State senators could vote today on overhauling Washington's system for evaluating teachers and principals.
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers emerged from nearly a week of negotiations in Gov. Chris Gregoire's office with a new proposal that was winning praise even as it was being put in writing Monday evening.
Negotiators had been trying to reconcile various bills, including one by Gregoire and one by businesses and education reformers.
The issue had become snagged on a separate dispute among Senate Democrats over charter schools, which are not part of the new proposal.
Rep. Bruce Dammeier said lawmakers reached a deal he called a "good compromise." The other three negotiators, Rep. Kristine Lytton and Sens. Rosemary McAuliffe and Steve Litzow, were more circumspect, since they had yet to round up the votes to pass the proposal.
McAuliffe said the proposal's exposure in a News Tribune blog post Monday might threw a wrench into the agreement.
She still needs to brief her fellow Senate Democrats.
"This wasn't signed and sealed at all," said McAuliffe, a Bothell Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Litzow, a Mercer Island Republican, is the committee's ranking minority member.
"To release this early and it goes out over the wires and Twitter or Facebook, people will panic."
Lawmakers are trying to fill in the details of their existing mandate for the state to move to a four-tier evaluation system for educators by the 2013-14 school year, after pilot programs around the state finish experimenting with changes.
Prior to 2009, the state only demanded a two-tier system that only graded teachers as "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory."
Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican who supported the business-backed proposal, said negotiators agreed to require multiple measures of student growth, such as test scores, to be substantial factors in evaluations.
Evaluation results would have to be a factor in laying off or reassigning educators, he said -- but not until the 2015-16 school year.
McAuliffe said the proposal includes protections for teachers.
The Washington Education Association teachers union declined to comment about the plan, but Rep. Kristine Lytton, an Anacortes Democrat who earlier had authored a union-backed plan, said the new proposal builds on input from educators.
"We're doing this with teachers, and not to teachers," Lytton said.
Dammeier also said newer teachers whose performance is rated at the lowest tier would not be able to obtain tenure, while teachers rated in the two highest tiers would be able to obtain tenure faster than the usual three years.
There would also be provisions for dismissing veteran teachers who are rated at the lowest tier for two years, he said.
"I was doubtful we could get there," Dammeier said. "The governor did a very good job pushing everybody."