The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 08, 2020 1:00 am

General Assembly

Bill would separate test scores, teacher pay

Passed by committee, moves to full House

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Teachers might no longer have their performance evaluations tied to student test scores under a bill that passed its first step Tuesday.

The House Education Committee voted unanimously to eliminate a state mandate that local districts use objective measures of student achievement and growth – test scores – to “significantly inform” teacher evaluations.

Lawmakers instituted the requirement in 2011, pushed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels as part of an education reform movement. Since then, Republicans have repeatedly defended judging teachers by student test results.

But this year, it is the GOP pushing to decouple teacher evaluations from test scores, something that could be a big win for teachers. Some say the change in support is due to volatility with the results of the test.

Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, author of House Bill 1002, called the current system “imperfect and sometimes unfair” and called the bill a major change in education policy. The bill now moves to the full House.

House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, pointed out that 36 states require objective measurements as part of evaluations. Of those, 26 specifically use standardized tests. And Behning noted the weight given to those factors is up to local school districts.

About 95% of Indiana teachers have been deemed effective or highly effective under the current system.

Cook countered that the trend is to move away from such setups, especially tying teacher pay to scores. He also said local districts can still choose to do so, but state law won't require it.

Mark Felix, a teacher from southern Indiana, said teachers deal with a lot in the classroom every day, and adding the pressure of the one-day test on top of it can break some of them.

“Test scores don't always demonstrate the quality of instruction, because there are so many factors outside the school that teachers don't control,” he said. “Teachers are demoralized by constant changes and punitive approaches.”

Caitlin Bell, lobbyist for the Institute for Quality of Education, said there is no research or data showing that the change would result in positive outcome for students.

And she noted this piece of legislation is moving alongside a hold-harmless bill to blunt the impact of a drop in recent test scores.

“What type of message do these bills send? Do we no longer care about the achievement of students?” she said.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said there is enough support in his caucus to pass the bill in the House. But Senate Republicans didn't include the measure on the agenda for the Senate, where it could be a tougher sell.

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