Indiana’s system for evaluating how well its 55,000 public school teachers are doing their jobs smacks of absurdity on multiple levels.
Absurdity No. 1: The ratings released by the Indiana Department of Education this month are clearly inflated. About 97 percent of teachers who were evaluated landed in the highest two categories — “highly effective” and “effective.” Only about 2 percent were rated as “needs improvement.” And fewer than one-half of 1 percent — about 200 teachers statewide — received the lowest rating of “ineffective.”
In fact, 60 school districts in the state claimed that they have no teachers who are ineffective in the classroom or even any who need to improve their job performance.
The tendency for managers to overrate employees’ performance is common across many professions and industries. It’s so pervasive, in fact, that a decade or so ago, some businesses adopted rating systems that forced managers to put as many as 10 percent of workers in the lowest performance category.
Critics have pushed back against that approach as too arbitrary and harmful to employee morale. But Indiana’s system for ranking teachers’ performance takes the opposite approach — almost everyone, according to the state, is doing a good job — and as a result doesn’t reflect reality.
“Clearly the system failed,” State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry said. “We have to find a new way to get accurate, fair results for our teachers so we can continue to improve our schools and our students’ experiences in the classroom.”
Absurdity No. 2: The ratings don’t match results. A lot of data measuring student achievement is available, some encouraging and some deeply discouraging, but there’s a bottom line statistic that can’t be ignored: Indiana ranks 42nd in the nation in the education level of its workforce. That’s a fatal flaw for a state that must compete in a global economy where a good education is increasingly an essential commodity.