Schools eye teacher evaluation system as state model

February 28, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Hoping to take the lead in implementing a coming change in state law, local school officials have settled on a teacher evaluation system that could end up being a model for all of Washington.

The Issaquah School District will now spend time ramping up to implementation of the new system, according to Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele, as well information released by the district.

The new teacher and principal evaluation system should be in place in time for the next school year.

In fall 2013, every Washington public school will be implementing a state-mandated system to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals.

According to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the vast majority of districts in the state do not use a research-based instructional framework to guide teacher evaluations. The Issaquah district is an exception and district officials decided they wanted to be a part of any coming changes.

“We decided we wanted to be on the forefront of that,” said Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications for the district.

The new teacher evaluation system was the choice of a selection committee consisting of district administrators and representatives of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union. Frameworks under consideration initially were studied in 13 districts, or consortiums of districts, from across the state, Thiele said. Those initial studies earned past praise from Thiele, who said he fully supports strengthening teacher evaluations.

“It’s good for the districts, it’s good for the state, it’s good for the teachers,” he added.

In the end, local officials decided to go with what is known as the Charlotte Danielson framework, Thiele said, indicating there were several reasons for that choice.

District officials claimed there is solid evidence of a direct relationship between the use of the framework and improved student learning. Additionally, several other districts are using the framework. Those districts include Bellevue and Bainbridge Island. As the implementation process moves forward, there could be opportunities for various districts to share resources and information, Thiele said. Finally, the district already uses an older version of the Danielson system.

“That will help us in training our teachers and principals,” Thiele added.

In the past, a move toward a new evaluation framework gained the support of the Issaquah district teachers’ union. The district’s current methods could use some toughening, said Phyllis Runyon, head of the Issaquah Education Association.

“You have to know the negatives before you can move forward,” she said.

There has been some speculation that the state’s move toward standardized teacher evaluations is somehow linked to the idea of teacher merit pay. That is not at all the case, according to Thiele. The state legislation creating the pilot programs and what eventually will be evaluation requirements make no mention of merit pay, he said. The issue also has not been a local consideration, Thiele maintained.

“It’s not part of the work we’re doing,” he said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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