[r85] Pond Report- Misinformation results in anxiety for education reform bills: Part 1 (3/24/2011)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Start Date: 3/24/2011 All Day
End Date: 3/24/2011
Misinformation is leading some Hoosiers astray throughout the state about proposed education reform bills in the Indiana General Assembly. These bills are not in their final form as they pass through the many steps needed before a bill can become a law. However, the founding principles of the bills have not changed.

The Indiana House of Representatives is preparing to hear several education reform bills that passed the Indiana Senate earlier this session and will benefit Hoosier students and teachers alike. However, these bills have caused great anxiety among teachers because of the misinformation.

One of these bills with the most misinformation on what is actually contained in it is Senate Bill (SB) 1. The bill passed the Indiana Senate 29-20 and would require local school corporations to hold annual teacher evaluations and financially reward effective teachers.

With SB 1 every school corporation would have the option to create an evaluation system that ranks teachers as highly effective, ineffective and improvement needed.

The Indiana Department of Education has released a draft model rubric or plan of how to evaluate teachers. This is not a mandated rubric for schools to follow. Instead it is only a suggestion for schools and each school corporation would have the option to determine the criteria that makes a teacher highly effective, ineffective or needing improvement.

Individual school corporations would even have the option to determine who is evaluating the teachers. So a school could let other teachers or principals within the school conduct the evaluations or it could opt to have an independent agency conduct the evaluations, such as education professors from a local college. It could also include parents of local students

The 30-page Senate bill also does not once contain the word ISTEP when discussing evaluations.

This bill does require that some type of formal assessment measuring student growth to be part - not all - of the evaluation. However, this does not necessarily mean ISTEP tests. A teacher could easily display student growth to an evaluator by having the students take a pretest in addition to a post-test for several course units and then graph how the students scored on the tests. However, all these evaluations and their

A local school corporation could decide to have ISTEP scores be part of the evaluation process but that would their individual choice, not a state mandate.

In addition, special education teachers would be evaluated on multiple factors determined by the local school corporations.

Two things this bill will do is financially reward good teachers and find ways to help struggling teachers become more effective. As a result, a teacher is not automatically fired if they are rated below highly effective. Instead, those teachers would get an opportunity to improve on certain areas for another year before being evaluated again.

These evaluations are designed to help struggling teachers. That is why the evaluations would not decrease a teacher's base salary. It would only add financial bonuses to teachers who score highly effective.

Teachers in the current education system receive financial bonuses for seniority and degrees earned, regardless of their effectiveness. While these two aspects can be factors in becoming a better teacher, they should not be the only things taken in consideration.

SB 1 would make the money in upcoming years that would have been allocated towards teacher seniority go to effective teachers. This allows Hoosier school corporations to reward good teachers while not having to increase their annual budget.  

Any time there is change affecting someone's job it is normal for people to be a little nervous. What does not help the process, though, is when misinformation about the changes is spread throughout the community.

For anyone wanting more information about the actual things in SB 1, go to www.in.gov/legislative and click on the "Bills and Resolutions" tab to read the complete bill. There is still much work to do, and many changes to the bill that we will make as session continues.

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State Rep. Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) represents portions of Allen and DeKalb counties.