Saunders: 'I am the chooser' on IMPACT study
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.
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