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Originally published Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:06 AM

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Wash. Legislature passes teacher evaluation bill

The Washington state Legislature approved a bill that uses improvement in student test scores as a factor in hiring, firing and tenure decisions for teachers.

Associated Press

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The reporting at this paper is terrible. The bill does not require student test scores... MORE

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Washington state Legislature approved a bill that uses improvement in student test scores as a factor in hiring, firing and tenure decisions for teachers.

The measure passed the House on an 82-16 bipartisan vote late Wednesday. The Senate already had passed the bill, so it now goes to the governor for her signature.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said that the bill will "put us a strong step forward toward a quality teacher in every classroom and a quality principle in every school building."

Under the bill, starting in the 2015-16 school year, evaluation results would be used as a factor in human resource decisions. Senate Bill 5895 also sets some new guidelines for principals, including a requirement to use teacher feedback in principal evaluations.

"Some may argue that this bill goes too far, and others may say it's not enough," said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle. "For that reason, it's probably just right."

The measure builds on the four-level rating system established as a pilot project two years ago by the Legislature. But this time, the state will offer evaluation templates for school districts to choose from instead of having local teachers and administrators design the system.

The proposal goes into great detail about the way a poor evaluation could lead to a teacher being put on probation or losing his or her job. It also offers more specific guidelines concerning how often classroom teachers should be observed.

New teachers and principals in their first three years, as well as those who received low ratings the previous year, would get annual comprehensive evaluations. Others would get less comprehensive yearly evaluations that focused more on specific areas of their work.

Student growth data - improvement in test scores from one period to the next - would be used in at least three of the eight criteria for teachers and principals.

Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, voted against the measure, saying lawmakers should wait to see how the pilot programs fared first.

"I think we're moving too fast," he said.

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The teacher evaluation bill is Substitute Senate Bill 5895.

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