IMPACTing D.C.’s Teachers

This won’t help D.C.’s schools (boldface mine):

I worked in a school for students who struggled in mainstream classroom environments due to emotional or behavioral issues, but I had managed to figure out a way to reach them and make them excited about learning. I found texts that not only challenged them academically, but also encouraged them to change the way they looked at the world. I taught them the foundation skills they were missing and maintained a level of rigor throughout each lesson.

I was evaluated by my principal, assistant principal, and two “master educators” (unknown persons who show up in your classroom unannounced whenever they please). I received a score of highly effective, which was to come with great recognition and a cash bonus. I was beyond elated. My students were learning. My students were excited. I was learning and excited. This seemed like great success, right? Wrong.

After my students, who arrived reading at 2nd and 3rd grade levels, took the 9th grade DC CAS exams, my evaluation score dropped significantly. No longer was I considered highly effective. Their success in my classroom, while great, did not directly translate to the formulaic nature of the test; therefore, we were both unsuccessful. This didn’t just happen to me; it happened to all teachers in “testing grades.” For some teachers, this drop in scores meant that they were placed on probation, their pay was frozen at its current step value, or that they were simply pushed out of the system altogether.

My principal, though she worked SO hard to help us to improve the school culture and learning environment in our building, was soon under fire. She was let go and replaced. Under her replacement, the school culture/safety suffered, but teachers continued working. Miraculously, we managed to improve our test scores. Imagine my surprise when that still somehow negatively affected my overall evaluation score.

Sadly, it’s not surprising at all. The IMPACT system used to evaluate D.C. public school teachers primarily looks at two things (charter school teachers are exempt from this evaluation. Go figure…) . First, it does take into account academic gains (‘value-added measurement’). While there are a host of methodological issues with value-added measurement, in principle, if not in practice, there is a logic to it. But the IMPACT system also takes into account absolute performance. If an eighth grade teacher has a student enter her class at a third grade reading level and manages to improve that student’s reading to a sixth grade level, she is still penalized as the student is performing below grade level.

Stupid doesn’t even begin to describe this system:

Essentially, there’s no incentive whatsoever to teach poorly performing–which is strongly correlated with being poor–students.

It boggles the mind that a bunch of people at DDOE presumably strapped on their thinkin’ caps, had lots of meetings, wrote reports, and then devised a system… that gives powerful incentives to avoid the neediest students. Leaving aside technical issues (which aren’t trivial), this is the reality of education ‘reform’, and it’s not helping at all.

This is the reality of education ‘reform.’ Teachers unions sure as hell didn’t design this system. Despite the lofty rhetoric they dress their policies in, in practice, they hurt the weakest among us. Despicable.

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1 Response to IMPACTing D.C.’s Teachers

  1. jrkrideau says:

    Whom the gods would destroy …

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