a robust accurate and meaningful classroom based assessment, which is a much better way to look at what our teachers are doing."



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