CEEP Policy brief: New Indiana teacher evaluation needs collaboration, organization, resources and time
Report analyzes state's overhaul of teacher assessment
A new policy brief from the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University concludes time, money and people must be used wisely for the new teacher evaluation requirements in Indiana to best benefit public education.
The brief, "Revamping the Teacher Evaluation Process," examines the implications of legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year requiring each school corporation create a plan for annual performance evaluation or adopt a recommended model for the 2012-13 school year.
"Becoming fully compliant with the new law will be incredibly resource-intensive," said Rodney Whiteman, graduate research assistant at CEEP and a Ph.D. student in Education Policy Studies at the IU School of Education. "Schools don't have much time to plan and implement new evaluation systems. The nature of these changes makes for an uncertain environment in schools right now."
Whiteman is the author of the brief along with Dingjing Shi, graduate assistant at CEEP, and Jonathan Plucker, CEEP director.
The new Indiana regulations put forward in Senate Enrolled Act 001 (SEA 1) require annual evaluations of certified teachers -- evaluations which include "objective measures of student achievement and growth" and "rigorous measures of effectiveness." Teachers are designated to one of four rating categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary and ineffective. The evaluation must provide the evaluator's recommendation for improvement and how long improvement should take. A teacher determined to negatively affect student achievement and growth cannot receive an "effective" or "highly effective" rating.
The brief describes the development of teacher improvement plans for teachers rated in the "improvement necessary" and the "ineffective categories." The law also specified that students are not to be instructed in consecutive school years by any teacher rated as ineffective.
The authors warn of potential unintended consequences. During implementation, resources invested in developing an expanded assessment system could divert schools' focus away from the curriculum and instructional time, potentially affecting student growth during the 2012-13 school year.
"Any new law or policy is going to have unintended consequences," Whiteman said. "Given the breadth of changes required be SEA 1, no single person can predict what unexpected results may come when implemented at the local level. This brief does mention a few possibilities, but I'm certain practicing educators and administrators will experience secondary effects policymakers never considered."
Another impact of the legislation is that teacher education programs and their student teachers may find it more difficult to find spots in classrooms. Teachers and principals might be more hesitant to accept new teachers from programs that have produced significant numbers of ineffective teachers, fearing the negative impact these new teachers could have on class or school performance. Overall, the brief concludes successful implementation will require years and well-planned use of finances and personnel. The brief concludes with recommendations toward that goal.
First, school corporations must include stakeholders for reasons of both sound management and practicality. A new evaluation plan will work best if teachers have embraced its methods. The brief notes that at least 75 percent of teachers must vote to approve a plan that a corporation submits for state approval (if a district adopts a plan other than those approved by the Indiana Department of Education under SEA 1), meaning teacher involvement is crucial. To that end, the brief recommends school corporations include a broad range of teachers in planning and maintain an open communications process.
"Depending on how this law is implemented, there's a potential to do real harm to the teaching profession," Whiteman said. "Although it's not legally necessary to include teachers in design and implementation of the IDOE plan, it certainly would be wise to include them."
The brief points out the possibility that an evaluation system that links teacher awards to student learning gains could lead to competition among teachers. New state regulations deny raises to a teacher rated "ineffective" or "improvement necessary"; that money must be redistributed to "effective" or "highly effective" teachers. To guard against such an incentive to work toward individual rather than broad school goals, the brief recommends corporations implement a hybrid compensation system rewarding teachers for both student gains in the classroom and building or corporation-wide.
The teacher evaluation legislation is an unfunded mandate, so the brief recommends several financial considerations. Corporations should mull restructuring personnel to allow for master teachers to help other faculty and develop and deploy instructional coaches and curriculum experts. Other suggested measures include fund reallocations, seeking external grants, forming consortia to share costs with other schools, and considering school funding referenda. Money may have to go toward developing assessments for coursework not already covered by existing assessments, so the brief recommends allowing for both money and time to create these new tools. Funds should go toward new technology and training to meet increased demands for data management.
The brief determines that schools may need to reorganize to meet all the new demands of the evaluation system. To handle such a change, the authors suggest using alternative schedules and portfolios for master teachers, quasi-administrators, or principals, allowing more time to observe and evaluate teachers.
The full brief is available at http://www.ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/PB_V9N4_2011_EPB.pdf.