Indianapolis Public Schools Must Change Policies, Practices to Ensure Effective Teaching

Study Calls for Change in Layoff, Transfer, Evaluation Rules and IPS Human Resources Services

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Although teacher effectiveness is critically important to student success or failure, a new study finds that Indianapolis Public Schools’ current layoff, transfer and evaluation policies fail to ensure that IPS schools are able to recruit and retain effective teachers. The study also finds that the district provides teachers, principals and schools with inconsistent support and information due, in part, to the need for significant improvements to the district’s technology and information systems.

The study was conducted by The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to improving teacher quality, in collaboration with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and the Indianapolis Education Association (IEA). It concludes that changes must be made to specific district rules and practices along with targeted provisions in the IPS-IEA collective bargaining agreement to support effective teaching and learning.

TNTP researchers surveyed nearly 1,700 current teachers as well as prospective teachers and principals, reviewed both district and contractual policies, and analyzed teacher performance evaluation data. Seventy-five percent of current IPS classroom teachers and 85 percent of IPS principals responded to the survey.

“This report represents a call to action,“ said TNTP’s Vice President of Policy, Daniel Weisberg. “We are very grateful to the leadership of IPS and IEA for providing crucial support and cooperation during the course of our study. They have the opportunity to make the fundamental changes that are needed to provide IPS students with effective teachers. We hope they will listen to the voices of teachers and principals and commit to implementing the specific recommendations we have generated with the input of those doing the hard work of educating children.”

Layoff policies are based exclusively on seniority, despite teacher and principal preferences for other factors to be considered: The agreement between IPS and IEA requires that layoffs be determined strictly by length of teaching service in the district. Yet 90 percent of IPS principals report losing a teacher they wanted to keep due to the current layoff policy, and 74 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals believe that factors in addition to seniority should be considered when layoffs are necessary. Additional factors preferred by teachers include: classroom management, teacher attendance and instructional performance based upon an evaluation rating.

Forced-placement and late hiring practices hamper the creation of effective instructional teams and destabilize schools: Ninety-one percent of all IPS teachers who have changed schools or attempted to change schools in the past five years say it is important that the administrator wanted them to come to their school. However, more than one third of all placements in the district are still made without any opportunity for a teacher to interview with a school, and 85 percent of IPS principals say they have been forced to accept a teacher they did not interview in the past three years. Additionally, nearly one in three new teachers reports being hired by IPS in August, likely right before or after the start of the school year. Due to such late hiring, 77 percent of principals report losing desirable teacher candidates because they could not make a timely offer.

Inflated evaluations ignore teachers’ professional development needs: Only 21 percent of IPS teachers surveyed had areas identified as unsatisfactory or in need of improvement on their last three evaluations. And even less, 6 out of the 587 evaluated in 2008, were recommended for “non-renewal” (dismissal) due to poor performance.

Poor customer service frustrates teachers and principals in the staffing process: Fifty-five percent of displaced teachers did not feel supported by Human Resources when looking for a new placement and only 14 percent of laid-off teachers reported receiving helpful information from Human Resources about the layoff process. In addition, only 22 percent of principals agree that the information they receive on teacher candidates from Human Resources is up-to-date.

“This is an unprecedented time in national education reform due to the Obama Administration’s leadership and the new funding opportunities available for innovation. There is no excuse for inaction“ said Ariela Rozman, Chief Executive Officer of TNTP. “We urge IPS, IEA and the state of Indiana to take advantage of this unique opportunity by committing to significant, positive changes that support effective teaching and school staffing. Teachers, schools and students all stand to benefit when we value teacher effectiveness.”

The report advises Indianapolis Public Schools and the Indianapolis Education Association to work together to:

(1) Renegotiate terms on teacher layoffs so that instructional effectiveness is a factor in who is retained;
(2) Eliminate forced-placement of teachers so that all teacher vacancies are filled through an interview and select process;
(3) Complete 50% of teacher hiring, and 80% of teacher hiring in math, science and other shortage areas, by May 1st, when the best teaching candidates are still available;
(4) Implement a rigorous evaluation system that provides teachers with frequent constructive feedback and support, and evaluates them based on their ability to promote student learning; and
(5) Create an online data management system for Human Resources that allows the district to provide timely and responsive information to teachers and principals about staffing processes.

The Mind Trust, a local nonprofit which brings successful national initiatives to Indianapolis, requested that The New Teacher Project conduct the study of IPS in the winter and spring of 2008-09.

Click here to view The New Teacher Project’s full analysis and an executive summary.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP