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Indiana panel to consider removing student test scores from teacher reviews

Elizabeth Green

Indiana teacher evaluations would no longer be tied to student test scores under a proposal that is expected to get a vote next month from an influential state testing committee.

Currently all Indiana schools are required to factor student tests into teacher reviews, but the committee charged with finding a replacement for the state’s ISTEP test today announced that it might recommend lifting that requirement in state law.

“My goal is to come with something written that says we would like to take teacher evaluations off the accountability piece with this test, and then vote on it,” said Nicole Fama, the Indianapolis Public Schools principal who leads the panel of lawmakers, policymakers, educators and community members that is charged with replacing ISTEP.

The panel must make recommendations to lawmakers by Dec. 1, but its proposals will only be advisory. There’s no guarantee that the Indiana General Assembly would enact those recommendations.

Discussions about teacher evaluations became a sticking point today at the fourth meeting of the ISTEP panel. Fama said she felt the group couldn’t move on to more specific discussions about the test until resolving the question of whether evaluations would be tied to student scores.

“I feel like we’ll get better discussion if we say we’ll leave (teacher evaluation) out of this piece,” Fama said.

With new federal law giving Indiana more freedom to drop evaluations tied to test scores, teachers on the panel spoke strongly against choosing a test that would be used to rate them and their peers.

“That this test could overrule everything that we do all day, every day … is a problem,” said Jean Russell, a teacher from Southwest Allen County who was Indiana’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. “All the things that we are piling onto this one test is ruining it.”

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said she would support disconnecting teacher evaluations from student scores, but most of the appointees on the panel — and most of the lawmakers who will vote on its recommendations — were chosen by Republicans who have traditionally favored holding teachers and schools accountable for student learning. And that has often meant tying teacher evaluations and teacher pay to test scores.

The panel next meets on Sept. 13.

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