Teaching Profession Opinion

DC Mayor Gray Less than Confident in IMPACT Eval System

By Justin Baeder — January 18, 2011 1 min read
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Bill Turque at the Washington Post reports that new DC mayor Vincent Gray is aware of the limitations of former chancellor Michelle Rhee’s IMPACT teacher evaluation system, noting concerns that it unfairly rates teachers in lower-income schools:

So I guess I would say at this stage... it's a step in the right direction, but it's got a long way to go to be a fair evaluation of our teachers. And frankly any system that isn't sensitive to the differences in challenges of the kids in the schools only encourages teachers to teach in one part of the city and not in the other parts.

Kudos to Mayor Gray for understanding the complexity of policies such as judging teachers on the basis of student outcomes. If DC is anything like the other urban districts with which I’m familiar, the district probably has difficulty retaining its best teachers in its toughest schools, and also has trouble separating teacher effects from student effects. It’s reassuring to know that Gray realizes that teaching talent is tough to measure, and is not a fungible asset that can simply be allocated by the chancellor to produce guaranteed results.

Indeed, the distribution of teacher talent is a critical and complex issue; as Turque notes, the effectiveness of teachers in the more affluent wards of DC could be largely a reflection of their student population. Making high-stakes judgments without more careful consideration of these complexities can only encourage the best teachers to seek employment elsewhere.

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