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Teacher ratings released

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Third grade teacher Kara Siner performs a science experiment using different types of candy Thursday at Sugar Grove Elementary School. Center Grove schools are using the time added to each day to make up for snow days to give students extra help.  Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Third grade teacher Kara Siner performs a science experiment using different types of candy Thursday at Sugar Grove Elementary School. Center Grove schools are using the time added to each day to make up for snow days to give students extra help. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

More than 90 percent of the teachers and principals at four Johnson County school districts are preparing students with the skills needed to succeed in college and their careers, according to the first-ever results of required statewide teacher evaluations.

About 94 percent of the 976 teachers, principals and other educators at Clark-Pleasant, Edinburgh, Franklin and Greenwood schools were rated highly effective or effective on evaluations during the 2012-2013 school year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education. The ratings indicate that school officials found that their teachers regularly create multiple, in-depth lessons for students, track how well students understand math and language arts lessons and find ways to help students who don’t understand what they are taught the first time.

Under the Indiana law, school districts evaluated teachers and administrators using the scale provided by the department of education or their own scale if approved by the state. Teachers’ evaluations are based on goals they created for how much they wanted their students to learn during the school year, about two hours of scheduled and unscheduled classroom observations, students’ ISTEP scores and the letter grade the school received by the state.

A total of six teachers at Clark-Pleasant, Edinburgh and Greenwood schools were rated as needing improvement or being ineffective.

If a teacher is rated as needing improvement or ineffective, then the principal or the administrator who conducted the evaluation must create a plan designed specifically to help the teacher improve whatever skills are lacking. But Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Greenwood want all of their teachers working to improve, school officials said.

Area school districts regularly provide training so that teachers can learn more about the best ways to instruct students and ensure they’re mastering what they’ve been taught. That will continue for teachers at Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Greenwood, regardless of evaluation rating, school officials said.

“The goal is that everyone, all of us, get better every year,” Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.

At Greenwood, for example, if many of the school district’s teachers receive effective ratings in areas such as checking for student understanding, then school officials will look for ways to train teachers so they can get even better at assessing what students do and don’t understand. That could include showing the teachers new ways to ask students open-ended questions, which give students the chance to articulate what they actually know or think they know, assistant superintendent of learning Rick Ahlgrim said.

“All of our teachers, as well as our administrators, are always working on strengthening competencies from one level to another,” Ahlgrim said.

Last school year, schools in Indiana were required to start evaluating all of their teachers annually and use those evaluations when deciding whether a teacher would receive a raise. Most area school districts already evaluated new teachers every year, but teachers with decades of experience typically were evaluated less frequently.

The evaluations made public this week didn’t impact the pay for Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant or Franklin teachers, all of whom had contracts that predated the new state law, school officials said.

Across the state, about 87 percent of teachers and administrators received effective or highly effective evaluations, while 3 percent were rated as needing improvement or ineffective.

About 10 percent of teachers and administrators in Indiana and about 5 percent in the four Johnson County school districts weren’t evaluated because they resigned or retired, according to the department of education.

“I am encouraged by these numbers,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a news release. “For the most part, they confirm what we already knew: that public schools throughout Indiana are filled with effective and highly effective teachers. Research shows that highly effective educators are exactly the type of leaders that can turn schools around and increase school performance.”

Evaluating the area’s roughly 1,300 teachers annually requires that principals and other administrators make time for observations, along with meeting with parents, talking with students and other daily job duties associated with running a school.

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson created a new position for former Indian Creek High School Principal Andy Cline, who conducts about half of the classroom observations for the school district and works with principals as they complete teachers’ evaluations.

Center Grove added two assistant principals this school year, who are spending part of their time assisting with the evaluations.

The county’s more than 40 principals also are evaluated, and those assessments are linked to their pay.

Principals’ evaluations are based on how well they hire, manage and retain teachers, as well as how effectively they encourage their employees.

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