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Posted at 1:25 PM ET, 01/17/2011

Gray: IMPACT teacher evaluation system has 'a long way to go' for fairness

By Bill Turque

As a candidate, Mayor Vincent C. Gray treaded cautiously when it came to questions about the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, arguably former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's signature initiative. The Washington Teachers' Union, a major financial supporter, has big issues with the system, which uses growth in student test scores as part of the basis for assessing some educators. Rhee supporters -- including the philanthropic community that is investing tens of millions of dollars in DC schools -- see it as the heart of her program because it holds teachers more accountable than ever for what their students learn. Low IMPACT scores led to the dismissal of 126 teachers last year.

But on Saturday, at a panel on school reform and poverty at Adas Israel synagogue, Gray offered the most explicit criticism of IMPACT I've heard from him, asserting that the system is unfair to teachers in high-poverty schools. It is also the first substantive evidence that Gray and Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson -- looked to by Rhee supporters as the keeper of the reform flame -- are not quite on the same page:

"It's better than what we had, but it certainly hasn't arrived," he said of IMPACT. "One element of it that I'm still unsatisfied with is. ... It's not the same to teach in Horace Mann [Elementary in Northwest] as to teach in Stanton Elementary School [in Southeast]. That's a very different challenge. And frankly I'm not convinced that we have figured out yet how, with an evaluation system that covers all teachers across the city, that you account for the social challenges that inevitably are to be addressed by a teacher at Stanton Elementary School in ways that are different from those at Horace Mann.

"So I guess I would say at this stage... it's a step in the right direction, but it's got a long way to go to be a fair evaluation of our teachers. And frankly any system that isn't sensitive to the differences in challenges of the kids in the schools only encourages teachers to teach in one part of the city and not in the other parts."

This is a direct challenge to the philosophical core of Rhee's vision: that really good teachers can reach kids no matter what their social or economic backgrounds. It also addresses a central teacher complaint about IMPACT. Many educators objected bitterly to a Nov.13 story I wrote, reporting that just 5 percent of the 636 teachers found to be "highly effective" under IMPACT in the 2009-10 school year work in Ward 8, while 22 percent work in Ward 3. They argue that many highly effective teachers in Northwest would see their IMPACT scores plummet if they worked with students in Wards 7 or 8.

All of this raises the more practical question of what will happen to the approximately 700 teachers who received "minimally effective" IMPACT scores last summer. Under the rules as written, they have until the end of the current school year to raise their scores or face dismissal. Gray did not address this Saturday. His education position paper says he wants to "move swiftly" to implement the independent study of IMPACT required by the 2010 collective bargaining agreement with the WTU.

IMPACT takes some student challenges into account for a limited number of teachers when it calculates their contributions to individual growth on DC CAS reading and math scores, the so-called "value added" portion of the evaluation. It constitutes 50 percent of the IMPACT score for about 17 percent of DCPS classroom teachers. A predictive model is developed for each student that includes prior test scores, special education and ELL status, and eligibility for free or reduced price lunch -- a barometer widely used by schools to measure household poverty.

The bulk of the annual IMPACT score for most general education teachers rests on the Teaching and Learning Framework, an elaborate system of advice, guidance and requirements governing everything from how teachers deliver course content to how they address students with different learning styles to how they assure that children understand the material. There are no allowances in TLF for the conditions inside the school, or the background or behavior of students.

In the classroom of a highly effective teacher, according to the TLF: "The flow of the lesson is never impeded by inappropriate or off-task student behavior, either because no such behavior occurs or because when such behavior occurs, the teacher efficiently addresses it."

Henderson, who was out of town on vacation Monday, said in an e-mail: "TLF is measuring pedagogical expertise, something all of our teachers should have, regardless of the student population with which they work. For example, we want all of our teachers to excel [in the TLF category entitled] 'Engage Students at All Learning Levels in Rigorous Work. The students may be at different levels in different Wards (an oversimplification, of course), but they should all be engaged in rigorous work. The techniques great teachers use to differentiate appropriately are the same."

More to come on this.

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By Bill Turque  | January 17, 2011; 1:25 PM ET
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I'm glad to see Mayor Gray draw attention to Stanton Elementary as well.
From the way Miss Rhee talks, Stanton is at the bottom because of lousy teachers. Yet. what was her way of dealing with the school- sending her Highly Effective Educators there?
Of course no. She turned the school over to a private company to whom the blame can be assigned when Stanton doesn't rival Horace Mann in test scores.
I asked her if she ever planned to send HEEs to the low performing schools and classrooms, replacing the Ineffective Ones. Makes sense, doesn't it?
She replied, "No."

