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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 02/16/2011

IMPACT faces issues of 'trust' and 'unintended consequences,' Gray committee says

By Bill Turque

Mayor Vincent C. Gray's education transition committee says the IMPACT teacher evaluation system needs improvement to reverse the perception among educators that it is more of "a sorting and termination tool" than a method of helping them improve their practice.

That conclusion is part of a summary released yesterday by the panel, headed by CityBridge Foundation president Katherine Bradley and Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. They held 15 meetings with all major school system constituencies, generating detailed reports that officials said will be available after their formal submission to the Gray administration.

The committee's finding, first reported by the Washington Examiner, reflects the earful it has received from teachers and union officials about IMPACT, a sweeping and rigorous evaluation vehicle launched by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in Sept. 2009. It also echoes Gray's own public comments about IMPACT, in which he raised doubts about its fairness to teachers who work in schools with high concentrations of poor children.

IMPACT uses five classroom observations to rate teachers across nine standards -- everything from clear explanation of course content to checking for student understanding. It also uses student growth on standardized tests to assess some instructors. Teachers with poor overall IMPACT ratings are subject to dismissal.

The panel summary said IMPACT had the potential to be a powerful tool to raise teacher quality. But it added: "We need to exercise care so that IMPACT does not become a blunt instrument that does damage to good teachers -- and ultimately to their students. The first year of IMPACT, which was not piloted, was difficult for many educators and caused outrage among some constituencies concerned about fairness, lack of context and respectful communication."

The report noted that while IMPACT seems to be unfolding more smoothly this year, DCPS leadership "should still signal an acknowledgment of areas where improvement is warranted."

The main issues about IMPACT concern "basic public trust and unintended consequences," the report continued.

"In particular, IMPACT is seen by many teachers as a sorting and termination tool. Although any useful evaluation tool must provide actionable ratings of competency and effectiveness, its emphasis should be on building capacity for every employee."

The panel recommended the use of outside experts to help revise IMPACT for more of an emphasis on improving teacher strategies and skills. It also urges "a 360-degree review process" to gather feedback from teachers, principals and the "master educators" who conduct many of the classroom observations.

The 2010 collective bargaining agreement calls for an outside assessment of IMPACT, although the choice of outsider is under dispute. DCPS says former Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker signed off on the selection of Harvard economist Roland Fryer, but current union President Nathan Saunders says Fryer -- a former DCPS contractor whose think tank is funded by some of the same foundations that support IMPACT -- is unacceptable.

The seven-page summary also reiterated another familiar criticism of Rhee and former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: that they gave short shrift to community involvement in decision-making.

"Meaningful stakeholder engagement in education decision-making was not experienced by most constituencies during the past administration. As a result, we have some collateral damage to repair. We have knowledgeable parent and community activists in this city, and we need to tap their insights and experience."

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By Bill Turque  | February 16, 2011; 11:24 AM ET
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Kaya Henderson quote on IMPACT from the Examiner:

"People who have for 20 or 30 years been evaluated on a very soft, very random checklist of qualities have to work very, very differently now. And when you mess with how people do things, you get pushback. We're not afraid of the pushback," she has said."

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Posted by: frankb1 | February 16, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Kaya Henderson would continue (and perhaps accelerate) the impressive reforms Rhee put in place at DCPS.

From Henderson's Teach for America speech February 12, 2011:

"We are making history right here in the nation's capital...Some of you think it's over, it isn't over ..we're just getting started....this is the revolution that we all dreamed about...we went through a bloody battle to build a firm foundation so that we can provide these students with the education they deserve."

Full speech at:

Posted by: frankb1 | February 16, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Kaya is a Hack just like Rhee. She is unqualified to judge teachers. MEs come in with a six-week training by Kamaras and others. They have a checklist to follow.

The main difference is that MEs are warned about scoring some teachers too high and questioned with others are rated too low.

Kaya has learned the double talk of all things Rhee. It is amazing that some can still defend these snake oil salesmen as real reformers.

I wonder how many jobs are save by sucking up to these educational phonies.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 16, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse


You are really drinking the kool aide. Who are you? Kaya's speech, really!!! lol

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 16, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse


Did she mention how Rhee Rhee lied? LOL

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 16, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious about the statement asserting that IMPACT is smoother this year. For me, its been the opposite. I have less confidence in the instrument, its designers, its evaluators, and the ability of a Harvard group to evaluate it. Jason Kamras is unfit to be a district administrator. He cannot make the deduction that using the same evaluation instrument for each 30 minute period in each classroom for each teacher in each school is not tenable. His prescriptions embedded in the document are meant for Title 1 schools and not all DCPS schools are troubled and in need of his intelligent design. I'd prefer to not engage in ad hominem attacks, and its definitely not personal, but Jason does not have the judgment and the wisdom to be in his position. Like lots of these 30-40 somethings (and I am in their peer group), they are in over their head conducting experiments that are about to blow up in their face. Their uber-confidence is the tip-off.

