Indiana Implements Teacher, Principal Evaluation Law

Carmen McCollum, writing for the NWI Times, reports that Public Law 90 in Indiana will require all public school teachers and principals to be evaluated annually starting this fall. It also restricts eligibility for salary raises to those who receive a rating of ‘highly effective' or ‘effective'. Teachers who are evaluated at ‘improvement necessary' or ‘ineffective' will have their salaries frozen.

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.

There are some exceptions. Garrett said that school corporations which had entered into a collective bargaining agreement before April 21 could avoid implementing the new collective bargaining laws until the current agreements expire. Private schools that receive public tax dollars under the state's voucher program may also continue to follow their own policy for evaluating educators.

Many school districts are using the state-created evaluation tool known as RISE to comply with Public Law 90. It uses 19 categories to grade teachers on measures including classroom instruction and lesson plans. School districts are free to use RISE as created, or customize it for their individual 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.

Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley said the RISE method was an important element in successfully moving her school off of probationary status.

However, RISE isn't the only evaluation tool, and there are other methods available. RISE has also been subject to criticism, as Representative Vernon Smith said that the RISE program fails to take into consideration social issues which affect students and environmental factors that distract students.

Hobart Superintendent Peggy Buffington said her school would be among those using Marzano's Casual Teacher Evaluation Model. This model focuses on how teachers approach different types of lessons and which strategies work best at raising student achievement for specific lesson segments. Those who prefer this method say that it appropriately values the complexity of teaching and identifies specific strategies for improving student achievement.

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