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Study: 87% of Indiana teachers are effective

But group points to ISTEP to doubt state’s high figure

– 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,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said. “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,” Stand Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller said. “Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 87 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 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 the district until a new contract is bargained. About 60 districts statewide fall into that category.

EACS approved a teacher contract during the 2011-12 school year, spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly said.

A contract for the 2016-17 school year will be approved in 2015 and will include the new evaluation, she said.

Of the 55,000 educators assessed for the 2012-2013 school year, 26 percent were deemed highly effective, or 14,658. More than 61 percent were effective. Only 2 percent need improvement and less than half a percent are 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.

“We’re quite proud of our staff and pleased with the results,” Superintendent Steve Yager said.

Teachers were involved in creating the district’s standards, rubrics and criteria used, Yager said, so there were no surprises at the end of the evaluation process.

For teachers needing improvement or for those ranked ineffective, district leaders immediately implemented plans to help them improve, Yager said.

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

FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said the categories are not designed to be a punishment for teachers.

“For those teachers who do fall into the lower two categories, what we want to do is map out a plan and work with the teachers to figure out how to provide them with the assistance and training they need to get better,” Stockman said.

The district uses those teachers ranked highly effective as models for others and encourages teachers to collaborate, she said.

“We want teachers to learn from each other because everybody has something of value to offer. When all of our teachers are working together, all of them become stronger,” Stockman said.

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

Superintendent Chris Himsel said the district spends a significant amount of time making sure to hire the right people and providing coaching and training early in their careers.

“We try to identify ineffective teachers early in their career and help them get better and improve, or help them find a career that might be better suited to their skills and strengths,” Himsel said.

The two educators identified as ineffective are no longer employed by the school district, but did not go without a great deal of support, he added.

Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she believes 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.”