5, 10 years from now, when things really aren't that different, you can rest assure that most journalists (except Bill if it is his beat) won't be asking Miss Rhee hard questions.

Posted by: edlharris | January 17, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Maybe, for IMPACT II, MAyor Gray will propose that in order to receive the Highly Effective bonus, teachers give up the right to say to what school they are placed. That is, a HEE padded with cash could be sent from a Ward 3 school to a Ward 8 school.

Posted by: edlharris | January 17, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

The Mayor is right on! Now, let's engaged the so-called reformers in a discussion about how to really educate all our children.

Posted by: vscribe | January 17, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if implementation of the IMPACT evaluation system, along with the salaries of master educators, is funded by private donations? Does anyone know exactly how much IMPACT costs?

Posted by: ocisab | January 17, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Goodbye Kamras and Kaya.

Mr. Gray, thanks. Now take care of Tech and Hardy.

Posted by: guylady201001 | January 17, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"The flow of the lesson is never impeded by inappropriate or off-task student behavior, either because no such behavior occurs or because when such behavior occurs, the teacher efficiently addresses it."

Somehow, this has the same ring as that Good Wife guide from the 50’s that was floating around on the internet:
“Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”
It also applies easily to other fields:

"The flow of the article is never impeded by a screaming editor, either because no such behavior occurs or because when such behavior occurs, the journalist efficiently addresses it."

"The flow of the traffic is never impeded by crazy drivers, either because no such behavior occurs or because when such behavior occurs, the police officer efficiently addresses it."

Posted by: efavorite | January 17, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

NW teacher here who was "highly" effective. It is completely unfair that that supposedly HE teachers came predominantly from Ward 3. Besides the issue of fairness among the wards, the instrument and its implementation is highly suspect. Jason Kamras needs to be held accountable for the drain on teacher morale that this is creating. I would suggest that he goes back into the classroom where by all accounts he was fantastic. Winning Teacher of the Year does not qualify someone to act as the "architect" for classrooms, especially when teachers in some of those classrooms are just as competent, just as dedicated, etc. as the knuckleheads who leave the trenches for the boardrooms. Bureaucrats cannot teach more effectively or even define good teaching more than good teachers. I choose to only pay attention to other effective teachers who are still grinding it out on a daily basis.

Ed Harris, I would respectfully disagree with you on moving teachers around. It takes years to develop good relationships at schools in order to make a real difference and to be effective. But, the main reason is that there are plenty of highly effective teachers in Ward 8. The IMPACT evaluation system is not going to identify them because the behavioral issues are so predominant and classroom order is so much harder to maintain as well as other factors such as a lack of educational attainment by parents, neighborhood violence, etc. Of course these "reformers" don't want to hear about it. They are dillusional and ideological and cultish and I'll be glad when their comeuppance arrives.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 17, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse

thetensionmakesitwork - I'll let Ed speak for himself, but I don't think he really recommends switching teachers around like that, he's just daring DCPS to do what would seem logical according to its system -- giving the kids most in need the proven best teachers. I think he knows that they know that it wouldn't work, or that they couldn't get teachers to move.

I have proposed a similar plan - giving bonuses to HE teachers willing to go to difficult schools and work their magic, with a promise that they won't be penalized if unsuccessful in their new setting.

If DCPS is so sure that HE teachers are all that's needed to raise student achievement, they should have found the best and rounded them up years ago to teach at those schools.

Instead, they did an experiment at Shaw where they hired a bunch of rookie teachers and expected the scores to rise.

Didn't happen.

Posted by: efavorite | January 17, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gray is an independent thinker, what a step up from Fenty.

Posted by: lacy41 | January 17, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Greetings Folks!

I can assure you that a lot of hedge funds are behind DCPS' IMPACT Evaluation Tool. After all, this is what most of these so-called reformers (e.g., Bill Gates and the Broad Foundation) are banking on, and how a lot of nebulous teachers in America are being fooled. It's just really sad that education policymakers have lost touch, in terms of what a high quality education, along with teacher ingenuity, should look like. Standardized tests won't reshape or help the global economy, and teacher evaluation systems that are unfair won't help grow teachers. What kills me is this: we will hire anyone to be a teacher, but do we feel the same way about doctors? Would we let a math major perform open heart surgery? Good question, right? Teaching is the only job that allows people to get certified and go into classrooms for two years (Teach for America). Half of those kids are just looking for a free Master's degree and a way to move up the ladder of politics themselves (Michelle Rhee). Finally, Michelle Rhee did not revolutionize or improve education in DC. In fact, she made things a lot worse and she knew that she was going to critically be held accountable for her apathetic leadership style. I'm glad Vincent Gray is cleaning things up and working for people—no matter what color they are.

