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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 01/26/2011

Saunders: 'I am the chooser' on IMPACT study

By Bill Turque

Exactly when and how Harvard University economist Roland Fryer was selected to conduct an independent study of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system remains kind of a muddle. Last week, DCPS announced Fryer as the "mutual" selection of the school system and the Washington Teachers' Union to do the evaluation of the evaluation provided for in a side letter to the 2010 collective bargaining agreement. But WTU President Nathan Saunders and the leader he ousted last fall, George Parker, both say that they had no role in selecting Fryer, who heads Harvard's EdLabs think tank.

DCPS produced a brief e-mail exchange this week that it says documents Parker's participation in the selection, although there is nothing directly from Parker. The e-mails from last spring, a few days before a labor agreement was announced, are between then-deputy chancellor Kaya Henderson, the head of the District's negotiating team, and Rob Weil, an American Federation of Teachers contract specialist helping the WTU.

Henderson messaged Weil on March 31 with a "revised proposal" from EdLabs, part of a three-year, $1.2 million project that would also examine teacher selection practices and the effect of the 2010 contract on teacher retention rates and student achievement. According to an attachment, Fryer's first proposal described the IMPACT portion as an effort "to determine how much a district gains in student achievement when it removes its most poorly performing teachers from the classroom." The revised proposal says EdLabs will "determine whether the IMPACT system meets or exceeds recognized standards for teacher assessment. In addition, the evaluation will include recommendations to the Chancellor to enhance and improve the IMPACT system."

"Can you pls confirm that we are in agreement on this and return email to me?" Henderson wrote. On April 5 she followed up: "Never heard from you on this. Can you pls let me know that we're good with EdLabs change to their proposal?"

Weil responded the same day: "Sorry about that. George saw the language late last week and is good with it. We're all good."

Weil did not return a phone message this week. I sent Parker the e-mails and attachment but have yet to hear back. Saunders said Tuesday evening that as far as he is concerned, there has been no choice of an independent IMPACT analyst.

"Now that I am president, I am the chooser," Saunders said, channeling George W. Bush. He had just finished leading a meeting between teachers and Mayor Gray's education transition team, where team members heard a litany of concerns about IMPACT. About 400 teachers packed the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University. Saunders said he'd been expecting about 175.

Saunders said the turnout showed that teachers are energized and eager to have a conversation with Gray and DCPS about IMPACT. "They sent a clear message to me to continue the fight," he said, adding that he planned to ask Henderson to halt IMPACT until it can be studied.

By Bill Turque  | January 26, 2011; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

At any rate, agreeing to proposal language is not the same as selecting a contractor.

Also, please clarify, Bill - does DCPS owe edlabs another year's work on an ongoing contract? Was the IMPACT study a way of making good on it?

Sort of sounds like it. Edlabs was hired to manage the capitol gains program right? That was supposed to go three years, but was quietly shut down after two, isn't that right?

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

So what your saying Bill is that nobody signed off on the document as you stated before? DCPS had nothing to show Parker was involved? That's so fishy after the report was put out. So is this the correction to the story on 1/20/11!? So who choose this group? This is a joke! Rhee/Henderson doing whatever they want again and blaming others.

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 26, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I hope Kaya has a job with Rhee because before this is over, she will be back to teaching as a TFAer.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | January 26, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Bill,
Are you going to follow up on the story in the Examiner that 254 of the 636 qualified teachers turned down their potential bonuses?
http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/01/many-dc-teachers-turn-down-bonuses
It would interesting to see how many of them are classroom teachers who evaluation depended upon test scores; i.e. not media speciaalists, art teachers, music teachers, K & PreK, etc.

Posted by: edlharris | January 27, 2011 7:09 AM | Report abuse

to ed: I was one of the HE teachers who turned down the "financial incentive." Please, let's not call it a "bonus." A bonus is a reward with no strings attached. This was one more tactic by the administration to disempower teachers and the union.

I am NOT a general education teacher. I am a specialist and my IMPACT score is NOT dependent upon my schools' overall scores or the students I service.

I would bet a paycheck that the majority of the more than 600 HE teachers were NOT in testing grades. A few of my colleagues who DID take the money did NOT want to but they needed the cash.

