Teacher Evaluations in DC Improve Teacher Performance

˙ PREAL Blog

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A recent study (PDF) suggests that the teacher evaluation program established in Washington D.C. in 2009 is affecting the performance and retention of teachers.

The system (known as IMPACT) assesses teachers via classroom observations and changes in student test scores. It was one of the first in the United States to link teachers’ job security and compensation to student test scores. Since it was implemented, hundreds of teachers have been fired due to poor performance. Many others have been given significant salary increases.

The study, by James Wyckoff of the University of Virginia and Thomas Dee of Stanford University, found that the imminent consequences associated with the evaluations influenced the behavior of two groups of teachers. Low-scoring teachers faced with the threat of dismissal were more likely to voluntarily resign from teaching, or to improve their scores. High-scoring teachers were more likely to remain in service, and to improve their scores so as to qualify for substantial merit raises. The researchers found “strong evidence that this system causes meaningful increases in teacher performance.”

The study did not examine whether the evaluations significantly influence the behavior of teachers who score in the middle of the range. Nor did it try to determine whether the IMPACT program has led to higher student achievement. It is worth noting, however, that student scores in math and reading have risen significantly in the Washington D.C. system over the past several years.

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