Meaningful Teacher & Principal Evaluations

SB 5895 - passed and signed into law on march 8, 2012

Research shows that the single best way to improve student achievement is to encourage and support all educators to continually improve. The impact of a teacher’s influence on student achievement is 20 times greater than the influence of any other variable, including class size or poverty. From personal experience, we all know that great teachers get great results.

In 2010, Washington began an educator-led process of redesigning its decades old evaluation system so that it will better promote and support great instruction (SB 6696). The passage of SB 5895 in the 2012 legislative session builds on and strengthens that work, making the new evaluations more meaningful and -- most importantly -- placing student learning at the center.

The new teacher and principal evaluation system, SB 5985:

  • Supports teachers and principals by aligning professional development resources with the individual needs identified in their performance evaluations.
  • Defines four categories by which to evaluate educators (unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished) instead of the previous two category satisfactory/unsatisfactory system.
  • Includes measures of student learning in the evaluations of teachers and principals.
  • Ensures that student learning is based on multiple factors, including classroom and school developed measures, and not just state test scores.
  • Requires principals and districts to consider evaluation results, as well as seniority, in placement and layoff decisions.
  • Prevents unsatisfactory new teachers from receiving tenure and requires districts to remove unsatisfactory veteran teachers from the classroom.   
  • Ensures timely development of teacher improvement plans and prevents probationary periods from being dragged out beyond the intended timeframe.

Why do we need this legislation now?

Last year's pilot program, under SB 6696, charged teams of educators with developing and piloting several evaluation instruments. You can learn more about the evaluation pilot projects here: This legislation incorporates some of what was learned in those pilots, and it addresses several lingering issues. Previous legislation didn’t describe how the evaluations would be used and included student learning as an optional, not required, measure. This legislation commits our school districts to using student learning in evaluations and communicates clearly to educators how the evaluations will be used—these are crucial decisions impacting the development of the new evaluations instruments.

Why use evaluations as a factor in employment decisions?

In business, the armed forces, higher education, medicine and law, evaluations are regularly used to promote and support professional development, guide management decisions, and, when required, enforce the standards of the profession. Evaluations should and do matter in all professions. Educators deserve no less than the same professional treatment.

When districts face shrinking budgets or declining student enrollments and must make the difficult decision of which teachers to let go, they will now be allowed to consider teacher evaluations. This means districts have the opportunity to keep their best teachers, instead of simply laying off the most recent hires. Districts will also be able to consider evaluations when assigning teachers to specific schools. This helps low-income and low-performing districts by avoiding the clustering of inexperienced or underperforming teachers at specific schools. The details of these new rules will be worked out together with teachers unions at the collective bargaining table.

How do we know that evaluations will be objective?

This system replaces a decades old evaluation system that has been widely criticized as meaningless, with clear, objective criteria developed with Washington educators. Currently, evaluations are based soley on a principal’s relatively subjective observation. New instructional frameworks will give principals more specific, objective guidelines. Additionally, the new evaluations will consider multiple measures -- including using student achievement as a significant factor -- which research shows is a reliable, objective measurement. Finally, principals themselves will be evaluated using the same system.

How will the evaluations measure student achievement?

Teacher and principal evaluations will measure student growth, instead of overall proficiency. This means the evaluations will consider how much students have learned over a school year instead of what students know overall. This is more fair to teachers and principals because it examines only what students have accomplished under their guidance—regardless of whether the students started out behind or ahead.

How much students have learned will be determined in various ways, depending on what is relevant to the teacher. State and district administered tests are one way student learning can be measured—but test results are a limited measure and many classes aren't subject to standardized tests. The new law requires student learning to be measured by multiple factors, including school and classroom designed measures, so no educator will be judged by state test scores alone. Through the evaluation pilot districts, educators will play a vital role in determining what assessments can best measure student learning.  

When student learning is influenced by several teachers, the law allows for the collective impact of a group of teachers to be part of the evaluations.

How will evaluations support professional development?

The state will create a library of professional development resources that are linked to specific evaluation criteria, so that principals and teachers can use them to tailor their professional development based on specific, identified needs.

Will teachers and principals be trained in using the new evaluation system?

Yes. Training is required by law before any supervisor can be an evaluator. The new law includes $13.4 million over the next 4 years to support the development and implementation of the new teacher and principal evaluation systems. This includes millions for training teachers, principals, and superintendents on the new evaluations. These trainings are being developed by OSPI in conjunction with the pilot districts.

When will the new evaluation system be implemented?

The transition to the new evaluations will begin in all school districts starting in the 2013-14 school year and will be phased in to increasing numbers of teachers until all teachers and principals are on the new system by the 2015-16 school year. The new district and union developed rules on how evaluations will influence assignment and layoff policies will begin in the 2015-16 school year.



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