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Legislators concerned about new teacher evaluations

Brandon Smith
Indiana Public Broadcasting

As a new school year begins, it’s not just students who have homework due – Hoosier school corporations are required to submit new teacher evaluation programs to the state Department of Education by next month.  But some legislators say they are concerned about the effectiveness of the evaluations.

The state Department of Education developed a teacher evaluation model that was tested in dozens of school corporations last school year.  Schools don’t have to use that model – they can modify it, use other models or develop their own. 

State law does however set basic requirements that all evaluation models must follow, such as a minimum number of evaluations and a four-category ratings system. 

Terre Haute Democratic Senator Tim Skinner says he’s worried about what the state can do if evaluations aren’t effective.

“So if a school gets a letter grade of a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ and the administration has evaluated most of those teachers as highly effective, how do you react to that?” Skinner said.

Assistant state superintendent Dale Chu says the Department of Education doesn’t have the power to approve the plans, state law only requires it to collect them.  But he says fine-tuning evaluation models is an on-going process, both for the state and individual school corporations.

“In a situation where there is that disconnect, we want to see…is the evaluation plan that corporation has, does it provide the tools for the administrators to be able to provide that very, very specific feedback to teachers?” Chu said. “If not, maybe we call that school district and say, ‘Here are some suggestions.’”

Chu says there are potential accreditation consequences for schools that blatantly ignore the state’s basic teacher evaluation plan requirements.