Indiana should make changes in its teacher evaluation system to provide more clarity and consistency for schools and stronger support for and engagement by educators, according to a white paper released today by an Indiana University research center.

The paper contains recommendations for the Indiana General Assembly, which begins its 2017 session in January. They include revising the teacher evaluation law to put more focus on new teachers; giving districts more flexibility in how they compensate teachers; and rewriting the criteria for Teacher Performance Grants to focus on student growth, not performance.

The report, "
New Directions in Teacher Evaluation in Indiana," was produced by the Indiana Teacher Appraisal and Support System, or INTASS, a project created in 2012-13 and housed at the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning at IU Bloomington.

It finds that Senate Enrolled Act 1, the 2011 law that mandated annual evaluations, resulted in positive changes to Indiana school district teacher evaluation plans. But it also finds room for improvement in developing and implementing high-quality evaluation plans.

INTASS staff engaged in a series of facilitated discussion with education stakeholders during the 2015-16 school year to gauge reactions to and experiences with the state system, providing an opportunity to better understand successes of and concerns about teacher evaluation. INTASS also works with school districts to design and implement effective evaluations.

"We have learned a lot through our work with INTASS districts and from our research," said Sandi Cole, INTASS co-project director, "and we feel it is important to move forward with the necessary changes in a reflective and thoughtful manner." Cole is co-author of the white paper with Hardy Murphy, also an INTASS co-project director.

INTASS says evaluations should be a tool for educator improvement rather than a vehicle for removing ineffective teachers -- that an evaluation system should align professional development opportunities with teachers' strengths and their areas for growth. Research shows that high-quality evaluation plans, implemented with fidelity, honor a culture of commitment to students, improve collegiality and optimize teaching and learning, the paper says.

The report finds that educator evaluations should:

  • Be based on best practices.
  • Have a solid rationale for improving instruction.
  • Have a solid rationale for supporting teachers and students for success.
  • Be supported financially.
  • Be accompanied by clear guidance.
  • Recognize and reward exemplary practice.

Indiana law requires that all teachers be evaluated annually, that evaluations be "significantly" informed by objective measures such as test scores and that teachers be placed in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary, and ineffective.

INTASS found confusion and inconsistency about how to measure student learning and how to incorporate measures into teacher evaluations, however. Recommendations in the report fall in the categories of student learning outcomes, plan development and implementation, incentives, performance awards, compensation, training and professional development, and collaboration. Some require legislation, and others involve administrative changes at the Indiana Department of Education.

Among other changes, the report suggests improving training and certification for evaluators; allowing experienced teachers to be evaluated every two or three years instead of annually; permitting raises for teachers who are evaluated as "improvement necessary;" and creating more reliable measures of student growth for use in evaluations.

Previous studies by INTASS found that Indiana school administrators were generally positive about teacher evaluation requirements but had reservations about how they were implemented.

About INTASS, the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning and the Indiana Institute

INTASS is housed at the
Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, a division of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, which is a research center that works to increase community capacity through academic instruction, research, dissemination and training, and technical assistance.

About the Office of the Vice Provost for Research

The Indiana Institute receives support from the
Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University Bloomington, which is dedicated to supporting ongoing faculty research and creative activity, developing new multidisciplinary initiatives and maximizing the potential of faculty to accomplish path-breaking work.