Rhee to Dismiss Hundreds of Teachers for Poor Performance
District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee plans to dismiss 302 employees, mostly for poor performance, the chancellor said this morning in an interview. They will be separated from the system as of Aug. 13.
The dismissals reflect results from the first full year of the district's new, rigorous teacher-evaluation system, known as IMPACT.
According to Rhee, 241 of the dismissals are of teachers. Some of them garnered an "ineffective" rating on IMPACT, while a handful of others are "excessed" teachers with a "minimally effective" rating who couldn't find new teaching positions in the district. And finally, 76 are being let go for licensure issues, such as not attaining "highly qualified" status under the No Child Left Behind Act, Ms. Rhee said.
The evaluation results also showed that 16 percent of the D.C. teaching corps attained the top rating on IMPACT. Those teachers will be eligible to earn performance bonuses, Ms. Rhee said.
D.C. has about 4,000 teachers in all.
The results are much different than those under prior evaluation systems. No teachers were fired for performance under the former evaluation, in 2006-2007, and 95 percent garnered ratings in the top two performance categories.
Ms. Rhee, who laid off 266 teachers based on performance rather than seniority last fall, has been accused by critics of putting teacher dismissal above professional development and remediation.
While acknowledging that the firings would be controversial, Ms. Rhee defended IMPACT as a much more accurate picture 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."
She also noted the disparity between the high teacher ratings in the past and the school system's low performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an independent gauge of student achievement across the states.
States and districts across the nation are retooling teacher-evaluation systems to reflect student achievement. IMPACT is among the first of such systems that is now in operation and includes consideration of student scores.
In addition to student scores, IMPACT relies on a series of five observations of each teacher by administrators and "master teachers," keyed to a complex "Teaching and Learning" framework with about two dozen different categories. Only a fraction of the teacher corps teaches in grades or subjects where student-growth data is available; for those teachers without the data, the results are based more heavily on the Teaching and Learning framework observations.
Final scores are translated to a 100-to-400-point scale, and those teachers who score below 175, in the "ineffective" category, can be dismissed.
Ms. Rhee also said that 737 staff members earned the "minimally effective" rating. While they won't lose their jobs, they will have a freeze or "step hold" put on their pay. If they don't improve next year, they will also be subject to termination.
Under the terms of the district's recently ratified teacher contract, teachers can "grieve" or formally protest only procedural aspects of their evaluation—for example, if they didn't receive the five required observations—but they can't actually grieve their scores.
The Washington Teachers' Union could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.
[UPDATE 7/23 1:50 p.m.: George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, has released a statement saying the union plans to contest the firings of some of the teachers and that a survey released by the WTU today shows many teachers don't trust the IMPACT evaluation system and believe they have been provided little support by it or in implementation of the district's new teaching and learning framework.
"While the WTU wants teachers to be held accountable, teachers should also be evaluated fairly with a fair instrument," Parker said in the release. "D.C. Public Schools has yet again found a subjective way to fire teachers, many of whom were not evaluated fairly. We look forward to an independent evaluation of the IMPACT evaluation system as agreed to between WTU and DCPS in the new contract."]
Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP-File