State superintendent calls for more effective evaluations

May 3, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Washington’s teacher and principal evaluations are about to get a makeover.

Results from the 2010 evaluations were released April 6. Of the 295 school districts in the state, 289 of them participated in the federally mandated survey.

The majority of districts doing the survey, including the Issaquah School District, allowed evaluators only two options: satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Given those options, most educators received a satisfactory rating, with 59,022 of 59,481 teachers, and 2,578 of 2,619 principals, getting a good check. Those numbers mirror national data, a news release from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn called the evaluations a “great first step,” but said more needed to be done.

“Evaluations are a national issue,” he said in the news release. “In Washington, we’ve had the same evaluation system for more than 25 years. Judged by today’s standards, the system is neither fair nor meaningful. We need a system that looks at performance in multiple ways. The work we’re doing now will get to that point, and I think other states will look to us as a model.”

A state law passed in 2010 required that the OSPI establish a four-tier evaluation system by 2013-14. To get to that new system, the Legislature directed the OSPI to develop and pilot different evaluation systems in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Eight districts and one consortium of districts were chosen as pilots. Issaquah is not one of the pilot districts.

The OSPI received educator feedback about the evaluations at 10 recent forums it held in conjunction with the American Institutes for Research and the state’s nine educational service districts.

More than 350 people attended, including teachers, principals, administrators, parents and community members. They decided:

  • The two-tiered system is not helpful;
  • Classroom observations are pre-planned, leading to observations that don’t represent actual classroom practices; and
  • Feedback isn’t provided to teachers and principals until the end of the school year, when it is too late to adjust teaching in response.

Issaquah district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said evaluators are ready to comply with changes in evaluation.

“Evaluation is critically important, and the Issaquah School District is awaiting further direction from the state,” she wrote in an email.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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