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Originally published Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 9:46 AM

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Editorial: Seattle Schools contract helps build quality teaching corps

Seattle Schools fought successfully to keep a highly respected teacher-principal evaluation system that includes student test scores.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE Seattle School District and its teachers union agreed on a contract in time to avoid a strike and to continue to build a quality teaching corps.

Teachers are getting a 6.3 percent pay increase over two years, including the elimination of furlough days. Good teachers deserve good pay.

New teachers will face a longer probationary period and tougher annual goals. Rigor ensures Seattle is getting the best teachers.

A lasting legacy is the vigorous teacher-evaluation system that includes student test scores as one element. The Seattle Education Association did not want to retain the system as it was.

But the union helped create the template of rating teacher performance in more useful ways than simply good or bad — for example including whether teachers are innovative. Multiple measures of performance and career opportunities for high performers makes it a national model in professional evaluations.

Low student test scores do not get teachers fired. They serve as warning lights triggering a closer look at a teacher and his or her classroom. That attention provides the opportunity to make changes that help students.

Seattle has made the evaluation system a top priority. Most teachers are pros and regular assessments and professional training helps keep them that way. Nearly 100 low-performing teachers have left the district over the last two years, underscoring how a good, fair system should work.

Seattle risked ending up in the same boat as Washington state, which was recently admonished by the federal Department of Education for failing to include student test scores as one factor in evaluations.

The district must continue to train teachers and principals on the new system. A newly hired cadre of assistant principals frees up principals to better support teachers. New assessments under development for federal Common Core standards will need to be aligned with the evaluation system.

Seattle Superintendent José Banda must keep his district moving forward. The largest district in the state can be a model for other school districts ordered by the Legislature to beef up their performance-measuring templates.


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