Posted by: rasheeedj | January 17, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

There are some very positive aspects to IMPACT, but the flaws are so glaring as to make it a very poor evaluation tool.

For those teachers who are in the testing grades and categories, half of their evaluation depends on 20-30 kids scores on a test that is at best a poor measure of what a student has actually learned, and even if the test was perfect, the margin of error from year to year is so great that many teachers will be highly effective one year and eligible to be fired the next. Does anyone really think that this makes sense?

In addition, DCPS will not release the methodology they use for creating the "value-added" score, so teachers don't even really know how they are being evaluated. There is also evidence that they centered their average at 2.5, so half of the teachers would automatically be labelled as ineffective or marginally effective.

For non-tested grades it is a little better, but while the TLF rubric is better, I know several teachers who have gotten scores of 3.2-3.5 from one master educator or administrator and 1.7 from another. It seems to me extremely bizarre that the same teachers are being judged highly effective by one observer and ineffective by another. Since there is NO inter-rater reliability, how can it possibly be taken seriously as a measurement tool?

Posted by: Wyrm1 | January 17, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

My ratings from the ME have ranged about 1.4 in the last two years. It is so subjective. They are given no context for the class they are visiting.

I can't believe the MEs are making $90K per year.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 17, 2011 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I know that it makes no sense to move teachers around based on test scores. As efavorite points out, I just taking the mindset of Rhee/Kamras et. al to it's logical extreme. I knew Miss Rhee would never think of moving teachers around, not because she knows there is no basis to believe it would be success.
She wouldn't go for it because it would be political suicide.
The HEE wouldn't have gone for it. And just imagine the reaction those who have denigrated the DC voters on these pages for voting Gray in, if Michelle Rhee told them she was moving their great teachers over to the poor performing schools and classrooms.

Something to remember as it is not explicitly laid out in reports on IMPACT, is that many of the designated HE teachers are not the primary subject teacher whose students are tested on the DC-CAS.
DCPS has not provided a breakdown, but the majority of identified HE were not 2nd-8th & 10th grade reading and math teachers. They were PreK, Kindergarten, reading coaches, counselors, media specialists etc.

Posted by: edlharris | January 17, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

PS. I meant to add that I was being sardonic.

Posted by: edlharris | January 17, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Another "Highly Effective" teacher here but I teach in Ward 8. Thank God Gray is finally saying something. The cries of teachers have fallen on deaf ears for far too long.

I agree with my colleague in northwest: the morale in DCPS is sickening and there's none other to blame but Jason Kamras. We, the teachers, and principals, tried to tell Rhee when she "rolled out" IMPACT to pilot it and let's work out the kinks. It was rolled out on Friday in August 2009 and implemented that following Monday. That right there tells you she and her staff never knew what they were doing. No one versed in program management and implementation rolls out such a controversial and flawed HR performance evaluation--and one with high stakes--on a Friday and fully implements it on a Monday.

As for Kaya Henderson, she's not staying. We all know that at the end of the school year she'll be gone. Gray won't fire her. Henderson does NOT want the job. Kamras will be gone before her I suspect.

Many of us don't object to IMPACT but there is a lot of it that needs changing. For example, you don't say teachers are professionals and then "pop in" on them 4 times during the year unannounced. That right there says you think your teachers aren't working. It's insulting, degrading and unprofessional.

Also, you can't expect someone to hit all 22 points in the TLF during a 30 minute observation. It's ludicrous and Jason Kamras needs to be on a psychiatrist's couch having his head examined for dreaming up such a narrowly-focused method of teaching. The TLF is NOT the only way, nor the best way, to teach students.

Basically, IMPACT and TLF have stolen the joy and creativity from teaching for most of us and have also resulted in the wrongful termination of a number of very skilled veteran teachers whose principals had it in for them.

The sooner Henderson and Kamras and the Master Educators are gone, the sooner we can get back to real teaching.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 17, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Urbandweller - I remember how sure I was (and ultimately right) that Rhee would leave on her own before Gray took office and that she would do something flashy and would not become someone's employee.

Now you seem quite sure about Henderson. Why do you think she doesn't want the job?

