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Hawaii Ed. Board OKs Evaluation Plan, What's Next for Race to Top?

As Politics K-12 reported last week, Hawaii's Race to the Top status appeared to lurch in the wrong direction when legislation that would have created teacher performance evaluations withered in the state legislature. The federal department has given the state "high-risk status" for being in danger of not fulfilling the promise it made to get the $75 million grant to create such evaluations. The Hawaii State Teachers Association has balked at the requirements the state has sought to put into those evaluations.

But on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the Hawaii Board of Education unanimously passed a plan to tie teacher and principal pay to performance, and to develop evaluation criteria for Hawaii's public schools. The state board plans to have these evaluations implemented by 2013-14.

The only person to testify to the board against the plan before its vote was HSTA's executive director, Al Nagasako, who argued that language in the plan should be altered to say that the plan "shall" be collectively bargained with teachers, instead of the plan's statement that it "may" be negotiated. The board did not make Nagasako's suggested change, but did say that teachers would be involved in creating the evaluations.

Quoted in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Nagasako repeated the union's stance that such a policy on evaluations should have first been dealt with during teacher contract talks: "Give us an opportunity to work it out through our contract and we'd be more than happy to support the policy."

On its website, HSTA pointed out that it was engaged in contract negotiations with the state from April 18-20.

The exact components in the new teacher evaluations still have to be finalized and don't have to be collectively bargained, in the view of Stephen Schatz, the Hawaii department's assistant superintendent for strategic reform. What still must be negotiated between the union and the state, Schatz said in an interview, is exactly how teachers' scores on those evaluations will affect their pay or employment status.

"We are definitely hopeful that we can work through all of the issues related to evaluation," Schatz said.

This year, 18 Hawaii schools are in a pilot program for teacher evaluations, while another 63 are scheduled to take part in the pilot next year. The first year of full implementation for the evaluations, 2013-14, is slated to be a "no-fault" year for teachers, meaning that their pay or employment status would not be affected by their evaluation scores from that year, Schatz said.

Schatz said that if the employment impacts of evaluations were successfully negotiated with teachers, "It would certainly be perceived as a major step, locally and nationally." But he also said he didn't know if those impacts were the single biggest obstacle remaining in satisfying the federal department's concerns about Hawaii's Race to the Top grant.

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