Although policymakers at all levels of government are putting more emphasis on teacher quality, such large-scale dismissals remain all but unheard of. Collective-bargaining agreements with politically potent unions and cumbersome appeals processes often limit a school chief’s power to fire teachers.
Friday’s dismissals remove any lingering uncertainty that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Chancellor Kaya Henderson would continue personnel policies Rhee left behind. Gray received heavy support from organized labor in his campaign to unseat former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Rhee’s boss.
“We must embrace IMPACT as one of the tools that will allow us to achieve true education reform for the District’s school system,” said D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D).
IMPACT grades teachers on five 30-minute classroom observations and their compliance with nine broad standards. These include the abilities to express course content clearly, teach students with differing skill levels and manage time effectively. For some teachers, half of their appraisal is contingent on whether students meet predicted improvement targets on standardized tests.
Of the 206 fired, D.C. officials said, 65 were rated ineffective this year and 141 were judged minimally effective for the second consecutive year, triggering dismissal. That represents almost three times the 75 fired for poor performance when the first IMPACT ratings were calculated last year. Four teachers who received ratings of minimally effective for a second year were granted exceptions by Henderson, enabling them to stay in their positions at the request of principals, who said they showed potential for improvement.
In all, 413 school system employees — including teachers without proper licensing and support workers outside the Washington Teachers’ Union bargaining unit — were let go Friday. Teachers can appeal their firings to Henderson and the city’s Office of Employee Appeals.
The city reported that 663 teachers (16 percent) were rated as highly effective under IMPACT, making them eligible for bonuses of up to $25,000. And 528 (about 13 percent) were deemed minimally effective, placing them at risk for dismissal next year.
The vast majority of teachers — 2,765 — were rated effective.
D.C. public schools and other school systems have had annual evaluation systems for many years. But they have typically been pro forma affairs, with the overwhelming majority of educators receiving satisfactory ratings.
Rhee, citing research that showed that teacher quality is the largest in-school factor driving test-score growth, revamped evaluations. Her effort was buoyed by an unusual provision of D.C. law that exempts evaluation systems from collective bargaining. In many other cities, evaluation systems are subject to negotiations. That meant Rhee enjoyed broad latitude in designing IMPACT. The result — two straight years of significant teacher firings — has drawn wide notice.