Indiana Teacher Evaluations Law Will Add To School Principals' Workloads

A pupil holds up an arm to ask a question to a teacher in a classroom at the elementary school on September 4, 2012 in Paris,
A pupil holds up an arm to ask a question to a teacher in a classroom at the elementary school on September 4, 2012 in Paris, after the start of the new school year. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GettyImages)

Beginning this school year, Indiana principals’ job descriptions will include conducting annual teacher evaluations, under a law passed by state lawmakers last year.

Public Law 90 requires that districts conduct annual teacher evaluations that place educations into four performance categories tied to merit pay: highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective.

Only teachers who receive a “highly effective” or “effective” rating will receive a raise, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports, while those who fall into the latter two categories will see no changes in their salary. It marks a shift from traditional practice of determining salary increases based on seniority and educational degrees earned.

Karen Combs, director of elementary education for the Lafayette School Corp., said principals already put in an eight-plus-hour workday before accounting for the time it will take them to evaluate each teacher, the AP reports.

Tecumseh Junior High School principal Brett Gruetzmacher told the Journal & Courier that under the new system, he and his two assistant principals will have eight days to conduct 73 half-hour, preconference meetings with each teacher to establish goals. From there, they will have 71 school days -- between Sept. 10 and Dec. 21 -- to complete one-hour observations of each teacher. During that same window, administrators will also have to conduct at least one 10- to 15-minute observation of each teacher. Two or three of these short evaluations are required throughout the year under the new law.

John Layton, the assistant superintendent in Lafayette and a former principal, told the AP that he estimates the in-person observations and individual goal setting will tack on 17 additional hours to a principal’s workload for each teacher evaluated.

Anticipating this added pressure on principals’ time, the Lafayette School District has created four new assistant principal positions to help with the evaluation process -- a $400,000 expenditure. But as some are concerned that the new rules will detract from principals' abilities to spend time meeting with parents, Jeffrey Botteron, director of educator effectiveness and leadership for the Indiana Department of Education, tells AP that the move will allow principals to move toward stronger instructional leadership roles.

A similar state law in Florida has stirred controversy. The Student Success Act of 2011, aimed to incentivize teachers to focus on student results, rescinds previous practice of compensating teachers for advanced degrees that do not directly translate to student learning. In other words, an art teacher, for example, can no longer earn a bonus for having a Ph.D. in English. In the past, a doctorate could earn a teacher as much as $5,200 more.