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Governor wants revamped teacher evaluations

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Workers who dread their annual job performance reviews might feel better about the process if they knew 99 percent of employees were rated effective. It's an unlikely scenario for many companies, but for Indiana teachers it's a reality that could soon be coming to an end.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and state schools superintendent Tony Bennett say Indiana needs a more honest look at the job teachers and principals are doing. How can an internal Department of Education survey find that 99 percent of teachers are rated effective, they ask, when 25 percent of students don't pass statewide exams?

"What we are talking about is integrity," Bennett said. "Our current system is a statistical impossibility."

The issue is among the sweeping education changes Bennett and Daniels will be pushing when the General Assembly meets starting Wednesday. Their agenda also calls for using student performance to measure teacher success, focusing teacher collective bargaining agreements only on salary and wage-related benefits and allowing local districts to reward the best performing teachers instead of rewarding simple seniority.

But before local officials can create ways to reward the best teachers, Daniels and Bennett say they need to have evaluations that really identify the cream of the crop.

Some school districts currently have contracts with teacher unions that prohibit principals from walking into classrooms unannounced for reviews, Bennett said, while other contracts prohibit annual reviews after teachers reach a certain point in their careers.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger said every district handles evaluations differently, and acknowledged that reviews might not be a priority in large school districts where evaluating hundreds of teachers is a matter of logistics. But he said ISTA, which has clashed with Daniels and Bennett on other issues, is on board with yearly reviews.

"That's one place where we can agree with Dr. Bennett in that we support a fair, rigorous evaluation system for educators on a yearly basis," Schnellenberger said.

For teachers worried that personality conflicts with principals could prevent them from getting a fair shake during reviews, Bennett said more accountability and a focus on student performance would help.

"In a highly accountable system, the folks in charge are going to want to keep the best and recruit the best," Bennett said.

Bennett, a Republican first elected in 2008, said he doesn't have a specific goal in mind regarding how many teachers should be classified as effective or highly effective, or how many would fall on the low end of the scale. But he said there could be some teachers who just don't belong in the classroom.

"A huge responsibility we have as professionals is to make sure we do address those who don't improve," Bennett said. "We should very honestly look them in the eye and say education is not the place for you."

Schnellenberger said administrators should work with teachers who aren't performing well and that the long-term goal should be to get all teachers rated as effective.

"Why would we want to have a non-effective teacher in the classroom?" he asked.

While Daniels and Bennett envision using yearly teacher evaluations to help local districts reward the best teachers, Daniels also suggested that they could later be used to determine which colleges do the best job of preparing Indiana teachers.

"I really wish I knew what the worst 10 were so we could say, 'teach something different,'" Daniels said.

For now, though, Daniels and Bennett are hoping that fellow Republicans who control the House and Senate will agree that teacher evaluations need an overhaul.

"We have to focus on teacher and principal quality," Bennett said. "We have to have an evaluation system that truly differentiates good and bad."

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  • No ideas
    How do you evaluate all the intangibles that good teachers do to make their classroom a good learning environment? Not through test scores. In 99% of the cases, it comes down to parent support. I taught 8th grade science in IPS where most of my students read at a 3rd grade level and only about30% passed ISTEP. I now teach in a suburban district where 99% of my students passed ISTEP. I guess I am a wonderful teacher because my ISTEP scores are so good. The governor can keep his incentive pay. I would like him to take mine to hire a teacher to fill the empty classroom next to mine and bring my class size down from 32 to 25 students like it was 5 years ago. In the end, it would be polittically unpopular to hold voting parents responsible for their childrens failure because the parents do not value education or are not educated enough themselves to understand educations importance. Bennett is nothing more than Daniels puppet with no plan of his own. Hopefully he can be removed at the next election and someone that has a vision besides test scores can be put in his place. How about preparing students for a global work force and making technology and foreign language a priority nstead of cutting these curriculums as Daniels and Bennett propose.

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  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

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