The Herald Bulletin

April 8, 2014

Most teachers 'highly effective' or 'effective'

By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — In a first-ever release of Indiana teacher evaluations, 87 percent of the state's 55,000 teachers were rated as “Highly Effective” or “Effective.” Just over 2 percent were rated in the “Improvement Necessary” category, and fewer than 0.04 percent were rated as “Ineffective.”

The data released Monday by the state Department of Education include evaluations of teachers, aides, counselors and school principals.

It was precipitated by a 2011 law that requires school districts to evaluate licensed staff each year and use the information to determine compensation. The law – which took effect in the 2012-13 school year – aimed to replace teacher pay based on years of service with merit pay based on student achievement.

The release of the data reveals the challenges in implementing a statewide evaluation program. The 2011 law left school corporations latitude to do the evaluations. It required schools to use student growth data – such as test scores – but the weight given that data varies.

In some districts, student performance on tests accounts for 50 percent of a teacher’s rating, while in others it’s as low as 15 percent, according to DOE staff. Asked about the discrepancy in evaluation models, DOE spokesman Daniel Altman said: “The results are what they are.” He said it was the Legislature that allowed districts to pick their own evaluation metrics.

The state developed an evaluation model for districts, called RISE, which gives significant weight to test scores. Only 115 of nearly 300 districts in Indiana used that model. The rest used other evaluation tools or created their own. About 20 districts failed to report which model they used, DOE officials said.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz was a sharp critic of the educator evaluation law when she ran for office in 2012. A Democrat, Ritz defeated incumbent Republican Tony Bennett, who’d championed the idea of a standard, statewide evaluation.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Noblesville, one of the authors of the 2011 law, said evaluation data demonstrates the need to have a uniform model.

“Allowing for local school districts to make their own determination about what model to use makes it palatable to educators,” Behning said. “But appears to me that results are less reliable.”

Behning noted the results varied widely. In some districts, more than two-thirds of teachers were rated as “Highly Effective,” while other districts rated all teachers simply as “Effective.” Even in schools with low student achievement, few teachers were rated as “Ineffective.”

Behning, A Republican who chairs the House Education Committee, said he’ll encourage legislators to revisit the 2011 educator evaluation law to include more uniform performance metrics.

“We want good teachers to know how much we appreciate their efforts,” Behning said. “We need to recognize quality and reward it.”