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UPDATE: Experts question some Indiana teacher evaluations

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Education policy experts called results from the first Indiana teacher evaluations that rank only 2 percent of educators as needing improvement "unrealistic."

The data — released Monday by the state Department of Education — is leading some to question whether the current system of evaluating educators, which varies between districts, is effective if so few teachers were rated poorly, even in schools with a D or F rating.

About 88 percent of teachers and administrators were rated as either effective or highly effective in the 2012-2013 evaluations. Only about 2 percent reported needing improvement, and less than a half of a percent were deemed ineffective.

About 10 percent of educators were exempt, some because their districts have not reopened teacher contracts since the law was passed.

Legislation passed in 2011 mandated each district conduct an annual review for all teachers and administrators. Only teachers in the higher two brackets are eligible for salary increases.

Department spokesman Daniel Altman said "the numbers are the numbers," but some policy experts cautioned that the results might not accurately reflect how the state's educators are performing.

For example, no educators at Northern Indiana's F-rated Chamberlain Elementary School in Goshen were ranked below effective, and only one at D-rated Chandler Elementary School was reported as needing improvement.

"We didn't think it was possible for a D or F school to say all teachers are effective or highly effective," State House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning said. "We thought (the school ratings) would keep schools somewhat a little more honest."

Educators in some school districts were uniformly rated as "effective."

Only one person was ranked "ineffective" from North Lawrence Community Schools in Central Indiana, and every other educator was given a higher "effective" rating.

But even at high-performing schools, Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Policy Derek Redelman said, there should be at least a few teachers who need to step it up.

"I'm not sure that there's any industry or business setting or any work setting of any kind where you have 100 percent of workers not needing improvement," Redelman said. "That just seems unrealistic."

It's likely also unrealistic that some schools didn't rank any teachers as "highly effective," he said.

Behning said too much district control in determining the evaluations might have skewed the results.

Districts can choose how to conduct the evaluations so long as a "significant" percentage is based on standardized tests in an effort to eliminate biases. Behning said that might be too vague to get comparable results from each district.

But some school officials argue that no single evaluation system can accurately rank one school against another.

Fort Wayne Community Schools has had an evaluation system in place for several years that includes frequent visits from each school principal, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. Standardized test scores play a role, but are primarily used to gauge students' progress over time.

Using the same system to compare a large school district such as Fort Wayne's with a small rural school isn't fair, Stockman said.

"There probably isn't one system that will work identically in every school district," she said. "To evaluate 100 teachers in a school year for an entire district — the level of complexity isn't the same as when you're evaluating 2000."

Whether the Indiana Department of Education would support local control of evaluation is unclear. Before her election as superintendent of public instruction, Glenda Ritz spoke openly against tying standardized test scores with teacher evaluations. When asked whether the various methods for evaluation on a district-to-district level provided accurate results this year, Altman, the department spokesman, said "that's a question for the Legislature."

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  • A teacher's view
    The problem with this entire process is not with the teachers. We have some excellent teachers in Indiana and the results have proven this. The problem is that so-called experts are trying to put factory standards on children who have too many variables. For example, if you try to make a car with steel that has imperfections, the steel will eventually bubble and give you an unsatisfactory product. As a result of the imperfections, you do not throw out the machine that shaped the metal, you discard the metal and use a new piece. While I would not throw out any students, they do have imperfections that teachers do not have any control over. Some children go to bed hungry; some children haven't any supervision; some children are homeless; some children are living in an unsafe environment--how do you expect a child living in these situations to listen in class and succeed in school? These variables are out of the hands of teachers. Furthermore, many of the programs that will assist these children are being considered for cutting of funds. Teachers love their students or they wouldn't be teachers. There may be a few teachers out there who really need to retire or move into a new occupation, but there are very few. We need to improve the lives of our students and give them the security they need to become all they can be instead of making qualified teachers jump through another hoop so business leaders can play in education.
  • Evauations Are Complicated: Results Not Surprising
    The results should not be surprising to anyone who has grappled with trying to implement a fair and useful evaluation system. It is a complicated process, which has to take into account many variable that might not be quantifiable. Moreover, a different set of circumstances (subject matter, class size, parental involvement, funding) might change a teachers' evaluations. At best, the new system should be a starting point for discussion assuming that the measures are relevant.
  • Poor School Performance
    I'm not sure I understand why teachers at schools rated as "D's or F's" couldn't be ranked has highly effective? I went to all Indianapolis Public Schools and had amazing teachers and curriculum that exceeded many "highly performing" schools within Marion County and the state. There can be great teachers at a poorly performing school and poor teachers at a exceptionally performing school. One suggestion may to somehow combine the individual teacher evaluation, a school specific evaluation, and the District-wide evaluation. This might produce different results and show what areas might need better performance. There are many factors that rank performance and this current efforts show that difficulty in conducting evaluations in a non-coordinated fashion.
  • Save BS for flowers Behning
    The teacher can present the material in an effective way, and give out the assignments and tests. That doesnt mean the student will make the same effort. If all schools are teaching the same subjects and topics, the majority of teachers are getting training and degrees from the same sources/universities, then where is the difference in results between schools? Schools in low income / Poverty areas are failing while upper class / financially stable schools succeed. Behning is unwilling to admit the fact that factors outside the classroom are in play. Poverty, unemployment, single parent homes, Street violence / gangs, etc... which are not under the control of schools, teachers, nor their responsibility. These are factors that politicians are failing to address. It's easier for politicians like Behning to point fingers and blame toward others than admit and accept their own failure. He is playing a political game w/ tax payer dollars to defund public education and redirect that moeny to Charter schools and Voucher schools that are run by organizations that contribute to his campaign. The Bennett "Pay to Play" system. All at the cost of Hoosier tax payers. it's one thing to fail or make a mistake. However, when hubris blinds a politician, he leaves that responsibility to the voters of his district. Michael Scott is challenging Mr. Behning in the GOP Primary and I encourage all those in District 91 to educate themselves on the candidates before voting.
  • Impossible ratings
    Every rating system is based upon a bell shaped curve. It is impossible only 8 percent need improvement. Obviously no one wants to admit real and bad numbers. Everything is great, paint it rosy.
  • A Good Start
    I'm amazed that as many as two percent got such unfavorable ratings. Imagine if an annual rating process identified two percent of physicians or attorneys as needing improvement. The howls of protest from those so judged would be loud enough to warrant hearing protection.

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