Future of Teaching

New evaluation system gives few Indiana teachers low grades

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
Indianapolis Public School is looking for a new system to evaluate teachers.

After a year under tougher new teacher evaluation rules, all of the teachers in Indiana who received the state’s lowest rating last year could fit in a single school cafeteria.

Statewide just 219 educators were rated “ineffective” last year, representing less than 0.5 percent of the 50,000 educators who received ratings. In fact, nearly all rated educators — 97 percent — were classified in the top two categories as effective or highly effective. About 10 percent of educators were not rated for reasons such as not completing the year due to maternity leave or retirement.

The ratings are based on an evaluation system put in place over the last two years that was expected to make it harder for teachers to earn top scores. Read about the evaluation system — which weighs principal observations, student test scores, and and other factors chosen by each school district and has consequences for educators’ employment and pay — here.

In several stories, Chalkbeat Indiana examines the first round of ratings under the law — and their potentially significant implications on education policy in the state.

  • Legislators are weighing changes to the state’s teacher evaluation law, saying that the high scores suggest that the law does not go far enough to tell teachers apart. READ MORE.
  • The overall 0.4 percent ineffective rate masks wide differences in teacher ratings from district to district. Some struggling schools had ineffective rates more than 20 times the state average, while some top suburban districts had fewer highly effective teachers than average. READ MORE.
  • In all of Indianapolis Public Schools, the state’s largest district, just five educators were rated ineffective. The district’s superintendent is already asking its teachers union to work together an overhaul of its rating system. READ MORE.
  • And the ratings are raising questions about how prepared principals were to execute the new evaluation system. They say they did their best at a challenging time. READ MORE.
  • Find your school and see how many of its educators were rated highly effective, effective, in need of improvement or ineffective. READ MORE.

The Indiana Department of Education made evaluation data available by school district and by school, allowing parents to see how many teachers at their children’s traditional public schools were rated in each category. To search for your school, go here. (More school data: Find your school’s A to F grade here.)

The department also calculated effectiveness rates for the first, second, and third year graduates of the state’s colleges that offer education degrees. That data can be found here.

Day without a Teacher

These Colorado school districts are canceling classes for teacher protests

Empty Chairs And Desks In Classroom (Getty Images)

Thousands of Colorado teachers are expected to descend on the state Capitol Thursday and Friday to call on lawmakers to make a long-term commitment to increasing K-12 education funding.

These Colorado districts have announced they’re canceling classes because they won’t have enough teachers and other staff on hand to safely have students in their buildings. They include eight of the state’s 10 largest districts, serving more than 400,000 students.

Some charter schools, including DSST and STRIVE Prep, are joining the teacher demonstrations, and others are not. Parents whose children attend charter schools in these districts should check with the school.

Unless otherwise noted, classes are canceled for the entire day on Friday, April 27.

  • Jeffco Public Schools, serving 86,100 students (classes canceled Thursday, April 26)
  • Denver Public Schools, serving 92,600 students (early dismissal scheduled for Friday, April 27)
  • Douglas County School District, serving 67,500 students
  • Cherry Creek School District, serving 55,600 students
  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools, serving 38,900 students
  • St. Vrain Valley School District, serving 32,400 students
  • Poudre School District, serving 30,000 students
  • Colorado Springs School District 11, serving 27,400 students
  • Brighton 27J, serving 17,800 students
  • Thompson School District, serving 16,200 students

Teachers who miss work to engage in political activity generally have to take a personal day to do so.

The Daily Camera reports that teachers in the 31,300-student Boulder Valley School District plan to “walk in” on Friday, with a small contingent going to the Capitol. The other large district not on this list, Aurora Public Schools, with 40,900 students, has not made an announcement.

This list will be updated as we hear from more districts.

strike that

This Colorado bill would ban teacher strikes and hit violators with fines and jail time

Colorado teachers march around the state Capitol Monday, April 16, to call for more school funding and to protect their retirement benefits. (Erica Meltzer/Chalkbeat)

Two Republican lawmakers who have long helped shape education policy in Colorado have introduced a bill that would bar teachers from striking and strip unions that endorse strikes of their bargaining power.

This bill stands practically no chance of becoming law. House Democrats already killed a bill this legislative session that would have prohibited any union activity by public employees during work hours, and this measure goes much further in limiting the rights of workers.

However, that it was introduced at all speaks to growing concern that the wave of teacher activism that has hit other states could come to Colorado. Last Monday, several hundred teachers marched at the state Capitol for more school funding and to defend their retirement benefits. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more, are expected for more marches this Thursday and Friday.

Earlier this year, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association threatened to strike before backing off and continuing negotiations over that district’s pay-for-performance system. And Pueblo teachers voted to strike this month after the school board there voted down pay raises.

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According to numerous reports, Colorado consistently ranks in the bottom tier of U.S. states for both education funding and teacher salaries, though there is considerable variation around the state.

The reaction at the Capitol to teacher activism has fallen largely on party lines, with House Democrats joining teachers in calling for more school funding, and Republicans expressing frustration because this year’s budget already includes an increase for K-12 education. Republicans want to secure more funding for transportation projects, and lawmakers are also arguing over the final form of a proposed overhaul to the public employees retirement system.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs and state Rep. Paul Lundeen of Monument would prohibit teachers and teachers unions from “directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying, or participating” in a strike. It also would prohibit public school employers from “consenting to or condoning” a teacher strike.

The bill authorizes public school employers to go to court and get an injunction against a teacher strike.

Teachers who violate such an injunction could be fined up to $500 a day and be jailed for up to six months. They would also face immediate termination with no right to a hearing.

Local teachers unions found in contempt could face fines of up to $10,000 a day. More significantly, they would see their collective bargaining agreements rendered null and void and would be barred from representing teachers for a year or collecting dues during that time. School districts would be barred from negotiating with sanctioned unions as well.

Courts would have the ability to reduce these penalties if employers request it or if they feel it is in the public interest to do so.

Teacher strikes are rare in Colorado and already face certain restrictions. For example, the Pueblo union has informed state regulators of their intent to strike, and the state Department of Labor and Employment can intervene to try to broker an agreement. Those discussions can go on for as long as 180 days before teachers can walk off the job.

The last time Denver teachers went on strike was 1994. A state judge refused to order teachers back to work because they had gone through the required process with state regulators. Teachers had the right, he ruled, to reject the proposed contract. That strike lasted a week before teachers returned to work with a new contract.