What if I told you there is a state with a list of criteria, or a rubric, which could be used to determine if a teacher was effective and that in that state over 90 percent of the teachers scored at least “effective” or better? We would all want to move our families to that state. Businesses would be clamoring to locate there. It turns out Indiana is that state, and over 90 percent of its teachers were evaluated to be at least effective or better.
Judging from the reported reaction to this news, the Indiana State Board of Education was expecting poor performances from more of Indiana’s teachers.
However, the State Board of Education failed to consider the impact of two changes it helped to promulgate: Teachers have a clear performance target defined in the rubric, and they now receive constant feedback through annual evaluations from instructional coaches and/or administrators. Clearly, the majority of the teachers worked hard to hit the mark and the two changes are working. It is early in the new evaluation process, and not all districts are using the rubrics yet; however, as the system is informed by practice, it will continue to improve.
The real story here is Indiana’s teachers were evaluated to be at least effective or better using objective measures of teacher performance. If something is keeping students from being successful, it doesn’t appear to be the teachers. Generally, when a variable is eliminated from the study of something, it is considered a success because you have narrowed the causes.
It is time to begin considering other social issues that may be affecting student performance.
Schools can be viewed as a “canary in a coal mine.” They are mirrors their communities can use to view themselves. They reflect the best and the worst of their communities. If schools are studied closely, they can inform policy makers where to direct their attention. If the people who work in them are listened to, they can provide perspective on those issues.
I invite all the Indiana State School Board members to come to Southwest Allen County Schools to see and celebrate the success you have helped schools achieve. You can pick any classroom to observe. I will give you a copy of the teacher effectiveness rubric, and you can stay as long as you like and watch our professionals work with our students. SACS teachers are at least effective, many are highly effective and they aren’t much different from any of the teachers in our neighboring districts. In fact, I would wager they are similar to the teachers in any district in Indiana.
Indiana is fortunate to have a very large number of teachers who are at least effective and many that are highly effective. Wouldn’t it be great if that was celebrated? I think it should be.
Dr. Phil Downs