This is a response to a piece written by John Thompson and published on this blog about the IMPACT teacher evaluation system used in D.C. public schools. His post drew heavily from an Education Sector report by Susan Headden. In this post she takes issue with the way Thompson portrayed her report. You can read the report here and decide for yourself.

By Susan Headden

In his July 18 column in “The Answer Sheet,” John Thompson quotes extensively from my report “Inside IMPACT: D.C.’s Model Teacher Evaluation System.” Unfortunately, his highly selective reading missed the main point of what was intended as a balanced view of this controversial new system. Yes, IMPACT has its flaws, but overall, I was impressed with how hard IMPACT works to be thorough, objective, and fair. As such, it is a big step forward for effective teaching.

Thompson is incorrect in suggesting that I say IMPACT is “not ready for prime time.” On the contrary, when IMPACT was developed, as I say in the report, D.C. had a desperate problem crying out for a dramatic solution. The evaluation system at the time rated 95 percent of teachers “satisfactory” or above, even though national test scores were among the lowest in the country.. As one middle school teacher told me, “I could have spent a whole class teaching nothing but the color yellow, and no one would have noticed.”

IMPACT has clearly changed all that. It means that teachers who aren’t up to the task will no longer be educating our children. The dismissals that occurred last week should show D.C. parents and taxpayers that the system is serious about improving outcomes for students.

My report was not an opinion piece, but as I wrote in an editorial in this newspaper on July 10: “]T]eachers and the public should feel good about the clear effort that IMPACT makes to be thorough and fair. . . It sets clear and reasonable expectations for instruction, and while some teachers resent how those standards are being imposed, others are tapping into renewed ambitions and working hard to meet them. . . . IMPACT has already given parents and taxpayers reason to put more faith in their school system.”

The system is not perfect. There are ways to improve it, including putting more focus on development. But to suggest, as Mr. Thompson does, that I am opposed to IMPACT is simply a misreading of the facts.

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