By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire has a long list of education reforms she wants the Legislature to approve to set Washington up to compete for federal Race to the Top dollars, including a plan to put experienced teachers back on probation after several years of poor evaluations.
The governor’s K-12 education policy adviser, Judy Hartmann, presented her reform plan on Thursday to a group of lawmakers and community leaders gathered in Olympia to talk about the federal reform initiative that promises to distribute $4.3 billion to states that embrace school reform.
The governor’s plan also includes extending the probationary period of teachers from two years to three; approving the new school accountability plan from the State Board of Education; establishing the first state evaluation criteria for principals, who have been evaluated under general administrative guidelines; adding alternative new ways to become a teacher; and creating a plan to pay teachers more for innovation, improving achievement gaps or developing a program that focuses on science and technology.
A bill including these reforms will be formally proposed next week, Hartmann said at the event presented by a coalition of education advocates calling itself Excellent Schools Now. The state’s application for Race to the Top is due in June.
The chair of the state Senate Education Committee said after the event that everyone who works on behalf of education in Washington is lined up to support this collection of reforms.
“We’re there. All working together to make it happen,” said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. “I’m very excited. I want to sponsor that bill.”
The state’s largest teachers’ union is going to wait until it sees the governor’s bill before commenting, said Washington Education Association spokesman Rich Wood.
A recent statewide survey of teachers shows many support the kinds of reform ideas being discussed, at least in a general sense.
The random telephone survey of 500 Washington public school teachers found nearly 70 percent support for paying teachers more for growth in student achievement and for filling shortages in math, science and special education. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
The survey also found a mix of opinions on extending the probationary period for teachers and allowing principals to grant, deny or extend contracts based on evaluations.