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D.C. evaluation chief responds

Jason Kamras, who runs the IMPACT program, had these comments on a slightly different draft of the column:

Mathews: In that rush forward, Barron says supervisors are changing the rules. Barron interviewed last year to be a Master Educator. When she asked if these evaluators could provide extra advice and support to teachers who needed it, as was done by coaches in Michigan, she was told no. When she was asked at the end of the interview if she thought she would be a good fit for the job, she said no. But recently some Master Educators told Barron that those were the old rules. They now encourage teachers to meet with them after hours to discuss their weaknesses.

Kamras: This is simply not accurate. We never told Master Educators that they were prohibited from providing additional advice and support to teachers. On the contrary, the position description explicitly indicated that providing professional development would be expected. Furthermore, I have always encouraged the MEs to provide guidance to teachers. The only constraint on this is their time. Some MEs have taken it upon themselves to conduct “mobile office hours,” during which they visit classrooms (upon request), model lessons, discuss pedagogical challenges, examine student work, etc. Others have conducted professional development sessions for specific content areas. Still others have developed resource packets to help struggling teachers. Next year we are increasing the number of MEs so that each one will have fewer observations to complete and more time to conduct professional development.

Mathews: Barron was told to observe and fill out a classroom visit form for each of her teachers identical to the one used by the official evaluators. This was to get them in tune with the process, but Barron concluded it was a violation of the D.C. teacher contract, which bars teachers from evaluating their peers. She had declined to do that. Instead invites her teachers to fill out the form themselves, and come see her to discuss improvements they want to make in their classroom methods.

Kamras: Again, this is simply not accurate. There is absolutely nothing illegal or inappropriate about an Instructional Coach using the IMPACT evaluation form to provide feedback to teachers. Such feedback is not part of the formal evaluation process. I would argue that using the form helps teachers as it aligns the feedback with the expectations of the evaluation process.

By Jay Mathews  | February 3, 2010; 9:59 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  IMPACT, Jason Kamras  
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Next: Problems with D.C. teacher evaluation


like who you gonna believe?

Posted by: mamoore1 | February 3, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Actually Mr. Kamras is wrong about the appropriateness of instructional coaches using the impact observation forms. The current contract says that only a teacher's supervisor can rate (formally and informally) a teacher. An instructional coach is not a supervisor but another ET-15. Why don’t Mr. Kamras and his staff write a position description for instructional coaches and Master Educators (MEs)? An organizational chart to show how the new "support" staff fit into a school's organization would help too.

Once again DCPS seems to have rushed and implemented changes without adequate forethought or planning. IMPACT was written with the idea that a new teachers' contract would be in place by the time IMPACT was published. There is no new contract.

We only have the current contract to refer to for any questions, disputes or recourse regarding evaluations and with who can evaluate teachers (formally and informally).

All IMPACT evaluations would be considered as part of a teacher's personnel file, which is covered under the current contract. Teachers who have concerns with their evaluations should go the contract (it's online I believe on WTU's website), notify their building rep. and the union.

I'm sure that Mr. Kamras and most of his staff have the best of intentions, but we all know where that leads.

Posted by: raq19 | February 4, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I became aware of Marni Barron when she testified at the city council hearings last October on the RIF. She was one of the few teachers testifying who had not been RIFed. I thought she was very moral and brave to openly criticize the administration during that time. I will look for the tape of her testimony. Meanwhile, I recall that when Chairman Gray asked her why she came forward, she responded something along the lines of “I can do no other.”

She felt an obligation not only to teachers who had already been unfairly RIFed, but to teachers who in the future would be unfairly evaluated. Because of her intensive past experience with IMPACT style evaluations, she knew just how this one was being misused.

Now Kamras is calling her statements “simply not accurate.”

So, is Ms. Barron lying to the press and city council about the Chancellor’s reforms? Let’s see how this plays out. Ms. Barron is obviously not afraid of speaking truth to power. And the public is more likely to pay attention after Rhee’s ridiculous sex remark and her subsequent cowardly hiding out for days and stubborn, childish refusal to apologize.

Thank you, Marni Barron, for coming forward.

Posted by: efavorite | February 4, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"Kamras: This is simply not accurate. We never told Master Educators that they were prohibited from providing additional advice and support to teachers. "

Ms. Barron never said that.
Was Mr. Kamras in on her interview, or has a recording of it?

Posted by: edlharris | February 4, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

good question, edl.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | February 4, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse


I think the pre-conference is a wise component of clinical supervision that IMPACT has completely expunged. As a result, so-called Master Educators enter teachers' classrooms looking for commodity-driven theatrics without prior knowledge or a clear understanding on the dynamics of students, school-to-school limitations, and/or students' needs. Further, IMPACT is geared toward the Explicit Teaching Model, which doesn't leave much room for constructivist methodologies...We, as educators, do not control how students understand or apply knowledge. If a teacher is reading about a cat, one student might think about a cuddly kitten; another student might remember being scratched by an alley cat. How does IMPACT recognize whether kids “got it” or not?

Posted by: rasheeedj | February 4, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Also, the 30-minute timeframe of the observations do not always allow for every single item on the observation sheet to be seen. This is particularly true when the MEs make their unannounced visits. What if I'm in the middle of a lesson and "stating the objective" and "relating to prior knowledge" were done prior to the ME's arrival? I get a 0 for those things. The previous poster's comment about "commodity-driven theatrics" is right on target, that's exactly what we do. Oh, and couple that with the fact that certain of the MEs do not seem to have ever been classroom teachers (see bios on DCPS website), and there's a HUGE amount of unhappiness with IMPACT among many teachers.

Posted by: SpEdteacherdc | February 4, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

They sound like children arguing.

Posted by: ericpollock | February 7, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

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