The District of Columbia teachers’ union plans to challenge schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s move to fire 302 educators this summer, including 241 teachers, most of whom she says are being dismissed for failing to meet performance standards.
Of the teachers, 165 earned low scores on the school district’s teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT, which debuted last year. Some were fired on July 30 because they had earned an “ineffective” rating. Others were removed from their buildings because of program closures and will be dismissed by the end of this week if they can’t find a principal willing to hire them. Seventy-six others were let go because of license problems.
The school district has about 4,000 teachers.
Although many states and districts are now overhauling their teacher-evaluations systems, IMPACT is among the first in operation to take student achievement into account. Under the system, teachers are observed five times over the course of the year by administrators or “master educators” and rated on a complex set of measures.
In addition, 5 percent of each teacher’s rating is derived from the school’s overall academic progress. Growth in student scores makes up half the evaluation for teachers of subjects covered by standardized assessments, some 15 percent of the teacher force. Only 26 of the dismissed teachers fell into that category.
The local teachers’ union has criticized IMPACT for its complexity, its use of student scores for judging teachers, and its implementation without a pilot program. But Ms. Rhee defended the system as a more accurate measure of teacher performance.
“It’s so much more objective than what we had before, where it was one person’s opinion [of the teacher], which is totally subjective,” she said. “This system is much more rigorous.”
Under the terms of the district’s recently ratified teacher contract, teachers can “grieve,” or formally protest, procedural aspects of their evaluations, but not their scores.
The system also identified 737 educators as “minimally” effective. They must raise their performance during the upcoming school year or risk dismissal.
George Parker, the president of the Washington Teachers Union, said he would contest the firings.
A version of this article appeared in the August 11, 2010 edition of Education Week as New D.C. Evaluation Process Targets Hundreds for Firing