Posted by: efavorite | January 17, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Dear teachers,
This all gives me the impression that M. Rhee was trying to create a teacher training institution out of DCPS rather than reforming it to facilitate learning at each student's highest level.
Just today, I was reminded that the PeopleSoft software for counting the number of teachers on the payroll was not installed until 2009 and then it revealed that there were 898 more teachers than Rhee or, apparently, anybody else knew! I have to ask--how could a person who did not in course of two years ever really figure exactly how many teachers were in her agency's budget, really be able to devise a fair system to "evaluate" their teachign abilities? But I digress.
What I want to know is do you all think something like Impact is needed? If so, what would you want it to do and what role play in your employment?
And these Master Educators? Are they really? What makes them "masters?" Are they a Rhee reform invention too? Seriously, in your experience, what have they contributed to a better learning environment for DCPS kids? Thank you.

Posted by: 1citizen | January 17, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I am sure improvements will be made, but hopefully we will not back off from real teacher evaluations and pay for performance. You shouldn't be paid by years of experience alone, that's ageism.

Posted by: staticvars | January 17, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Ed, totally missed it. I hear so many nonsensical statements from the so-called "leadership." This crew in particular seem to love to hear themselves refer to themselves as "leaders."

To my colleague in Ward 8: I salute you and agree with you. I'm not opposed to being evaluated, but this instrument is highly flawed and that initial rollout was so disrespectful for the reasons mentioned above. I tried all summer to get a copy of the language so I could prepare myself for it, to no avail. We must remember the intent is to fire about 25% of the teaching corps. That was stated by Cheryl Kreibel (spelling) in one fo the PBS segements (actually she said 50% of teachers did not have the right attitude towards their students).

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 18, 2011 2:08 AM | Report abuse


A D.C. elected official FINALLY told the Emperor he has no clothes on. Now I hope we can turn our attention to the fire sale of public property to charter school profiteers. As Turque reported in a previous blog, DC Charter schools now have a real estate portfolio of over $500 million that generated $20 million in profits last year. As a taxpayer I am curious to know how many palms got greased in those deals. How many more deals are in the pipeline?

Posted by: mrpozzi | January 18, 2011 2:53 AM | Report abuse

IMPACT is very flawed. Last school year I was getting scores in the high 3's. This year I have a master educator that doesn't know what she is doing and a new principal who told me he doesn't give 4's. This master educator never taught the high level's of my subject area and doesn't give any advise on how to improve, she will bury you in your evaluation nonetheless. My principal loved my lesson and yet he told me that he does not give out 4's so I am stuck in the 2.something area. Being in the 2's is dangerous because the school system will take points at the end of the school year on account of the test scores being low. By the way my subject area does not affect the test, that shows you how unfair IMPACT is. A master educator told my friend that the scores decrease as he goes east, essentially teachers are penalized for teaching in low performing schools were the need is great. I teach in one of those low achieving schools and I am beginning to think that it would be a good idea to abandon it and go west of the park. I have a friend who graduated from Georgetown and is my opinion a great teacher; he was given a bogus IMPACT because he was very union, and this year he is facing termination. I know for a fact that at the end of school year 09-10 in my school teachers were given good evaluations without being observed and others were being IMPACTED negatively for various reasons.

Posted by: marylight | January 18, 2011 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Let's cut through the B.S...

IMPACT makes it much easier than it used to be to fire ineffective teachers, which to me, is a good thing, IF implemented fairly.

I am an admininstrator and I do believe the IMPACT process should be tweaked, but not by much. It has improved the teaching practices of many teachers.

Of course WTU would like to make it "fair"...and that is to make sure that you may only fire a teacher when hell freezes over. After all, that's what unions do...protect the mediocre. DCPS should do everything it can to protect and reward teachers that perform well, but they should remain equally as vigilant to rid the system of mediocre teachers and other staff.

Posted by: silkydee1 | January 18, 2011 5:09 AM | Report abuse

to efav: Henderson has publicly stated she likes being #2. I would not be surprised if she leaves in June and goes to work for Rhee again. In fact, I think that was pre-arranged. I think Henderson agreed to stay to provide continuity, i.e., protect the private money promised in the new contract used for bonuses. I think Rhee has a job waiting for her.

Also, I expect the bonuses to be gone after this year and I'm not holding my breath for the last raise promised in the new contract due to us Oct. 1 considering the budget woes in DC Government.

to silkydee1: You may be one of the few administrators in DCPS who is actually fair but know that you have many colleagues who take personal vendettas against teachers via IMPACT.

Most administrators, i.e., principals, I've encountered in DCPS know nothing about managing people which is what a large part of being principal is about. They have terrible interpersonal relationship skills, love to wield their power and don't know how to relate to their teachers on an adult professional level. "Collegiality" is the name of the game in management these days but DCPS principals, both the old and the new, have no clue what that is.

One of the many flaws with IMPACT is that teachers need to be able to challenge their rating with an objective 3rd party. That's what we asked for under the old system. What we got was ME's from Rhee. She never understood.