Also, did you know that they have made it MUCH HARDER this year to get a "highly effective" rating?

IMPACT is unfair, not objective and severely flawed at best. It is time for it to go.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 27, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

to ed: I was one of the HE teachers who turned down the "financial incentive." Please, let's not call it a "bonus." A bonus is a reward with no strings attached. This was one more tactic by the administration to disempower teachers and the union.

I am NOT a general education teacher. I am a specialist and my IMPACT score is NOT dependent upon my schools' overall scores or the students I service.

I would bet a paycheck that the majority of the more than 600 HE teachers were NOT in testing grades. A few of my colleagues who DID take the money did NOT want to but they needed the cash.

Also, did you know that they have made it MUCH HARDER this year to get a "highly effective" rating?

IMPACT is unfair, not objective and severely flawed at best. It is time for it to go.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 27, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

UrbanDweller,
I'll use the term financial incentive.

For those who haven't gone to the Examiner site, these names were posted there:

Look at this small list from DCEducationFund website:
Angela Benjamin, physics, Wilson Senior High School;
Roaenetta Mayes Browne, grades 6-8, Sharpe Health School;
Sylvia Ewing, art, Kelly Miller Middle School;
Charles Feeser, English, Banneker Senior High School;
Deborah Flanagan, special education, Barnard Elementary School;
Iver Ricks, early-childhood Montessori, Burrville Elementary School;
Maria Samenga, fourth grade, Tubman Elementary School.
Atleast 4 of those teachers were not evaluated by test scores.
See more examples at the dcps Youtube site:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdOodsMfK7Q


At the Duke Ellington School, the following teachers were recognized:
Mary Jane Ayres (Vocal Music),
Samuel Bonds (Vocal Music),
Seth Brecher (Special Education),
Sandra Fortune Green (Dance),
Bill Harris (Visual Arts)
Janet Peachey (Instrumental Music) and
Davey Yarborough (Instrumental Music´╗┐).

It's not surprising that those 2 who could receive $20,000 took it. For even if they were to do poorly this year and be laid off, most school districts, especially in this area, would pick them up knowing the history of RheeForm in DCPS.

Posted by: edlharris | January 27, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

BillTurque:
WTU signoff is the red herring. The issue is: How does DCPS come to have the authority and so little integrity as to sole-source an unsolicited proposal for management evaluation from any company,let alone one with no prior experience or expertise in the subject? What next for Roland Fryer, a similar contract to evaluate all the new architecture for optimality?

Posted by: incredulous | January 27, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

IMPACT is unfair, not objective and severely flawed at best. It is time for it to go.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 27, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

No evaluation system is completely objective. I would bet that teachers sould think the most objective evaluation system would be one that would allow poor teachers to keep their jobs.

Posted by: rickyroge | January 27, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

to rickyroge: I reread my post. I'm sorry, but I didn't see where I suggested poor teachers should keep their jobs.

90% of my evaluation is based on five 30-minute observations--four of which are unannounced. That means someone just shows up.

Would you want your whole year's worth of work evaluated on what someone sees in 2.5 hours of that work year? I think not.

Which would you prefer: A boss that gives you a task and expects you to use your skills and abilities to carry out that task or a boss who gives you a task and then proceeds to give you a script that you must follow to carry out that task and you must NOT deviate from it or you will be penalized, i.e., micromanagement. As an educated professional, I prefer the former rather than the latter.

Most managers are more concerned with the end result, i.e., the product, rather than the way the employee produces that product as long as it's ethical and legal. That's what's called "creative and innovative thinking" which is what most companies and organizations desire in their employees.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 27, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller, I totally agree with your comments. I did the math. I will spend about 700 hours or so with my students this year. 35 percent of my evaluation will be based on the observations of 3 people observing much less than 1 percent of the classroom instruction (2.5/700). IMPACT, especially the observations, is a bad joke. I can't believe Jason Kamras is getting the lattitude he is getting without someone holding him accountable. I would hope that the press would question his competence at some point. Being Teacher of the Year five years ago doesn't qualify you to interfere with all 4000 teachers in the DCPS system, the vast majority of which are just as capable as Prince Jason. There are no sacred cows in this field!

