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By order of the Indiana General Assembly and by design of the state's Department of Education, a new system of teacher evaluations will go into effect next year for all public school and charter school instructors.
At the December meeting of the Adams Central school board, Superintendent Mike Pettibone, a member of the Indiana State School Board, gave a video presentation about the evaluations.
Indiana is among 23 states moving to these more detailed evaluations, he said, with 18 of them, including Indiana, setting up common criteria for teacher assessments. There are 306 public school districts in the state.
Pettibone noted that the state legislature set aside $15 million in the 2012 and in 2013 to be used by the schools to reward teachers who have good evaluations by giving them incentive amounts.
The evaluations will place teachers in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and ineffective.
Teachers will be judged in four ways: planning, instruction, leadership, and core professionalism. Instruction will be 50 to 75 percent of the overall evaluation scores. Student learning, instructional measures (meaning teaching strategies), and professional measures will be examined.
Pettibone reported that student achievement will be a key part of the evaluations, with ISTEP-Plus scores being part of the mix. A goal is to have each student demonstrate daily mastery of each day's material received in class.
The evaluations will be done by multiple observations and drop-in visits to classrooms, but will also take into account reports by school administrators, peer reviews, professional activity by teachers, systematic observations, classroom discipline and environment, and self-appraisals.
Those performing the evaluations can be school administrators, other trained school personnel, or external evaluators who come from outside the school system and have no connections to those being evaluated. Adams Central's evaluators will be trained next summer, as will many others across the state.
Pettibone remarked that the evaluations will make it easier for school boards to terminate problem teachers, since teacher reductions will be based on performance and not on seniority. He remarked that "seniority doesn't mean you can sit on your hands."
He added that the state law says teachers who are listed as "needs improvement" or "ineffective" cannot get pay increases unless they improve themselves.
Furthermore, every year, each school district must report to the state education department the number of teachers in each of the four categories, but the names of the teachers will not be given to state officials.
Board member Steve Bailey called the new evaluation system "a gamechanger" for education, although there will be "bumps in the road." He said there has been a good bit of job protection and career protection in the education profession, which has never been the case in his field (banking).
Board member Steve Maller agreed with Bailey by calling the teaching profession "kind of a protected industry." However, he said that, with these new evaluation criteria, "teachers will thrive."
Bailey went on to say that an educational study done for Bill Gates, the billionaire businessman, philanthropist, and global education booster, says the primary determiner of a good education is the quality of the teacher.