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New Indiana Teacher Ratings Have Left Many Frustrated

Over 97 percent of teachers in Indiana have been rated as “effective,” according to numbers released Monday, and state lawmakers are less than pleased.

Indiana’s new teacher evaluation system, one of the biggest changes carried out in a state that has been a leader in conservative education reform under Governor Mike Pence, was supposed to increase accountability by expecting more from teachers. Instead, over 97 percent of teachers have been classified as either “effective” or “highly effective.” Barely 2 percent landed in the “improvement necessary” category and less than half a percent earned the lowest rating of “ineffective,” which puts a teacher’s job at immediate risk.

The results were even more generous for superintendents, who also receive ratings under the system. Less than one percent were placed in either of the two lowest categories.

The numbers are little-changed from last year, and reflect a failure of policy for the Hoosier State. The enhanced teacher evaluation system, first passed in 2011 and rolled out for the 2012-13 school year, was supposed to fix a broken one in which 99 percent of teachers were rated as effective and there were rarely any consequences for the handful who were not.

The likely culprit behind the little-changed ratings are the administrators of Indiana’s school districts. Indiana’s new law still gives districts a great deal of leeway to determine just how educators should be evaluated, and it appears that most of them are using that leeway as an opportunity to keep ratings high.

Claire Fiddian-Green, a co-director on Gov. Mike Pence’s Center for Education and Career Innovation, told Indiana media that saying less than one percent of teachers were ineffective was ludicrous, considering four percent of Indiana’s schools are currently receiving an F grade. She said the numbers suggested that school administrators were ignoring Indiana law.

“I do think that calls into mind whether the models, especially the local models, are being implemented with fidelity when it comes to the law,” she told the site Chalkbeat Indiana.

The results could lead to a loss of freedom for Indiana’s local school districts. One possibility could be mandating that test scores play a larger role in evaluations, a change that is unlikely to please teachers, who are generally critical of high-stakes testing.

Teachers, meanwhile, are countering by saying the data means exactly what it says: Indiana’s teachers are exceptionally talented.

“I think statewide, by and large most of our teachers in the profession are doing a really good job,” Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teacher Association, told Chalkbeat Indiana.

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