The Indiana legislature passed teacher effectiveness legislation in 2011. The law takes effect this year. Here are seven things you need to know about Indiana’s teacher evaluation and merit pay system:
- Who creates the system? Local school corporations can ultimately decide how to implement the merit pay mandate however they choose, so long as they fit within what Krebs calls “guidelines and guardrails” set out in the law. IDOE Senior Policy Advisor Will Krebs says the Department of Education views itself less as a “compliance officer” as a resource for local officials, saying schools have several choices for how to implement the system, and local districts can opt for whichever one works best.
- Who gets evaluated? Every staff member in the school whose position requires a state license gets evaluated. Districts must spell out whether they evaluate staff members like occupational therapists, school counselors and social workers. If a district determines a staffer’s primary role is educating kids, then they’re not only required to be evaluated but paid based on that evaluation. Determining a staff member’s primary role, however, is a district-level call. The criteria for evaluations for different positions, like special education teachers, can differ from criteria for regular classroom teachers.
- How are they evaluated? Local districts get to spell out the exact formula, but districts must draw up an evaluation system where teachers are evaluated at least once a year and include a rubric that tells teachers how their classroom performance will be measured. Beyond that, the evaluation formula must be based on objective data, although it can’t count for more than 33 percent of the final evaluation score.
- What’s the system for rating teachers? Based on the outcome of the evaluation, teachers are placed into one of four categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary and ineffective. Scoring “improvement necessary” or “ineffective” ratings on evaluations gives a district the option to get rid of a teacher. While the exact requirements for getting rid of teachers vary by experience level, a district basically has the option of firing a teacher after two “ineffective” ratings.
- How do the evaluations turn into a pay scale? The local district makes those decisions. Like the evaluation criteria, the district can determine how much years of experience, degrees earned, student performance data, evaluation results and professional roles factor into its merit-based pay scale.
- Who performs the evaluations? Local schools make that decision. (Can you sense a theme here?) The law allows districts to contract outside agencies or consulting firms to conduct the evaluations. Teachers can evaluate other teachers so long as the evaluating teacher has their evaluation duties written into their job description and hold “effective” ratings. This is a sticking point for teachers, who wonder whether their evaluations will be used to get rid of experienced teachers who typically make more money.
- When does this system go into effect? The state implemented a pilot system during the 2011-12 school year in three districts (Fort Wayne, Greensburg and Bloomfield). Three other districts piloted their own programs. The law goes into effect statewide during the 2012-13 school year though some districts approved longer contracts this year in an effort to stave off implementation of the law in their own district.