As for your comment about it being easier to fire teachers--yes, I agree. IMPACT has been very successful in that regard and let's face it, that's what IMPACT was designed to do. But there was a way to fire teachers BEFORE IMPACT. There was a process to follow and principals who chose to follow that process got rid of teachers who were ineffective. Considering the quality of administrators I've encountered in DCPS and the petty vindictiveness I've watched, I'm glad the union intervened and continues to do so even if that means a few ineffective teachers remain.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 6:03 AM | Report abuse

to staticvars: Being paid based on years of experience is NOT ageism. It's exactly what it is: being paid for experience. Experience is what most employers look for when hiring someone.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 6:11 AM | Report abuse

to edlharris: I agree with you. I was HE last year. I teach a special subject so my scores are based on my observations, not student test scores. I think if we were able to get a breakdown we'd see that most HE teachers were NOT teachers of testing grades.

In addition, how can you make librarians and counselors HE when they aren't even observed by ME's? It's a completely bogus evaluation tool and it's about to be exposed for what it is: a firing tool for principals.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 6:18 AM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller, you've made such an important point. I should go to school this morning and be considered the "driver" of my classroom from everyone from my colleagues to the principals to the administrators. My colleagues and I should collaborate widely to increase our effectiveness and we should be supported in this endeavor, not directed by, the principal and the other suits. Instead, there is this attitude that somehow we are beneath principals and others in a "hierarchy." This public education world is upside-down. It should not be organized in a top-down fashion. The military, yes, public education, no way. Teachers thrive when they are free to innovate and push the boundaries. Give them standards and guidelines and get out of the way.

Instead, you have administrators, in many cases but not all, taking the oxygen out of the rooms and trying to dominate the teachers with pathetic power plays. Administrators, just make sure the lights are turned on and so forth and teachers will deliver.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 18, 2011 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Silky Dee, IMPACT is not improving the teaching in DCPS. I am a worse teacher when I try to fit into its scheme than when I am myself. Most, if not all, of the teachers in my building feel the same. The administrator perspective should be discounted when the discussion turns to improved teaching.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 18, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

IMPACT was designed to intimidate and create a foundation for a climate of fear.

Where else do you find a product called IMPACT in use without mandatory air bags?

If Rhee had wanted to create an instrument that included teachers, she would have involved the WTU despite the law that excluded it from collective bargaining.
The Montgomery County PS teacher evaluation instrument was developed jointly by management and the teachers' union. Why wouldn't Rhee do that? She likes to hire principals from MC.

Instead, she hid behind that law. The teacher feedback meetings were a show, because, in the end, she didn't have to justify the final product - just impose it.

Too many people, teachers included, assume that "differentiation of instruction" is based on solid evidence of effectiveness in all classroom settings. It is a way of justifying long class periods of 90 minute block schedules, whether 4x4 or AB or modified AB, in most of our high schools. Instead of the traditional, daily differentiation of 5 to 7 classes, each class is supposed to differentiate, whether or not it makes sense to teach each subject in those different ways.

The IMPACT criteria for general educators from grades 2 to 12 are the same, because that makes it easy to apply checklist for the principals and assistant principals she hired with no classroom experience, people who literally believe that all subjects can be taught the same way.

Posted by: ehmartel | January 18, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

How is IMPACT used to evaluate music/art/p.e. teachers?

Posted by: willoughbyspit | January 18, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

to willoughbyspit: Music, art and PE teachers are evaluated with IMPACT the same way as gen. ed. teacher and ESL teachers and sp. ed. teachers. They receive 5 observations each year--2 from the ME's and 3 from their principal. Only the first observation from the principal is announced. They are expected to follow the TLF like everyone else. What is unfair--just to name one more thing unfair about IMPACT--is that many art and music teachers travel from room to room and deliver instruction because there is no space in many of our schools for a music and art room. That is NOT taken into account when they are observed. In addition, there are also teachers in our system who travel from school to school to deliver instruction, called "itinerant" teachers. They, too, are evaluated the same way even though they are limited in what they can carry via materials from school to school. Also, a number of them teach in stairwells, supply closets or in a corner of a hallway for lack of space.

All is not well in DCPS and it is ever worse after Rhee. Quite franky, I wish she had stayed so she could have been exposed for the fraud she was. However, she's smart. She knew she'd be held accountable and that she would come up against a mayor and a new union president who would challenge her and question her methods and her statistics and research and data. She left because she knew she couldn't hold her fragile house of cards together.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

And furthermore, the overall IMPACT scores of art, PE, music and ESL teachers can decline if the overall test scores in the school fall or they don't make AYP. So even though they don't teach testing grades, their scores are affected by the tests. The same is true for custodians and office personnel--a part of their scores is affected by how the school does on the standardized tests.

