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Posted at 10:17 AM ET, 10/16/2012

Questions about Teach to One at Hart Middle School

Readers have raised some good questions about Teach to One, the blended learning program at Hart Middle School that I described on Monday. I’ll do my best to fill in some of the blanks.

How will teachers who use this program be evaluated under IMPACT?

This is a key question that, much to teachers' dismay, hasn’t been completely answered yet.

Two teachers at Hart told me that they’ve met with master educators to talk about modifying the evaluation guidelines for classroom observations. After all, the Teach to One classroom — with its seven teachers and 180 kids — is a completely different animal than your average math classroom.

But it’s not clear how much flexibility there will be.

Teachers told me they’re even more worried about the test-score portion of their IMPACT ratings.

They don’t yet know which students’ test scores they will be responsible for. Teachers end up teaching every kid in the school for varying amounts of time during the year, so they might be accountable for all kids’ test scores. Or they might be accountable for some subset of students. It’s still a matter of discussion, according to DCPS officials.

Chris Rush of New Classrooms, the nonprofit that runs Teach to One, said it takes time for schools to get adjusted to the program. It also takes time to see improvement in standardized test scores. He told me it’s a two-year bet, maybe a three-year bet.

Teachers are evaluated annually under IMPACT, however, and they’re worried they’ll get dinged if the experimental program fails to show results immediately.

“Our intention is not to penalize people for trying something new,” Chancellor Kaya Henderson told me. “I feel like we have some flexibility within the system to be able to accommodate teachers teaching in this new way.”

But she would not promise that Hart teachers will get a break on their IMPACT ratings.

How much does the program cost?

DCPS spent $600,000 renovating the basement at Hart. And foundations chipped in another $400,000 for the program itself. That’s for this school year alone.

Joel Rose of New Classrooms said most of the $400,000 is going toward onetime costs, and only $125,000 is for ongoing costs. But it’s not clear how much the program will cost in the future.

New Classrooms is subsidized by millions of dollars in foundation support during this start-up phase. Eventually the organization will need to charge schools enough to be sustainable — and that amount will depend on how many schools are using Teach to One. The more schools the program is in, presumably, the lower the cost to each school.

What do parents at Hart think of the program?

I hear from Ward 8 activists and community members that many Hart parents aren’t yet acquainted with Teach to One. But at least one mother, Trista Dunlap, told me that she appreciates the program because it allows her to log onto a Web site and see exactly what her sixth-grade son did in class each day, including his behavior and his progress on specific math skills.

She doesn’t have a computer at home, but she can get onto the site via cellphone. “It really details exactly what your kids are doing, what areas they need help in and what areas they are progressing in,” she said.

By  |  10:17 AM ET, 10/16/2012

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