School board members say teacher ratings fail system

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Members of the Indiana State Board of Education said a new performance evaluation system failed parents, students and teachers when results released earlier this week found only 2 percent of educators are in need improvement.

During a meeting Wednesday, some board members — including Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz — echoed similar concerns as lawmakers and education policy experts who criticized the evaluations reported Monday as too good to be true.

"I find it hard to believe that a system of evaluation where only a handful of people are said to need improvement is accurate or effective," at-large board member Gordon Hendry said. "Clearly, the system failed."

Legislation passed in 2011 mandated that each district conduct an annual review of educators. Each district has the freedom to choose a method of assessment, although the 2011 law requires standardized tests to play a significant role.

Last year was the first year the evaluations were used in Indiana. Almost 88 percent of teachers were rated effective or highly effective and only about 2 percent reported needing improvement. Less than a half of a percent were deemed ineffective, the lowest grade.

About 10 percent of educators were exempt, some because their districts have not reopened teacher contracts since the law was passed and others because they did not complete the school year.

Some schools with failing grades reported only a few or no educators as needing improvement or being ineffective. Several districts rated every teacher and administrator as "effective," and didn't place any in the lower two categories or as "highly effective."

Only teachers in the higher two brackets — effective or highly effective — are eligible for salary increases.

Tying the performance evaluations to pay, some board members said, might have discouraged more honest answers from districts.

Indiana districts that haven't raised salaries in years could have felt pressure to rate teachers higher to make sure they were eligible for an increase this year, board member Cari Whicker said.

"We have a system set up where it's punitive," she said. "There's a feeling of, we have to give everyone a good score so that people finally get a cost of living adjustment."

Hendry said inaccurate data defeats the ultimate goal of the assessments: both to recognize the state's best educators and provide resources to those who struggle.

"This isn't fair to our kids and parents," Hendry said, "and most of all it isn't fair to our teachers."


  • Grading on a curve?
    I agree with Mark M.: by what statistical measure has it been pre-determined that more than 2% must be highly ineffective? First of all, it usually takes 2-4 years for a teacher to really get on his/her feet - and only the truly dedicated are going to stick around that long. Take a look at the turnover rate - how many new teachers give it up after only a year or two? Why would anyone who gets into education in the first place want to stick it out if they felt they weren't effective? Anyone who thinks it's an easy paycheck needs to give it a go for a few days. Twelve-hour days are not unusual, not to mention time on weekends spent getting caught up. In what other profession do you not have any choice at all about being 100% ready to go when the kids walk through the door? You can't just walk away at the end of the day and pick up the next day where you left off; can't call in sick without having made substitute plans that are usually more difficult and take longer to make than if you just stuck it out and did it yourself; you often can't even go to the bathroom without finding someone to cover your class. Now add to that the blasting teachers regularly get in the media - only those teachers who truly want to make a difference in the lives of kids are going to continue to tough it out. The conditions themselves will weed out the ineffective. Are 98% of doctors ineffective because their patients sometimes die? Do 98% of lawyers win their cases, regardless of their clients' situations? It's time to get over this obsession with blaming teachers for everything!
  • To Mark M
    Don't look backward at Tony Bennett and say this or that is either ok or not ok based on what you believe to be a flawed previous program, how is that constructive to the future? That sounds so narrow mined to say this is no worse than that. It's not a competition versus the past. Make changes to improve the future. It doesn't pass the laugh test to think any organization doesn't have more than two percent of its work force needing improvement. It seems that a cost of living raise should have been available to all then the best get an even bigger increase. From that point work to improve the bottom end or help them to find other employment.
  • Always two sides to the story
    @Mark M. - I agree almost 100% with you. Some of the money actually stays with the public school that the child left, that's why you don't hear a lot of complaints with public schools about all these charter / vouchers being created. @Do as they teach - teachers haven't gotten a raise in 5 years, not saying they are required to, but you go 5 years without a raise sure you would be a little anxious about this as well. I wouldn't want to be the admin that denies the teachers that...hostile work environment. The problem with the system is that we are forced to focus on the broken instead of focusing on the excellent. We need more youngsters who are going to be Doctors / Scientists, engineers, etc. not more who are going to be ready to work at McD.
    How is this approach being taken by the Indiana State Board of Education any different than what Tony Bennett did? Tony Bennett had it set in his mind that Christel House (a MAJOR donor to his and other GOP campaigns) was an "A" school, and when the results didn't come back that way he rigged the criteria to make it so. The APPOINTED members of the Indiana State Board of Education have it set in their ideology that Public Schools are failing (like Carmel, HSE, Zionsville, Avon, Franklin Township, Center Grove???) and if the data contradicts that then by God they're going to fix it so it comes back how they want. According to their SIMPLE approach and viewpoint, if we put teachers from successful schools into failing ones the problem is solved. Students will suddenly be better. The issues causing problems for students in poor performing schools are OUTSIDE the classroom and are not being addressed by legislatures. It's much easier for them to point their finger and blame toward someone else. For the appointed board members, this is not about improving students. This is about framing as many public schools as possible as failing in order to redirect the money toward charter and voucher schools who then contribute back to the GOP campaigns.
    • No Surprise
      Just doing the same thing they do with the students, pass them along and keep them moving. Everything is fine as long as I keep getting my paycheck and raise. Just like these idiotic weather make up days, it is like a prison term, kids are sitting in a class room watching movies to tick off another day in school. Schools are no longer about developing our youth, they are consuming their time and limiting their development. The whole system is broken.
    • 2 percent is impossible
      In any company, including schools, typically 10 percent would be does not meet expectations and would be on the list of potential termination, another 10 percent would need improvement, leaving 80 percentwho meet or exceed expectations. So approx. 20 percent of the teachers should be in the needs improvement or if not improved, out the door. Sounds like whoever didthe assessment wanted to or was told to give all the teachers an A,grade inflation.

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