Is it any wonder teachers are teaching to the test and doing nothing but "drill and kill?"

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for your clarifying commnets.

For all, there is a report from a professor at UMBC on EAI and their running of several Baltimore City schools back from 1992-1995.
The report, which showed that EAI spent more per pupil without any significant difference in the CTBS test scores (yes, the report includes Harlem Park ES-no Miracle scores there), contained a very interesting anecdote from a veteran teacher who stayed at one of the privately run schools.
She said that she and other teachers who stayed behind were told that everything they had been doing as a teacher was wrong and that they were part of a conspiracy to keep black children ignorant.
It seems that philosophy rubbed off on Miss Rhee.

Another to remember about IMPACT is that when Jason Kamras was at Sousa Middle School teaching math, test scores went down.
Here's Jason back in 2005:
"But he says teachers need better resources and more freedom to produce results. "I want to see those test scores at the end of the year and see that they've made gains. That's really important to me. But I think if you have that as the goal, you need to get out of the way and let teachers teach."

Teachers need higher salaries, better working conditions, better training and mentoring and clearer administrative rules, he says. The law's requirements, which say all students must read and do math proficiently by 2014, are noble, he says, but if teachers don't get what they need, the demands are unreasonable.

Posted by: edlharris | January 18, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

ed: Do you have a link to those comments from Kamras and the scores from Sousa? Are the scores broken down to show his students? Thanks!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Here's the original Kamras comment, in USAtoday:

At Sousa middle school, the math scores went from 29.39% proficient in '04 to 12.08% in '05, when Kamras won his award. - then go to left to get specific school results. The scores fluctuate a lot, year to year.

I think you might need a FOIA request to get class results, but you could poke around on the osse site to see what you could find.

Posted by: efavorite | January 18, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Engaging all students at all learning levels implies differentiating instruction. Therefore, if you're a great teacher, you should be able to engage everyone regardless of the students' socio-economic background. Well this is easier said than done! The truth is that if you send one of the "highly effective teachers" from NW to SE, they will face a totally different set of challenges. You cannot evaluate teachers in different geographic regions using the same criteria, especially when that implies different socio-economic realities. It's impossible because on the one hand you have students who are mainly ready and prepared to do the work even though they might have some shortcomings--they have a measure of intellectual curiosity. On the other hand, you have students who mainly don't care about what happens in the classroom--whatever approach you use to reach them. Many are prompt to curse at you simply because you're asking them to focus on the work; some are up and ready to walk out of class within 15 minute of the bell even though there are clear rules that are reviewed daily; another important group may show up without their supplies and refuse to do any work because the teacher didn't give them a pen and/or paper.

I honestly encourage Ms. Henderson to stop by Johnson Middle School in SE and try to teach for 30 minutes. Then she would be better equipped to make the coments she made about the use of differentiation and teacher greatness.

Posted by: eka20400 | January 18, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the links efavorite.

I don't think you will find data linking Kamras to specific students, but Sousa tested 142 students in math back in 2005.

Michelle Rhee might have had that data. She recently said she looked at the data on the two possible teachers her eldest child could have and she saw positive test score growth with one teacher and negative test score growth with the other.
She said seeing that for herself made her want all parents to see that data.

see her at

Posted by: edlharris | January 18, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

to eka20400: I'm a specialist and covered Johnson MS for 2 years. If you teach there, I feel sorry for you. While this year, the building is in much better shape, I understand the students are the same. It's a rough place and the students don't value education or that the hard working teachers there are trying to help them. This is a major problem in Wards 7 & 8: the apathy from students and parents. You can't teach those who don't want to be taught but no one wants to talk about holding parents and students accountable.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller, unfortunately, I am one of those they let go last summer. I stayed up late at night to prepare challenging lessons. I spent 11 weeks attending the Teaching for Results (TFR)workshop hoping to go back this year and make use of what I learned in the workshop! Above all, the pressure from the pricipal made everything so stressful I think I may have developed a heart condition!

Posted by: eka20400 | January 18, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting that link. It seems that Mr. Kamras has been captured by corporate interests ("big ed") and his own career and six-figure salary. In addition to his newfound confidence in the tests, he is apparently insistent that the MEs continue to come in unannounced despite ME suggestions for modification of that feature of IMPACT (admittedly this is hearsay). Does he realize he's become the one of the people standing in the way of the type of teacher he used to be? You, nor anyone else, is smart enough to define good teaching and fire people based on an ideolically-bound definition.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 18, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"I am sure improvements will be made, but hopefully we will not back off from real teacher evaluations and pay for performance. You shouldn't be paid by years of experience alone, that's ageism."

