Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Is Indiana's Education Overhaul Burning Out Teachers?

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    A public school teacher in Indianapolis leads a math class.

    Does Indiana have a teacher morale problem on its hands?

    Between higher stakes on state tests, and performance pay becoming mandatory next year, a new survey shows Indiana teachers feel the brunt of recent changes to state education policy.

    If they could do it all over again, nearly one in three Indiana teachers wouldn’t go into teaching, reports WTHR, which conducted the survey:

    Of the teachers who answered our questions, 24 percent say they’re burned out and 32 percent say they wouldn’t choose a teaching career again… While not scientific, the survey is still noteworthy in that 4,500 public school teachers participated. More than half have been teaching for more than 15 years. The Indiana State Teacher’s association helped us distribute the survey.

    The results of WTHR’s survey weren’t all gloom and doom. Eight in 10 Indiana teachers reported “feeling passionate” about their job. Most told WTHR they felt they lacked the time they needed to plan out lessons.

    The increasing focus on ISTEP scores and end of course assessments — the state tests which the Indiana Department of Education uses as a benchmark for a school’s performance — has weighed on teachers, says John Clayborn, a teacher at Marion High School:

    The school lives and dies on the math [and reading] scores of ninth graders. So those math and English teachers took on a heavy load.  And they still do, because it still turns on their backs whether [our scores] drop back down or go up.  And I think every time somebody from the state would open their mouth, it’s bad teachers, bad teachers, bad teachers, and that kinda wears on you after a while.

    Clayborn, who leads the teachers union in Marion, tells StateImpact the sour relationship between the leadership of the Indiana State Teachers Association and state education officials hasn’t helped.

    But ‘no pain, no gain,’ conservatives argue.

    Holding schools accountable for test scores and offering parents vouchers to private schools doesn’t substantively improve students’ academic performance, they say. The real change comes when teachers are held accountable:

    Mike Petrilli, who runs the right-leaning Fordham Institute, wrote in October:

    Large-scale initiatives like “accountability” and “parental choice” set the context for improvement, but they have rather indirect impacts on achievement. More focused instructional and teacher quality strategies — like implementing the Common Core standards or improving teaching through better evaluation systems — are more likely to result in big gains.



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