D.C. teachers’ annual assessments will not take into account how many students pass their classes this academic year, the school system said in an email to educators this week.
The announcement comes a month after a citywide investigation uncovered a culture where D.C. Public Schools teachers said they felt compelled to pass undeserving students to meet lofty graduation rate goals and keep their jobs.
A small portion of some teachers’ annual assessments hinged on whether enough students passed their classes.
“We were hearing concerns that we were promoting passing over doing the right thing,” DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson said in an interview Tuesday. “We want to do more that encourages behavior that promotes students passing, and that means promoting good teaching.”
In 2009, then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee introduced the IMPACT teacher evaluation system into D.C. Public Schools. The controversial assessment tool was one of the first in the country to tie teacher bonuses and job security to the educators’ annual evaluation scores.
Teachers are assessed on a 100-point scale that includes metrics such as how effectively they collaborate with other educators, and whether they provide special-education students with multiple ways to engage with academic material.
The IMPACT rubrics are largely standard among teachers who teach the same grade levels and subjects.
Principals at each school, however, have leeway with how they assess teachers on the five-point Commitment to Community section of the rubric.
Some principals used a portion of these five points to assess teachers on the percentage of students who passed their classes. Teachers at Ballou High in Southeast, for example, could earn a few points if 81 percent of students earned at least a “D” in their classes. Woodson and Woodrow Wilson high schools also assess teachers on how many students pass their courses.
Chancellor Wilson said passing students accounted for a small fraction of some teachers’ overall evaluations, and he found no evidence that anyone’s standing in the school system was affected by this criteria.
“The concern is whether people feel that could be the case,” Wilson said.
Officials described the change as temporary in the email to educators, and will reassess policies in time for the next academic year.
“Over the coming months, DCPS will collaborate with stakeholders to consider the appropriate means of reintroducing measures related to grading, promotion and graduation into IMPACT for 2018-19 and beyond,” the email from the school system’s IMPACT team said.
Wilson said he still supports the IMPACT evaluation system.
The chancellor said he will launch a number of initiatives in response to the findings of the citywide investigation, which also uncovered that one-third of 2017 DCPS graduates received diplomas despite missing too many classes or improperly enrolling in remedial classes. Some students who walked across the graduation stage had missed half of the school year, the report found.
Four school leaders, including the secondary schools chief, have been removed from their posts following the revelations. The FBI, the U.S. Department of Education and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General also have launched an investigation into the school system.
Earlier this month, Wilson created the Office of Integrity to function as an ombudsman for the school system. Teachers had said they attempted to alert school officials that graduation and attendance policies weren’t being followed, but nothing was done.
The Office of Integrity will serve as a central place for teachers and families who wish to lodge complaints or ask questions about their schools, and Wilson said he hopes this makes it easier for teachers’ complaints to reach him.