When I worked in the business world supposedly people were paid by performance. I used to believe that until I found over and over again it was a lie. Those who negotiated best for themselves or those who were friendly to the boss got the most money. There was no true merit pay, it was a flat out lie.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 18, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

To Urbandweller:
I too was rated highly effective last year. I teach in a school with the following constraints:
poor attendance, lack of parental support, students are several grade levels behind, documented behavior problems that range from assaulting teachers/students, drugs, gange affiliation, extortion, weapons, sex offenses you name it they have done it. Impact has destroyed the profession that I have loved since I was 5 years old. The students where I teach purposely try and sabotage teachers lessons. As soon as they see somebody sitting in your class or walk in. They say we gonna get you fired. They are here to see how you teach. It's all a game for them. They purposely display the worst behavior that they can. They play dumb on purpose. They tell their friends to do the same thing. This is now an understood rule for the students in DCPS. Here are just a few other rules that the students have made up across the city: Just like they have made their own rules up towards the DCBAS in May. They believe once they take the test they don't have to come back to school. They believe on a half day they don't have to come to school and nothing will happen. Another rule the students have made up is the day before any holiday you don't have to come to school. Lastly you don't have to start school until after labor day.
These are serious constraints that I face on a daily basis. Henderson, Kamaras, and the ME's don't care. Until these contstraints are taken into account impact is unfair to all teachers.
Kamaras maybe you can create a tool just for students and parents. It should measure just their attitude towards school in each ward of the city and then you may see what we are working with.

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 18, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

to eka: This may be hard to swallow, but consider your dismissal a blessing. NO JOB is worth your health. I hope you have found employment.

to helluvateacher: I'm in the same boat with you. I teach in Ward 8 and I see the students you speak of every day. Yes, many of them know the "game" and do all they can do sabotage teachers. Fortunately, I teach a population who still has a healthy degree of respect for teachers. The problem is that when strangers come in to observe, they clam up and it looks as though they haven't learned a thing or that they speak no English even though I tell them right in front of the ME that the ME is here to see me not them.

I completely agree with you: IMPACT has destroyed the teaching profession in DCPS. It's been nothing short of a disaster.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 18, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Just fyi...An opportunity for more input to Mayor Gray's education team is below. Many of the comments here should be specifically shared with this team, IMHO. If you can't go, write up your observations, criticisms and suggestions and forward them to be given to the team:


The WTU will be sponsoring a first ever Education Transition Summit on Tuesday, January 25th from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. This is an opportunity for WTU members to share their input with Mayor Vincent Gray's Education Transition Team as his educational leadership transitions into office and begins to set the educational priority and agenda for DC Public Schools.

Posted by: interested8 | January 18, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Schools do not become low-performing schools because of their location, they become low-performing because of the teaching. Mr. Gray seems to be saying that children who live in poverty can't learn. If a child is of average intelligence and is offered high quality teaching he/she WILL learn. The only reason that schools in lower income areas are low performing is because the less effective teachers are usually there because someone got the dumb idea of letting teachers choose where they wanted to teach instead of assigning them where they were needed. Anyone, rich or poor, will perform badly if they are subjected to bad teaching year after year. Why is that so hard to figure out? If principals, school districts, and teachers' union ever decided to do what's right for children, ineffective teachers would not be allowed to be in classrooms in the first place. It doesn't take long to find out if a teacher is effective or not. Get rid of the bad ones before they make tenure!!! Why is this so hard to understand?

Posted by: cynthia14 | January 18, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Cynthia, so if I break into teaching in a neighborhood that I come to enjoy, with a student demographic with needs that I can meet, and prove myself to be worthy and effective, somebody in a downtown office should be able to move me at their discretion to another school? Who's career is it?

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 18, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

cynthia14 says, "Mr. Gray seems to be saying that children who live in poverty can't learn."

you don't seem to know much about Mayor Gray. He was not as poor as some people, but he was raised in DC in a one bedroom apartment with his brother, mother and father. He went all the way through DC public schools, so he knows very well that location doesn't have to affect education.

Posted by: efavorite | January 18, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Mayor Gray's slogan One City? I would like to give our new Mayor the benefit of the doubt, but singling out schools divides instead of unifies.

