Education leaders say teacher evaluations flawed

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Some of Indiana's education leaders are already demanding changes in the state's brand new teacher evaluations. One state board education member calls the system a failure. Another says it's too punitive.

Almost nine out of ten teachers received glowing reviews. What could be wrong with that? There are several answers.

More than a fourth of Indiana public school children fail their ISTEP exams, yet schools found only a handful of educators, 1,300 of more than 55,000, are ineffective or need to improve.

Unbelievable? State School Board of education member Gordon Hendry thinks so.

"Clearly the system failed," he said during Wednesday's board meeting. "We have to figure out a new way to get accurate results."

Critics of the first-ever state mandated evaluation of teachers, principals and counselors see numerous flaws.

A third of IPS schools are failing. But nearly nine out ten educators received passing grades. To get a good evaluation, Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee found teachers need to have only three out of four students actively involved in the lessons.

"I believe that standard is too low," he said. "Out of a class of 20, that's approximately five students that aren't engaged." And possibly failing.

Statewide, a significant number of educators - ten percent - weren't evaluated by their school administrators. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz believes many of those teachers would have failed.

Ritz explained to board members, "Many ineffective teachers see the writing on the wall, before the evaluation process is every completed." She said those teachers resign or retire.

But money may be the biggest reason more schools didn't fail more teachers. The state law that created the evaluations says teachers in the lowest categories, "ineffective" or "needs improvement," are not to be given pay raises.

That could be a severe punishment for to teachers, some who've gone without a pay increase for years.

Teacher and board member Cari Whicker explained, "There is this feeling we have to give everybody a good score so that people get a cost of living adjustment."

There are likely to be several adjustments as Indiana looks to make educators more accountable for how much their students are learning.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz thinks teachers who need improvement should be eligible for pay raises. Otherwise new but promising teachers might go years without a raise. That would require the legislature to change the law.

IPS superintendent Dr. Ferebee says the district is looking for ways to reward the top "highly effective" teachers. Some of these issues may not get answered before next year's teacher evaluations.