Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Like School Letter Grades, Indiana Crafting 'A-F' Ratings For Schools Of Education

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Indiana University's campus in Bloomington.

About a year ago, Indiana University School of Education administrators asked state officials for data about how graduates of IU’s teacher preparation programs are faring in the classroom.

For about a year, Gerardo Gonzalez — IU School of Education’s dean — has waited for an answer.

Tuesday night, Gonzalez says, state superintendent Tony Bennett finally gave a public response to his queries during a portion of his 2012 State of Education address that perked up the ears of higher education officials across the state.

Bennett said Indiana’s new teacher evaluation mandate not only rates teachers’ performance, but gives the state the ability to, by extension, evaluate how well their training programs prepared teachers for the classroom.

And, according to Indiana’s NCLB waiver, that means state officials will eventually craft a rating system for schools of education (likely using the data Gonzalez wants) that will look a lot like the A-F ratings schools currently receive.

Here’s the part of the state superintendent’s speech:

Aligning teacher and principal performance with student outcomes is common sense. It focuses professional development on what’s best for students. It identifies teachers’ greatest strengths so they utilize their skills to reach more students—or those students who need it most.

In the years ahead, we will be able to tell which teacher preparation programs are most effective by studying where the best teachers are trained. This new level of transparency will push our institutions of higher education to build teacher preparation programs that are more challenging and student focused.

Behind this section of Bennett’s speech is a paragraph on Page 35 of Indiana’s request for relief from some key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind act. That paragraph spells out state education officials’ intentions to hold teacher preparation programs accountable:

The [Indiana Department of Education] is beginning the process of developing an accountability system for teacher preparation programs. The end result will mirror the P-12 accountability system which provides an easily understood A-F letter grade [to schools].

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett

That’s alright with Gonzalez. That’s why, he says, School of Education officials requested the data in the first place: He believes IU is producing high-quality teachers for Indiana classrooms, and wanted to be able to prove it.

“What we don’t have — and this is where the state needs to be a partner — is the data on how students taught by our graduates are performing. Only the state has this data on a statewide basis,” Gonzalez tells StateImpact.

But Gonzalez says if the state does create a rating system for teacher preparation programs, he says the IU School of Education — and other teacher preparation programs, for that matter — ought to be a part of the discussion about how that system will look.

“No school of education has been involved in having that kind of conversation that we all hope will take place before it’s finalized and announced,” Gonzalez says, adding, “We will welcome an opportunity for collaboration and open dialogue on what a system might look like that incorporates student data into the overall evaluation.”

On at least one other issue, Indiana Department of Education officials and the IU School of Education administrators don’t see eye-to-eye about state teacher policies.

In March, as part of a story about a dispute over new teacher licensure rules, a department spokesperson told StateImpact Indiana’s schools of education aren’t doing all they could to prepare teachers for new evaluation and performance pay systems. Gonzalez responded in June, saying he felt Indiana teachers are succeeding in spite of, rather than because of, state education policies.

In his brief interview with StateImpact this week, Gonzalez soft-pedaled those criticisms — the context for those comments was different.

But, Gonzalez adds, he hopes the process of developing an “A-F”-esque rating system for schools of education is collaborative.

“We want it to be a partnership, because if this system is being developed, and it turns out to be flawed, it immediately puts us into a confrontational mode” with the state, Gonzalez says.

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