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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
IPFW education majors, from left, Taylor Anderson, Carlye Bishopp and Kara Mettler listen to assistant professor Zeynep Isik-Ercan explain a project they are working on in class at Neff Hall.

Teacher education buoyed by ratings

Area programs see state data affirming direction of courses

The Journal Gazette

The time Indiana educators spend learning how to craft lesson plans, foster learning and perform in a classroom is paying off, according to a state report released last week.

The report detailed how new educators – those in their first, second or third years of teaching – who graduated from state colleges and universities performed, with most acing their first few years on the job.

Data released Monday by the state Department of Education outlined the success of Indiana’s educators during the 2012-13 school year with about 87 percent rated as effective or highly effective, and only 218 statewide were termed ineffective.

Local college leaders say they aren’t surprised to see the majority of their former education students do so well.

“We’ve been working them hard. We expect a lot from them. And I think all of our programs in the area do that,” said Michael Slavkin, director of teacher education at Manchester University.

But some education policy experts question how accurate the data are. (See related story.)

School districts can develop and conduct their own evaluations as long as a significant percentage is based on standardized tests, according to legislation passed in 2011. Some experts say this skews the data.

Locally, IPFW, Grace College and Manchester University each had a high number of its graduates rated in the effective and highly effective categories and few in the improvement necessary category.

Data from other schools, including Huntington and Trine universities, were not included because there were fewer than 10 educators assessed, according to the Department of Education.

About 10 percent of the state’s educators – including those from East Allen County Schools – were exempt from the assessments because their districts have not reopened teacher contracts. Charter schools were also excluded.

Other educators were not included because they did not complete the school year, officials said.

Slavkin attributed Manchester’s success to the university’s ability to match the concepts and teaching strategies students learn in college to the methods used in K-12 classrooms.

“The goal for years has been to make sure our teachers are prepared when they step into the classroom,” Slavkin said. “Our teacher education programs work very, very hard to make sure that’s happening.”

Terri Swim, chairwoman of IPFW’s Department of Educational Studies, said the state report shows what her department assumed but couldn’t track.

“We were incredibly happy with the data. We only had anecdotal evidence about what our candidates knew and could do up to this point,” Swim said. “ … We feel like we’ve put together a strong program that’s serving students well as they go into their first years of teaching.”

IPFW junior Taylor Anderson said she’s pleased with the school’s education program.

“I’m learning to teach things differently – to teach in a way that reaches every student instead of teaching to a standard,” Anderson said.

Junior Carlye Bishopp said her IPFW professors emphasize the importance of being rated as an effective or highly effective teacher. “We do talk about (effectiveness) a lot. We need to be prepared to be evaluated like that and do a good job,” she said.

Laurie Owen, dean of the School of Education at Grace College, was also pleased with the report. “Our candidates are expected to be effective. We would love for all of them to be highly effective, but effectiveness is the target,” she said.

Teacher alumni from Ball State University and the Bloomington campus of Indiana University – schools with two of the state’s largest education programs – also fared well.

The report said 97 percent of 281 Indiana University teacher alumni who were evaluated were rated as effective or highly effective.

About 87 percent of Ball State University’s 422 teacher alumni were rated as effective or highly effective.

IU School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez said the results show that new teachers and teacher preparation programs at universities are performing well.

“Put simply, these data do not align with critics of teacher preparation who have been saying that the system is broken,” he said in a statement. “We need to celebrate these results and stop creating a crisis that’s discouraging young, bright students like these teachers in Indiana from choosing teaching as a profession.”