Here is a letter that Alyson Perschke, a fourth-grade teacher in D.C. Public Schools, wrote to Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson about her evaluation under the IMPACT assessment system. Henderson has responded by email to Perschke, offering to meet with her about it.

IMPACT is a system instituted under former chancellor Michelle Rhee which evaluates some teachers in part on the standardized test scores of their students and is largely based on five half-hour evaluations of teaching skills each year by administrators and master teachers.

Last month, 206 D.C. public school teachers were fired for poor performance under IMPACT, amounting to 5 percent of the 4,100 teachers in the city school system. Perschke

IMPACT has been controversial for a number of reasons, including what critics say is the unfair practice of juding teachers on how well their students do on a high-stakes test when teachers are not responsible for all of the factors that go into how well a student does in school.

Part of the letter is technical, but the detail highlights the complexity and shows why IMPACT has so many critics, including Perschke, who ends the email to Henderson by saying, “I will enter my third year as a classroom teacher this week disheartened, questioning my future with DCPS, but still hopeful that significant changes will be made this school year.”

Here’s the complete letter from Alyson Perschke to Chancellor Henderson:

I am writing this e-mail to express the discouragement I feel in my career after my final IMPACT score was released. I credit myself as hard-working and dedicated, almost to the point of being a perfectionist, when it comes to my academic and professional life. This shows in my being honored with a full academic scholarship to Boston University as an undergraduate and my earning of a 3.98 GPA while obtaining my MEd [masters of education], also on scholarship. I am proud to carry this pursuit of excellence with me now that I am in the first few years of my career.

My experience with IMPACT throughout this past school year was one of commendation. The scores I received from my five TLF [Teaching and Learning Framework] observations were excellent, leaving me with a 3.92 average (4.0, 4.0, 4.0, 4.0, 3.63).

My administrator and master educators applauded all facets of my teaching and classroom management, and asked that I be willing to be videotaped as an exemplar and to invite teachers struggling with the Teach rubric to visit my classroom. I received various e-mails from yourself and members of DCPS Central Office praising the high quality education I was bringing to my students each day. This same degree of excellence I put forth in my dedication to my elementary school, earning a Commitment to School Community (CSC) score of 4.0. Furthermore, meeting end of the year goals warranted me yet another perfect score of 4.0 in my Teacher-Assessed Student Achievement Data (TAS) score.

I started with DCPS in the August of 2009 as a first-year teacher. My TLF, CSC, and TAS ratings show how in just two years I have nearly perfected what has been asked of me by my employer. Under the Group 2 rubric, my performance would merit a score of 394/400, an achievement that reflects the high level of professionalism you and I both expect of my performance. However, I, unlike the majority of my colleagues, am given much higher expectations as a Group 1 teacher and only earned 322 points. My students performing “as expected” on the DC CAS [D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System] dropped my score from almost flawless to average. My celebrated teaching deserved only a 2.5 for my Individual Value Added (IVA) score.

I am baffled how I teach every day with talent, commitment, and vigor to surpass the standards set for me, yet this is not reflected in my final IMPACT score. The arduousness of the Group 1 rubric is problematic, and this is evident when comparing the standards set for Group 1 and Group 2 teachers. My case bluntly displays these inequitable expectations for DCPS teachers. If I taught just one grade level lower I would have secured myself accolades, a considerable bonus, the chance for an accelerated step-increase, and most importantly recognition for the tireless work I have done.

Having IVA account for 50% of a Group 1 teacher’s evaluation is excessive. I teach reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, short and long term goal setting, critical thinking, social skills, collaboration, character development, and a love for learning. Using just four mornings worth of data to represent 180 days of teaching and learning is unreliable and insubstantial, a case manifested in the lack of correlation between my 2010-2011 TLF and IVA scores, respectively 3.92 and 2.5.

This is proven further when I present my 2009-2010 IMPACT evaluation. During my first year teaching, my TLF average was over 0.5 points lower (3.41), yet my students did significantly better on the DC CAS, as evident in an IVA score that was 0.35 points higher (2.85). Becoming a considerably better teacher in my second year is inconsistent with the performance of my students on the DC CAS, again revealing its fallibility.

Creating an evenhanded standard for all DCPS teachers is overdue. Group 1 teachers should be given the opportunity, like Group 2 teachers are, to use additional data in their evaluations. Having additional means of assessing Group 1 teachers will not only get a better picture of the impact we have on our students each year, but also grant the opportunity to decrease IVA’s 50% footprint. This will give the opportunity for the Group 1 rubric to “better honor the art and complexity of teaching,” as Michelle Rhee wrote to the DCPS community in the 2010-2011 IMPACT handbook.

The teachers in the “testing grades” are DCPS’s most important tools in showing both the District of Columbia and America the critical changes made in DCPS in recent years. Without equitable and effective ways to assess its teachers and students, DCPS is risking the loss of many talented employees. I will enter my third year as a classroom teacher this week disheartened, questioning my future with DCPS, but still hopeful that significant changes will be made this school year.


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