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 27, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

tension: I agree with you. Jason Kamras may have been a good classroom teacher but that doesn't mean he's qualified (or experienced) as a human resource manager. He has no training and no experience. DCPS management does NOT care about people. We are "human capital." We are mere chess pieces to be moved around on a chessboard or removed from the board altogether with no regard for us as human beings. I'm so tired of being treated without dignity and respect from DCPS. If I am "highly effective" and someone that DCPS says they want to attract and retain then why is it I want to leave?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 27, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller...

As an administrator, I think many teachers, at least the ones I supervise, have been given the latitude to be "creative", but many in DCPS (not all) lack the skills to be effective teachers. Having done hundreds of observations, I can honestly say, the teaching I see when I formally observe, is the teaching I see when I informally observe.

IMPACT has many imperfections, like most evaluation systems, but what I do like about it is that it focus on instructional delivery and has actually improved teaching practices of many.

Posted by: rickyroge | January 28, 2011 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Why is IMPACT flawed by some and revered by others. Well, it's an instrument used to get rid of teachers, not as a constructive measure; but as a you're not good enough measure. Why don't teachers talk about the fact that principals are coached to rate teachers intentionally low. Yes, they are warned by the Rhee and now Hendersons to give out low scores. If your goal is to turnover a teaching pool then you adore IMPACT because it's basic goal is to get rid of teachers in large numbers. If you're teaching and you're kids are learning and test scores are reflecting the connection that you are making and then you have someone come in and tell you that you are minimally effective, it's apparent that the system is flawed. It's way too subjective, there's nothing concrete about IMPACT other than the fact that teachers are always negatively impacted by it.

Posted by: wtf1 | January 28, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Why is IMPACT flawed by some and revered by others. Well, it's an instrument used to get rid of teachers, not as a constructive measure; but as a you're not good enough measure. Why don't teachers talk about the fact that principals are coached to rate teachers intentionally low. Yes, they are warned by the Rhee and now Hendersons to give out low scores. If your goal is to turnover a teaching pool then you adore IMPACT because it's basic goal is to get rid of teachers in large numbers. If you're teaching and you're kids are learning and test scores are reflecting the connection that you are making and then you have someone come in and tell you that you are minimally effective, it's apparent that the system is flawed. It's way too subjective, there's nothing concrete about IMPACT other than the fact that teachers are always negatively impacted by it.

Posted by: wtf1 | January 28, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller and tension,
You both make good points but the both of you as well as rickyrogee are missing a major point. I have heard from countless teachers that the categories that the master educators use are not based in the realities of teaching.

Therefore, many of the expectations are not appropriate and really do not accurately measure whether or not a teacher is teaching effectively.

Plus in many cases 50% of your rating is based on one test score?

Posted by: letsbereal2 | January 28, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

letsbereal: believe me, I haven't missed that point and most of my colleagues would be in agreement. The evaluation instrument doesn't reflect my approach to teaching kids, and I'm not going to follow it even if it means I get downgraded from Highly Effective last year. I past caring at this point. The instrument represents a confrontation with me, not a support. I'm more in favor of using the test results because it does reflect about half of the content I am teaching. The other half is comprised of experiential learning activities, games, debates, experiments and demonstrations, etc. I can live with the tests and the observations of my principal because I have confidence in that person (but what if I didn't?). I have little to no confidence in the "master" educators. I do not consider them to be masters or educators now that they have fled from the trenches for $90k a year. I can't believe they are making more than most of my colleagues and me. Unbelievable!

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 28, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Well, I thought the RIFd teachers were going to be the first battle fought by the new WTU leadership, but it looks like it's going to be IMPACT instead.

President Saunders certainly seems to want to get it his way, but wouldn't prolonged wrangling over which third party should review the implementation of IMPACT mean that the status quo would remain in effect?

For an eye-opening look at President Saunders's in action, I suggest you follow the link below to brief testimony he gave last month to a DC Council committee gathering input on the Healthy Schools Act:

http://www.wtulocal6.org/custom_images/file/Healthy%20Schools%20Act%20Testimony.pdf

Posted by: gardyloo | January 28, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the typo above. Should have been ". . .President Saunders in action. . ."

Posted by: gardyloo | January 28, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

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