Gov. Inslee to meet with Education secretary

Push by feds for state to change teacher, principal evaluations on their agenda

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SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee is hoping to have a much better idea whether to put more pressure on the Legislature to change Washington's teacher and principal evaluation law after meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

The governor would be happy if the state could come to some kind of agreement with the federal government to keep using the same evaluation system, without penalty, his spokeswoman Jaime Smith said Thursday.

The state Senate defeated a proposed change to the law earlier this week, on a 28-19 vote.

"Either we have to come to an agreement with the Department of Education or continue pressing on with the Legislature," Smith said. "We'll have more possible next steps after he meets with the secretary."

The federal government has said Washington must require school districts to use student scores on statewide tests as a factor in teacher evaluations. The current law does not mandate it.

Washington state has a waiver from provisions of the so-called No Child Left Behind law. It could lose the waiver and some federal money by not changing the current law. No other states have been given a pass on this issue.

If the state doesn't comply, the federal government has said it would take away flexibility in how it spends about $44 million.

Losing the waiver also would mean nearly every school in the state would have to send a letter home to parents saying they are failing to meet the requirements of the federal education law.

Washington is one of a handful of states, including Oregon, Arizona and Kansas, in "high risk" of losing the waivers that have been granted to dozens of others.

The waivers are intended to give states more flexibility to figure out how to boost education without meeting 2014 deadlines under No Child Left Behind, which says every child in the country would be reading and doing math at grade level by the end of this school year.

Smith said the governor's pitch to Duncan will focus on all the ways the state is a leader in education reform, including its existing teacher and principal evaluation system, which has gotten good reviews from both teachers and administrators.

The governor also believes that the Department of Education should give positive consideration to the state's adoption of new national education standards, its new school accountability program, its nationally recognized kindergarten readiness assessment, its Learning Assistance Program for struggling students, and the way Washington puts money toward helping teachers in high needs schools become nationally board certified.

The governor will be in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for a National Governor's Association meeting.