Indiana teacher evaluations show vast majority are certified as doing their jobs 'effectively'



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INDIANAPOLIS — The second year of Indiana's new system for evaluating teachers shows the vast majority of the state's educators were certified as doing their jobs effectively and the percentage of those rated "highly effective" saw a significant increase.

Indiana Department of Education data for nearly 58,000 teachers shows that less than 0.4 percent were rated "ineffective" — a rating that can place teachers at risk of termination — in the 2013-14 school year, a slight decline from 2012-13 school year.

That data, which will be discussed during Wednesday's meeting of the State Board of Education, also show that about 1.8 percent of Indiana teachers were rated in the second-lowest of the system's four categories, called "improvement necessary." That was a decline from about 2 percent in that category during 2012-13.

But the percentage of educators in the top category, those rated "highly effective," rose from 26 percent to 35 percent. That increase helped reduce the number listed in the "effective" category from 61 percent in 2012-13 to about 54 percent last school year.

Indiana Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman said Wednesday's State Board of Education meeting will include a discussion of efforts to give greater weight to students' ISTEP+ test scores in future teacher evaluations.

State law states that ISTEP+ test scores should "significantly inform" teacher evaluation but does not give a precise definition of what "significantly inform" should mean for the evaluations.

"The department's stance is that's a decision that local schools get to make for themselves, as far as saying what 'significantly inform' is," he said. "We think that it should be a local decision."

Lou Ann Baker, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation, said the State Board of Education will be discussing possible tweaks to the state's teacher evaluations on Wednesday but there will be no votes on any proposed changes to that system.

"These are meant to be helpful to teachers, informative to teachers and principals and administrators and not seen as a punitive effort. The goal is to continue improvement for everyone, most importantly for the kids," she said.

The changes to Indiana's teacher evaluation system were implemented in the 2012-13 school year under changes made in 2011 to state law. Under the state's current system, teachers rated as "ineffective" are at risk of termination and both they and teachers listed as "improvement necessary" are not legally eligible for any pay increase, Altman said.

Indiana's evaluation law applies to any staffer with a state certificate, which includes teachers, counselors and principals.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said last year's teacher evaluation data is consistent with the previous year's evaluations and shows that Indiana has a good slate of public school teachers.

"It just highlights that our teachers really are by and large are doing an excellent job around the state," she said.

Meredith said the union believes that for now ISTEP+ scores should not be factored into teacher evaluations because the test some 450,000 Indiana students will take this spring has been revamped to bring it into alignment with new academic standards the state adopted last April.

The union has asked Pence to support freezing Indiana's overall school accountability system for one year because students are expected to have lower-than-normal scores on that revamped test.

"I think it's going to be really hard to use that data to judge teachers, students, schools — you know the whole thing," Meredith said.

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