D.C. schools were among the first in the country to link teacher pay and job security to student achievement on standardized tests — an experiment that has drawn criticism from many teachers but inspired similar efforts in cities across the nation.
Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the revisions are, in part, meant to raise expectations for teachers. They are also a response to complaints that the evaluation system is too rigid and too reliant on test scores, which don’t render a complete picture of a teacher’s work.
“I’m not stuck with what we thought was right in ’08, or too stubborn to ignore what we’ve learned over the last three years,” Henderson said.
Washington Teachers’ Union President Nathan Saunders welcomed some of the changes to IMPACT, as the evaluation system is known, and praised Henderson for making an effort to listen to teachers.
But he balked at a revision that could lead to the reclassification of hundreds of teachers who are now rated effective. Those teachers might fall into a new category, labeled “developing,” which would put their jobs at risk if they failed to improve.
“You cannot keep changing the d--- bar. We’ve got to be shooting at something, and the target can’t be moving,” Saunders said. “I don’t like it. I don’t think that our members are going to like it.”
Under the evaluations launched in 2009, the 4,100 teachers in D.C. public schools have been put into one of four categories based on how they score on a 400-point scale.
Those who score up to 199 are rated ineffective and are subject to being fired, as are those rated minimally effective (200 to 249 points) for two years in a row. Highly effective teachers (350 to 400 points), meanwhile, are eligible for bonuses of up to $25,000.
Most teachers — about two-thirds — have been rated effective, with scores of 250 to 349. School officials said that category has been overly broad, with teachers at the low end lagging far behind those at the top.
The new “developing” category will encompass teachers at the lower end, who score from 250 to 299. They will be targeted for more help and professional development, and if they fail to earn an effective rating after three years, they will be out of a job.
Nearly half of the teachers who scored effective in 2010-11 would have been deemed “developing” under the new system, officials said. An analysis of 2011-12 data was not yet available.
Saunders said the change leaves teachers feeling vulnerable to ever-shifting expectations in which they have no say. The evaluation system is not subject to collective bargaining by the union, and the chancellor can unilaterally adjust it.