Changes put Indiana educators to the test

2012-09-02T00:00:00Z 2012-09-03T01:01:17Z Changes put Indiana educators to the testBy Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

Gone are the days when veteran teachers were evaluated every now and then -- or not at all.

Beginning this fall, Public Law 90 calls for all Indiana public school teachers -- and principals -- to be evaluated annually. The law also calls for only those teachers who receive a rating of "highly effective" or "effective" to get a raise.

The salaries of teachers who fall into the last two categories -- "improvement necessary" or "ineffective" -- will remain the same.

Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that requires schools to consider factors other than just seniority and degrees in determining salary increases. Those factors include educators' performance on annual evaluations, leadership responsibilities and the academic needs of students.

The evaluation must include multiple rigorous measures and some form of objective student data -- such as test scores, said Emily Garrett, the Indiana Department of Education's spokeswoman for educator effectiveness.

Some school corporations may have teacher contracts that extend past this year which will postpone implementation of new evaluation methods in those districts. If a school corporation entered into a collective bargaining agreement before April 21 -- when Gov. Daniels signed the bill into law -- that district can avoid implementing the collective bargaining laws until those agreements expire, Garrett said.

Charter schools, along with traditional public schools, must develop and implement annual performance evaluations under state law, she said.

Private schools which get public tax dollars for students to attend a private school under the state's voucher program may continue to follow their own policy for evaluating educators, Garrett said.

Many school districts, like River Forest Community School Corp. and Lake Ridge Schools, are using the state-created evaluation tool called RISE. It grades teachers on 19 different categories, including lesson plans and classroom instruction. School districts can use RISE or they can modify it to suit the district's needs.

River Forest Superintendent Jim Rice said what he likes about the state's model is it gives principals an opportunity to be instructional leaders in guiding teachers become better professionals in the classroom.

"Professional development is one of the components required in RISE," he said.

Rice said principals, along with several teachers trained as secondary evaluators, attended a training program, making them more comfortable with the process.

 

Different evaluation tools available

Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley said they used the RISE method a couple of years ago. Johnson said it was "key" in helping the school move off probationary status under the state's school accountability system.

Johnson-Shirley said all teachers were placed on probation during that year and received professional development. She said most teachers were moved off probation and only a few were let go. Shirley said the evaluation model is being used for principals as well as her own evaluation.

Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, who is also coordinator of the Education Leadership Program at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, said the RISE program doesn't take into consideration the "social issues affecting students and the environmental factors distracting students."

Hobart Superintendent Peggy Buffington said Hobart, along with Hebron, Lowell, Merrillville and Crown Point, are using Marzano's Casual Teacher Evaluation Model.

"We collaborated with teachers and the association," she said.

The Marzano model focuses on how teachers approach different types of lessons and which strategies work best at raising student achievement for specific types of lessons or lesson segments -- an approach that reportedly values the complexity of teaching and identifies specific strategies linked to student achievement.

Valparaiso interim Superintendent Michael Berta said a committee took elements from the state evaluation template and put together an instrument that is "uniquely" Valparaiso.

"It will be used on a limited basis this year because the teacher contract doesn't end until 2015, so teachers will have the option of choosing the new instrument or the current one," he said.

Because the teacher contract doesn't expire until 2016, Porter Township Superintendent Stacey Schmidt said they will follow the current contract's dictates. "There is some similar language, but it's a very different tool from what we will have to move to when our agreement expires," she said.

Like Schmidt, Highland Superintendent Michael Boskovich said school leaders are looking at several evaluation models, and are "in discussion" with teachers so they are ready in August 2014 when the contract expires.

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