Legislating pay: Description of Senate Bill 1

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For decades, Indiana state law has stipulated that teachers could be paid according to just two factors: years of experience and college credits earned.

Now Senate Bill 1, which takes effect July 1, will make teacher pay far more complex.

To determine a teacher’s annual pay increase, school districts now can count experience and education as no more than 33 percent of the compensation equation. The rest of a teacher’s annual level must be judged on three other factors:

• whether the teacher holds a leadership position in the school,

• whether the teacher’s academic skills are easy to find or in short supply, and

• the teacher’s annual effectiveness rating.

To determine effectiveness, each local school district must implement a system of annual evaluations that will place teachers into one of four categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary or ineffective.

Only teachers receiving the “effective” rating or above will be eligible for pay increases, funded with the money that otherwise would have gone to teachers who receive ratings below “effective.”

Any teacher rated “improvement necessary” or lower in three out of five years is eligible for dismissal. Any teacher rated “ineffective” two years in a row is eligible for dismissal.

The labels will be determined by two major factors:

• classroom observations by an evaluator appointed by the school principal,

• the scores and annual growth rates of a teacher’s students on a combination of state standardized tests and locally created tests.

What tests can be used and the degree to which they will factor into a teacher’s evaluation will be determined by the State Board of Education by Jan. 31, 2012.

Steve Baker, president of the Indiana Association of School Principals, expects student test scores to count for at least 33 percent of the teacher’s annual evaluation.

But he and every other educator in the state worry that the system the state board creates will not be fair, linking aspects of student performance to teachers in a way that is arbitrary or worse.

SB 1 has been called a “merit pay” bill, but it’s not clear there will be any bonuses. School districts may simply allow high performers to move up the salary scale while keeping lower performers stuck in place.

Linda Erlinger, Indiana director of the education reform group Stand for Children, doesn’t see many bonuses coming out of SB 1. But instead of chasing teachers away, she’s hoping the bill helps all teachers get better.

“The key on all of this is the requirement on annual evaluations,” she said. “Someone’s coming in and giving meaningful feedback. It can’t be underestimated how important that is.”•

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