LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana school principals will see dramatic changes in their jobs this year as they begin assessing all teachers as required by a law passed by the General Assembly in 2011.
The new responsibilities of evaluating every teacher in the building has left some worried that the administrators will be stretched too thin and that parents could feel the effects.
Karen Combs, director of elementary education for the Lafayette School Corp., said principals already put in much more than an eight-hour workday before the state added the requirement that they evaluate each teacher.
"And we've not taken anything off their plate. We just simply have added more," she told the Journal & Courier.
Under the 2011 law, public districts must conduct annual teacher evaluations that place educators into four performance categories tied to merit pay: highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and ineffective. Those in the bottom two categories would not be eligible for automatic pay raises.
Local districts can create their own evaluations, but would have to include objective measures of student achievement, such as test scores.
The evaluations also include in-person observations and individual goal setting that John Layton, the assistant superintendent in Lafayette and a former principal, estimates will add 17 additional work hours to a principal's workload for each teacher evaluated.
Superintendent Judy DeMuth of the Monroe County Community School Corp. said she worries the evaluations will overtax a group of administrators already working at full capacity.
"Will administrators have to delegate other duties in another matter? Absolutely," DeMuth told The Herald-Times. "All administration of a building still has to be accounted for."
School districts are taking different approaches to helping with the new evaluation requirement. The Lafayette School Corp. has created four new assistant principal positions to aid in evaluations. But that means more money -- the positions require nearly $400,000 in salary and benefit-related costs.
The West Lafayette Community School Corp. added five work days to the employment contracts of administrative personnel responsible for evaluations.
Officials also hope to make the paperwork more manageable by using new software that allows evaluators to complete evaluation forms via their iPads
Even so, the concerns linger.
"The issue will be you can only shift so many things," said Principal Brett Gruetzmacher, who will share evaluation duties of the 75 teachers at Lafayette's Tecumseh Junior High School with two assistant principals. "You still need to attend to the needs of the students and the parents.
"I'm the primary evaluator for 35 teachers, and the two assistants are primary evaluators for 20 teachers each. So we've got 80 days to do 75 formal evaluations," he said.
Susan DeLong, assistant superintendent for the Tippecanoe School Corp., said the new duties will limit time that principals can spend meeting with parents.
"If principals are there, they'll see them. But principals will be out conducting these evaluations, and we think that will be noticed. They will not be as readily available as perhaps they are now," she said.
Jeffrey Botteron, director of educator effectiveness and leadership for the Indiana Department of Education, acknowledged that principals' time will be spent differently than in years past. But he said it is necessary for principals to be effective leaders.
"Principals are gate keepers to their schools," he said. "Their ability to provide effective leadership is at the heart to what is going to drive success of teacher evaluations."
Layton said there is a positive side to getting principals into the classrooms more.
"This is going to amplify the idea that our principals are now instructional leaders," he said. "We've been moving that direction for a long time, but this just ramps it up."
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