Evaluations to be more specified

BREMEN — During the 2011-12 school year, six school corporations in Indiana were selected to pilot teacher evaluation systems.
The idea was to find the best program(s) that would collect input for other schools to follow suite, when the law changed in April 2011 to be carried out in the 2012-2013 school year.
Three corporations used the RISE evaluation program and Bremen Public Schools was one of the three piloting an alternative model, one which incorporated standards from McREL (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, out of Denver, Colo.) with a bit of the districts’ own standards.
Russ Mikel, Bremen Schools Superintendent and chair of the local corporation’s Teacher Evaluation Committee, was chosen as the pilot project leader. He gave interviews to share experience and insights in hopes that other school corporations cold learn from them.
“We’re going to pilot it this year,” he said. “We have evaluated our educators annually for as long as I can remember so this isn’t something entirely new.”
Mikel, being with the school corporation for seven years, said the principals have always carried out the evaluations themselves and will continue to do so, just now with a bit different criteria.
“As it’s been done in the past, our evaluator will go into the classroom making visits throughout the year, and then evaluate through standards and elements of certain characteristics,” explained Mikel. “Then they have a conference to discuss those results and plans for improvement if necessary. …The main goal here is to improve teaching.”
The law says the evaluations must involve the following: The performance evaluations (for all certificated employees) be conducted at least annually, using objective measures of student achievement and growth to significantly inform the evaluation (such as statewide assessments); using measures of effectiveness including observations and other performance indicators; implementing an annual designation of each certificated employee in one of the following rating categories: Highly Effective. Effective, Improvement Necessary, or Ineffective; and an explanation of the evaluator’s recommendations for improvement.
If an educator receives a rating of Ineffective or Improvement Necessary, the evaluator and the employee must then develop a remediation plan with no more than 90 school days to correct the deficiencies noted in the evaluation. And each year, those results also must be given to the Indiana Department of Education (INDOE) before Aug. 1 — the results do not however, have to include the names of the teachers or any other identifiable information.
Then, before Sept. 1 of each year, the department will report the results of the staff performance evaluations to the state teaching board, and to the public via the department’s Internet website.
Evaluators have no set number of teachers that must fall into any category and educators need not worry they will lose their jobs as a result of a single Ineffective or Improvement Necessary rating. Current (established) teachers cannot be dismissed unless they receive two consecutive Ineffective ratings or a combination of three Ineffective or Improvement Necessary ratings in a five-year-period however, probationary teachers can be dismissed as a result of one Ineffective rating.
In all, lawmakers say it wasn’t meant to force higher expectations on all educators as do the state’s mandates for the students. Rather, it is meant for identifying where improvements in education need to be made, and assuring that teachers are doing their best to bring the best out of their students.