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Numbers reflect success; that’s worth celebrating

What if I told you there is a state with a list of criteria, or a rubric, that could be used to determine whether a teacher was effective and in that state, more than 90 percent of the teachers scored at least “effective” or better? We would all want to move our families to that state. Businesses would be clamoring to locate there. Indiana is that state.

Judging from the reaction, the Indiana State Board of Education was expecting poor performances from more teachers. However, the board failed to consider the effect of two changes it helped promulgate: Teachers have a clear performance target defined, and they now receive constant feedback through annual evaluations from instructional coaches and/or administrators.

Clearly, the majority worked hard to hit the mark, and the two changes are working. As the system is informed by practice, it will continue to improve.

The real story is Indiana’s teachers were evaluated to be at least effective or better using objective measures of teacher performance. If something is keeping students from being successful, it doesn’t appear to be the teachers. It is time to begin considering other social issues that may be affecting student performance.

Schools are mirrors their communities can use to view themselves. They reflect the best and the worst of their communities. If schools are studied closely, they can inform policymakers where to direct their attention. If the people who work in them are listened to, they can provide perspective on those issues.

I invite all the Indiana State Board of Education members to come to Southwest Allen County Schools to see and celebrate the success you have helped schools achieve. Pick any classroom to observe. I will give you a copy of the teacher effectiveness rubric, and you can stay as long as you like and watch our professionals work with our students. SACS teachers are at least effective, many are highly effective, and they aren’t much different from any of the teachers in our neighboring districts. In fact, I would wager they are similar to the teachers in any district in Indiana.

Indiana is fortunate to have a very large number of teachers who are at least effective and many that are highly effective. Wouldn’t it be great if that was celebrated? I think it should be.

Phil Downs is associate superintendent for Southwest Allen County Schools. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.