Slash and burn teacher evaluation in D.C.

Late last week, D.C.’s tough-as-nails Superintendent Michelle Rhee announced that her district would fire 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor ratings under a new evaluation system put in place this year. The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog has an interesting analysis of this new evaluation system (known as IMPACT), and finds it comes up way short — doing a disservice to all teachers in the system:

Under IMPACT, all teachers are supposed to receive five 30-minute classroom observations during the school year, three by a school administrator and two by an outside “master educator” with a background in the instructor’s subject.

They are scored against a “teaching and learning framework” with 22 different measures in nine categories. Among the criteria are classroom presence, time management, clarity in presenting the objectives of a lesson and ensuring that students across all levels of learning ability understand the material.

A number of teachers never got the full five evaluations, apparently because a number of master teachers hired to do the jobs quit, according to sources in the school system.

But even if they all were, let’s look closely at this: In 30 minutes, a teacher is supposed to demonstrate all 22 different teaching elements. What teacher demonstrates 22 teaching elements — some of which are not particularly related — in 30 minutes? Suppose a teacher takes 30 minutes to introduce new material and doesn’t have time to show. … Oh well. Bad evaluation.

There’s clearly room for improving teacher evaluations (how about doing them regularly, for starters!) so that school districts can have a better idea of which teachers are effective and which are not; so that ineffective teachers can be coached to improve their practice or counseled out of the profession; and so that institutions that train new teachers have some feedback of where they need to focus more effort. But IMPACT doesn’t seem to be the answer.


2 responses to “Slash and burn teacher evaluation in D.C.

  1. Aaron Pallas, Columbia University professor, posts on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post blog: ” There’s no polite way to say this: The procedures described in the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook for producing a value-added score are idiotic. These procedures warrant this harsh characterization because they make a preposterous assumption based on a misunderstanding of the properties of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS). . . . .”

    Pallas’ credentials:
    professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He writes the Sociological Eye on Education blog for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, non-partisan education-news outlet affiliated with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media. Pallas has also taught at Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Northwestern University, and served as a statistician at the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education.

  2. I’m curious what the evaluation system was ?