Bipartisan deal in works for teacher evaluations

SEATTLE (AP) - Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he has reached a deal with lawmakers from both parties to revise the state's teacher evaluation system in a way that will satisfy the federal government.

The governor's office says now education leaders in the Legislature will go back to their parties to gather support for the idea.

"Everybody agreed to work together and work with their caucuses to see what we can do," said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor's office. "It was generally a constructive and positive meeting."

The proposal would extend a waiver from the federal government from rules of the No Child Left Behind law through the 2017-18 school year. It would allow Washington to continue working toward an alternative system of school accountability and keep control of more than $44 million in federal dollars.

The governor met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last weekend to talk about the waiver and teacher evaluations.

Many were hoping he would persuade Duncan to give Washington a pass on the federal requirement to include statewide student test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations.

No other states have been given a pass on this issue.

Duncan told the governor he wanted a change in Washington state law before he would grant the waiver.

Last week, the state Senate defeated a bill that would have made the required change in the evaluation law, from suggesting that school districts include statewide test results in teacher evaluations to mandating the requirement.

Sen. Steve Litzow, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn was drafting a new bill based on a proposal originally created by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell.

"We are encouraged that the governor and Democrats are finally realizing that we must make it a must," Litzow said referring to using statewide standardized tests in educators' evaluations.

The bill approved last year used the word "can" instead of "must" for statewide tests being used in teacher evaluations.

The difference this week is that lawmakers now know that the federal government is going to extend the waiver if they change the law, Smith said.

The proposed language for the bill would include a provision that the change only goes into effect if the waiver is approved, she said.

The actual proposal should be ready in the next day or so, Smith said.

She said all parties agreed to stay focused on preserving the waiver and federal dollars coming into the state and not to let other issues related to teacher evaluations drag the conversation down.