Washington, DC Schools dismiss teachers for poor performance

˙ PREAL Blog

A year after establishing a new teacher evaluation system (IMPACT), Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee dismissed 241 teachers last week—some 6% of all teachers in the public system. Most had received the lowest possible rating, “ineffective,” on the four-point evaluation scale. An additional 737 received the second lowest rating (“minimally effective”), and have one year to improve or be dismissed. Some 16% of the teachers evaluated received the highest rank, “highly effective,” and will be eligible for significant salary bonuses.

Although the Washington Teachers Union vowed to challenge the dismissals in court, the dismissals had been expected after the previous system, which rated 95% of teachers as “excellent,” was replaced by IMPACT’s evaluation procedures. The DC experiment in teacher accountability is unprecedented in US public schools, though remarkably simple. Its premise, as Rhee has repeated, that “every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward…of this city.” A Washington Post editorial makes a compelling case that Rhee is on the right side of history in her actions.
Three aspects of the evaluation system stand out. First, the system is based not just on student test scores, but also on “multiple measures of performance,” which include subject mastery assessment by district-appointed “master teachers.” Second, the government has worked with expert consultants and an outside research firm to help address the technical challenges involved in linking teaching performance to changes in student learning. Finally, although the school district is not legally obligated to consult with teachers in designing the evaluations, it organized a series of focus groups to get teacher input.


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