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7 of 8 Indiana educators effective, state finds

INDIANAPOLIS – The state’s first-ever analysis of school staff performance evaluations shows about 87 percent of those Indiana educators assessed were effective or highly effective – with only 218 statewide termed ineffective.

The Indiana Department of Education released the data Monday morning.

“I am encouraged by these numbers,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. “For the most part, they confirm what we already knew: that public schools throughout Indiana are filled with effective and highly effective teachers. Research shows that highly effective educators are exactly the type of leaders that can turn schools around and increase school performance.”

But a nonpartisan education advocacy group – Stand for Children – questioned whether the assessments are honest.

“It’s not providing a true and accurate assessment, and it certainly is not giving parents and our community insight into whether our children are experiencing great instruction in our classrooms,” said Justin Ohlemiller, Stand for Children's executive director.“Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.”

The process used for the evaluations also differs from school district to school district, making it nearly impossible to compare the data.

For instance, some models weigh more toward student test performance than others that focus on observation.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said legislators gave local districts control of their own evaluation process, and acknowledged it wasn’t designed for comparisons.

“It is designed to have each school corporation identify teachers that need help,” he said, noting educators in lower categories will receive limited pay raises, while additional bonuses might be available for those deemed highly effective.

Kruse said the accuracy of the numbers depends on the principals and evaluators.

“I hope everyone is being diligent in the evaluation system,” he said.

Those assessed were licensed staff – including teachers, principals and counselors, all considered educators by the law. But thousands weren’t included in the analysis, either because of special circumstances such as death or retirement or because of contract rules.

For instance, East Allen County Schools was already under a contract with its staff before the new evaluation law went into effect July 1, 2011. That exempts it until a new contract is bargained. About 60 districts statewide fall into that category.

Of the 55,000 educators assessed for the 2012-13 school year, 14,658, or 26 percent, were deemed highly effective. More than 61 percent were effective. Only 2 percent need improvement and less than one-half of 1 percent were ineffective. The rest were not evaluated.

Charter school educators were not included but will be in the future under a new state law.

Ritz did raise one alarm – noting when comparing the data by A-F school performance grades, there is an increase in the percentage of educators who fall within the improvement necessary and ineffective categories.

“There is a marked decrease in the percentage of highly effective educators between schools that receive an A and those that receive an F. Thirty-two percent of teachers in A schools are rated as highly effective, in comparison to just 11 percent in schools that received an F,” she said. “Highly effective educators are vital to school turnaround and my Department will be working to address this gap moving forward.”

Locally, in Southwest Allen County Schools only one educator was found ineffective out of 456 staff members. About 92 percent were found to be effective or highly effective.

Fort Wayne Community Schools reported 83 percent effective or highly effective, with 2.6 percent needing improvement and less than 1 percent ineffective.

And Northwest Allen County Schools had about 95 percent effective or highly effective.

Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she believes that the majority of Indiana teachers are effective or highly effective – as the numbers show.

“The ineffective is such a small number and administrators are working to get them on an improvement plan,” she said. “If one person isn’t doing their job it brings everyone down.”

Meredith acknowledged this is a snapshot in time using different evaluation formulas.

“It is very individualized,” she said. “Because of the uniqueness of some of the models it’s just one piece in terms of comparing school systems.”

nkelly@jg.net

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