During the last two sessions, proposed budgets would have cut a small pilot program called Beginning Educator Support Teams (BEST). This pilot offers high-quality mentoring to new teachers in select school districts. However, the vast majority of teachers and principals in Washington don’t receive any state-funded mentoring. The cost of high-quality mentoring is around $8,000/teacher, which, depending on the number of new teachers, adds up to about $20 million/year statewide—but mentoring decreases new teacher attrition, which costs the state about $31 million every year.
Do you support investing in high-quality mentoring for all new teachers and principals, and should the state play a role in expanding this mentoring?
There is no doubt that teachers are the most important factor in improving student outcomes. We must give teachers the support and tools they need to do their best work. They need principals who are instructional leaders, they need rich and relevant curriculum and learning materials, and they need serious professional development, including high quality mentoring programs.
As I have talked with teachers across this state, they have reinforced my belief that mentorship programs, like BEST, are key to giving teachers the support they need, especially in those early years, to be successful in the classroom. We should pair new teachers in the first three years of their career with an experienced mentor, a teacher who has proven to be effective in the classroom. This mentorship will provide invaluable support to new teachers, create lasting relationships, and give experienced teachers an opportunity to share the best methods for increasing children’s success. New teachers will gain practical, tested advice on issues such as classroom management and behavior, curriculum preparation, and how to handle unique issues from those best qualified to provide it. I would show appreciation to these mentors by awarding them with additional pay for taking on this important role.
In addition to new teachers, the state should work on providing mentorship opportunities to all teachers, principals, and administrators. Struggling teachers need additional training and frequent consultations with their principal to help them achieve greater proficiency at the craft of teaching. For principals and administrators, we should consider a training academy, which would draw mentors from education, academia, non-profit sectors, and the military, with particular emphasis on leadership potential and effectiveness.
The vast majority of Washington’s teachers and principals are doing an admirable job and continually hone their skills in the classroom. Yet some new or struggling teachers need extra training and assistance opportunities and we owe it to them and their students to provide it.
Similarly, exceptional leaders have demonstrated their ability to turn around entire schools and districts. All leaders must be provided with the training to make our state’s many pockets of innovation and success the norm, rather than the exception.
My goal is continuous, lifelong professional development and improvement by our teachers and administrators. As governor, I will develop and implement a teacher leadership program for exceptional teachers with increased earning potential for additional mentoring responsibilities, and bolster principal training and support utilizing the Association of Washington School Principals, such as the Assessor/Mentor Program, which provides feedback and support to both new and veteran principals.
Two significant laws passed in 2010 and 2012 (SB 6696 and SB 5895) require new teacher and principal performance evaluations to be developed and implemented statewide in 2013-14, after rigorous training. These performance evaluations will give teachers and principals meaningful feedback to help them improve their practice. Student learning, measured by test scores and other factors, must be considered in the evaluations. School districts will also have to use the performance evaluations when making staffing decisions.
Do you support using data about student achievement in teacher and principal evaluations? Do you support using performance evaluations to make decisions about classroom or school assignment, layoffs, and tenure? Should the state play a role in implementation of the new performance evaluation system in all 295 school districts?
Asa Mercer Middle School is a fantastic example of the power of data to inform and improve instruction and to create a culture of excellence. When a school improves from a 13.8% pass rate on the state 8th grade science test to a 84.3% pass rate in just six years, we need to celebrate that success and learn to emulate it in other schools. This transformation is a credit to the institutional culture at Mercer and their embrace of data and evaluation. I know from my conversations with teachers across the state and from groundbreaking research that teachers want to be evaluated. They are eager to receive meaningful feedback based on multiple measures and to become even more effective in the classroom.
I believe that teachers should not be evaluated by a single high stakes test or a few observations by a principal, but rather by multiple measures of performance that both teachers and administrators believe to be fair and reliable. However, those measures must include student progress.
The responsibility for a great school does not lie just with its teachers, but also with its principals, who must be evaluated with a similar high level of rigor. As governor, I will strongly support the use of proven criteria to rigorously evaluate teacher effectiveness and measure career development, and advocate for similar criteria for evaluating principals and superintendents. Working with the union, the Legislature, and teachers, we can craft multiple measures of teacher effectiveness that result in a system that is fair and impactful. Teachers should be evaluated for their planning preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities, in addition to student achievement, and principals and superintendents must be accountable for their teachers’ achievements in these areas.
We need a system that recognizes excellent teachers and that ties evaluations to retention and promotion decisions. Measures of effectiveness will be considered during staffing assignments, including classroom and school placement. Ineffective teachers must show clear improvement or face removal from the classroom. It is also time to phase out the current ‘last in, first out’ seniority system, reducing the barriers to removing non-improving and poor-performing teachers.
These changes are meant to benefit our students and put them first. That’s why the new evaluation standards should be put into place in all 295 school districts and not bargained away. We need to replace a system that too often seems to focus on the adults with one that focuses on improving student learning.
I support making teacher and principal evaluations a significant component of personnel decisions.
There are 56,000 teachers and thousands of principals in our state - and the vast majority of them are working longer hours with greater demands and fewer resources to meet the growing and diverse learning needs of our kids.
I recognize that top-down accountability measures and increased expectations will not, on their own, achieve the level of improvement our kids deserve.
The primary point of a good evaluation system is to develop human growth and capacity and motivate staff to improve their skills, knowledge and craft of good teaching. However, we must acknowledge that a small minority of teachers and principals simply are not up to the task of preparing students for the challenges of our global economy.
Washington uses a statewide salary schedule to allocate General Funds to school districts for educators’ salaries. Districts can supplement these salaries with local dollars. Pay increases in the state salary schedule are based on years of experience as well as education levels, and the schedule provides significant pay increases for attaining a Master’s degree in any subject. Washington State spends a larger percentage of our state’s education budget on Masters’ pay increases than any other state -- $330 million/year – even though there is no correlation between having a Master’s degree and being an effective teacher. Other states are using new systems that pay teachers based on their skills, performance and responsibilities (for example, a teacher might get a step increase for being rated highly effective or for working in a low-performing school.
Do you support transitioning educator compensation to a system that would base salary increases on performance and responsibilities, instead of Masters’ degrees?
The Legislature took a great first step this year in beginning to create multiple measures of teacher effectiveness correlating to student outcomes. Although this data is not yet going to be used for compensation, more meaningful evaluations will begin to improve instruction and provide much needed data to principals and administrators, whose most valuable resource is their teacher corps.
As governor, I will work with teachers and their union, administrators and parents to continue to build on this law to create a fair and reliable performance management system that respects teachers and allows us to reward and incent our best teachers to stay in the classroom – especially in our low performing schools most in need of great teaching.
Principals and superintendents should have the freedom to meet the needs of their student populations. Whether that is paying teachers more to stay in underperforming schools, recruiting math and science teachers with content expertise, or asking teachers to stay after school to tutor struggling students, we have to get serious about doing what it will take to close the achievement gap. We know that incentives work. That’s why we need ways to encourage excellent teachers to work at struggling schools and to reward those who excel. It’s simply a way of recognizing and rewarding dedication and effectiveness.
With so little evidence that Master’s degrees have any measureable effect on student performance, it’s time to move toward new kinds of incentives. Master’s degrees and length of service are outmoded ways of compensation. With a system of multiple measures in place, we have taken the first steps toward a better system.
I support increased compensation for National Board Certification and have also proposed the implementation of a teacher leadership program that provides teachers increased earning potential for receiving the highest rating in the new evaluation system and taking on mentoring duties.