There are schools all over the city doing wonderful work with their students regardless of Ward or their students' SES. Teaching is not easy no matter where one teaches. It is important for teachers to find the right school community when selecting a place to work. Not every school is right for every teacher and that is okay. Singling out Mann in such a negative way devalues the innovative work the teachers there do. We all know Stanton is a challenging school, but the community there is working hard to set the school on a new path. Hats off to them. Of course we should make sure that Highly Effective teachers can be found all over the city. Sadly, however, I am afraid that Mayor Gray’s comments will only reinforce the notion that we should not expect much of our children who come from more challenging backgrounds… especially by teachers who are mediocre to ineffective and who keep schools from moving forward.

Posted by: dcziggy70 | January 18, 2011 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Why not report on this in the context of the research which has so thoroughly discredited value-added measures? Rhee's approach has been shown to be a scam at the core epistemological level, why do the editors at WashPo let this go?

Posted by: guegreen | January 19, 2011 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Cynthia14 said: "Schools do not become low-performing schools because of their location, they become low-performing because of the teaching."
Oversimplification: one that Rhee et al. manipulated to their advantage. There are many factors; only one of which is teacher quality. The effect of teacher quality on making a difference declines each additional year that a student is in school.
Rhee and her publicists have cleverly hijacked statements like C14's and turned it into a rhetorical attack on teachers - after first placing teachers on a pedestal to make them an easier target.
One way to see the difference is to recall a comment made by Dick Gregory in his 1960s autobiography.
One day he asked his mother, if they were poor. His mother's response was simple, powerful and clarifying:
"We're not poor; we're just out of money!"

Being "poor" did not weigh her down with hopelessness, but made her all the more determined that her son would not be trapped in it. There are many people like her, then and now, who take responsibility for their children and do what they can, which is often looking for out of boundary options.

I don't know many teachers who blame dysfunctional schools on poverty. Rhee is to be blamed for conflating attitudes with poverty and then stigmatizing teachers by implying that they give up on students because of their poverty.
That's just one more big lie.
The battle in many schools is between dysfunctional attitudes and teachers trying to overcome those attitudes. And it's very often a numbers game: the numbers of students weighted down with those attitudes versus the numbers of students seeking the promise of learning and the opportunities their teachers and staff are there to offer. It is nothing less than destructive self-promotion to sit in an ivory tower and point a blaming finger at teachers for cumulative effects of decades and imply that it can all be solved by arbitrary and capricious firings.

Posted by: ehmartel | January 19, 2011 7:22 AM | Report abuse

The percentages hardly seem surprising to me given that Gray himself highlighted that many good teachers (of course not all) will leave the low performing schools for "easier" student populations. Therefore, more highly effective teachers end up in NW. It is not a case of ignoring the challenges in the other Wards, it's just another challenge that has to be dealt with. IMPACT has nothing to do with where the teachers are.

Posted by: horacemann | January 19, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the system is ripe for a compromise: we'll bar the use of IMPACT from the schools which educate primarily poor children, and continue to hold teachers accountable for some level of professionalism in those shools which primarily teach middle-class kids.

Posted by: ibc0 | January 20, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Funny about this thread: Like sections, lessons,and some year's classes, it is richer than most. So IMPACT, on this occasion for Turque's blog, what it does for / and to teaching: presents an enormous problem and challenge. Yes, the responses to the imposition are interesting, as though the work of teachers wasn't already challenging enough.

Posted by: incredulous | January 20, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I agree with "thetensionmakesitwork" and other DC teachers posting here that it's unfair to use the same rubric to evaluate teachers regardless of where (and who) they teach.

As a former teacher who over the course of my career taught in a variety of school settings, I can testify that it is MUCH easier to teach in some settings than in others. For me, I did best (and had the most fun) teaching a history elective class to honors students in a low-income neighborhood. Conversely, my most difficult assignment was teaching three different subjects at once (none of which I'd taught before) to low-income and mainstreamed special education students in a remedial setting (many of whom had probation officers - in 8th grade).

Comparing my "teacher effectiveness" in one situation vs. the other is like comparing apples and oranges. I shudder to think what my IMPACT score would have been in the difficult assignment I described above... But I know that my score would have been due mostly to the school, the students and my difficult schedule, not to any of my inherent characteristics as a person.

This is also why I believe that calls to reassign the HE teachers to low-performing schools is misguided: First, because it's unfair to teachers and their students to uproot people and shuffle them around like so many dominoes, but Second because I find it unlikely that a teacher who is rated Highly Effective in a high-income suburban school will automatically be a great teacher if moved to a low-income, struggling school across town. In fact, I think it's highly UNlikely.

Posted by: AttorneyDC | January 20, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I'd also like to give props to Vincent Gray for saying what many people know (but few politicians are willing to admit): It's harder teaching in some schools than in others, and teachers must be evaluated accordingly.

Posted by: AttorneyDC | January 20, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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