Inslee, Dorn drafting fix to retain federal school waiver

Is U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan serious about revoking a federal waiver worth millions of dollars for public schools in Washington if the state doesn’t change its teacher evaluation system?

You bet he is.

That’s what Gov. Jay Inslee told Republican and Democratic lawmakers who met in the governor’s office this afternoon to consider taking action that Duncan will sign off on.

Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, who also attended the meeting, think they have a solution.

Their proposal — which still must be drafted and reviewed by lawmakers — would require student scores on statewide assessments be used in evaluating teachers and principals starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Existing law says those scores can be used in judging their performances but is not mandated. It is an element along with scores on other tests and other data used to measure academic growth of students.

Federal education officials say the scores on statewide tests must be used but they don’t say how much weight they are given. In other words they can be roundly ignored.

Inslee said he spoke specifically with Duncan about waiting until 2017-18 school year and did not meet resistance.

“He expressed a willingness to consider” it, Inslee said.

Inslee and Dorn did not how quickly a bill could be drafted or how it would proceed through the Legislature. Last week the Senate voted down a bill to change the evaluation system.

Democrats have strongly resisted any changes. Republican Sens. Steve Litzow and Bruce Dammeier said Democrats displayed a “change of heart” after listening to the governor.

“They know they have to do this,” Litzow said.

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