He and the TFA group talk about leadership all the time. They are amongst the most incompetent, self-absorbed group of people I have ever been exposed to. Their proper role is in advocacy, not administration.

From a "highly effective" teacher who made every effort to meet the reformers half-way. Their heavy-handed, bullying ways that destroy the soul are simply too much for me to accept.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | February 16, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

IMPACT is pointed in the right direction but whats wrong with saying it needs work...try to reconcile this for example...the DCCAS has been moved up to the beginning of April(rumor has it so teacher's scores can be ready earlier in the summer)?????....wasn't the test to measure yearly student growth????....anyway, the skills that were to be taught in a 8 months are now supposedly to be taught in 7 the same time, people are saying that kids need MORE time in school...huh...

Posted by: petercat926 | February 16, 2011 8:16 PM | Report abuse

to tension: This "highly effective" colleague says, "DITTO!"

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 16, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Tension says, "I'm curious about the statement asserting that IMPACT is smoother this year"

That's total BS. Don't believe it for a second.

Posted by: efavorite | February 16, 2011 10:15 PM | Report abuse

BEING DATA unintended order to have the teacher's scores available earlier in the summer, the DCCAS has been moved up a few weeks...that's what I call being DATA DRIVEN

Posted by: petercat926 | February 17, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

dccounselor72 is beside herself with anxiety over Impact. Relax and help improve it. But make it quick, as we need evaluations every single year. The Mayor knows this.

Posted by: axolotl | February 17, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse


I am not besides myself about IMPACT and I am not walking around with my head up the Rheeformers behind.

You are willing to talk about ineffective teachers, unions, and everything dealing with DCPS. How about commenting on how you worshiped the fraud called Rhee and all her fake reforms.

You only care about "children first" right. But you willingly supported this drama queen for 3 years. What drives you with your self righteousness and hatred of unions and teachers. You can recognized ineffective teachers but have supported the biggest bxllshxter to come to DC.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 17, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

My issue with IMPACT is not the tool itself; it is the partial evaluators (namely, the principals). They rate you high if they like you or give you low scores if they do not. They are, in many instances, unfit to evaluate anyone. In order for educators to be successful in school, they need a tool that's designed to help them improve and people willing to be objective. I find the MEs to be impartial and qualified; the school-based administrators are the opposite.

Posted by: wordwise1 | February 17, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

wordwise: Your "nom de plume" is fitting. I have said the very same thing since I came into DCPS more than several years ago. Principals become principals because they know how to play politics, have passed the administrator's exam and because they have been (most times) good classroom teachers. NONE of that has anything to do with being a principal. A principal, first and foremost, must know something about personnel management and then must know how to be an instructional leader. I find very few principals to be both and many are neither.

I've often said they need 2 top positions in schools: a principal who can do nothing but be an instructional leader. That way we can eliminate the instructional coach positions. And then a REAL business manage who can manage the day to day operations of the building and personnel matters. This person needs to have some experience in running a small organization and managing people. This will never happen but it's a nice thought. Either that or take away all instructional leadership responsibilities from principals and make them "small business managers" and let the instructional coaches be the instructional leaders but then both would need real personnel management training.

I also think there's a problem in education in general where adults don't know how to interact with their colleagues in an adult professional manner. I was a career switcher and it baffles me that when there are no students around teachers still refer to each other as "Mr." and "Ms." and principals NEVER invite you to address them using their first names. This to me speaks volumes about some of the dysfunction in education among adults. I have worked in corporate America and the non-profit world and never did I refer to colleagues and even bosses as "Mr." or "Ms." They would have laughed at me. And before people start responding that it's about "respect," save it--respect is about how you treat people, not how you address them.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 18, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

@dccounselor72: sorry u are so worked up. That was not my intent.

Aren't you "willing to talk about ineffective teachers, unions, and everything dealing with DCPS"?? Many of us are, madame.

No worship for Ms. Rhee, madame, but rather a balanced view. A balanced view sticks out like a sore thumb on this blogue.

Yes, I confidently believe in "children first." Our good teachers are not threatened by that and don't fear being evaluated.

As to recognizing ineffective teachers, it doesn't take an expert much of the time. Talk to kids, parents, spend some time in a classroom if need be. You, like the union, all previous supts. and some council members want to tiptoe around this problem. You need to recognize that ignoring it condemns The Children to very difficult lives. It is what you appear to favor, based on your blustering bloviation. Did you also vote for McCain and Palin??

Posted by: axolotl | February 18, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

What a strange sampling of teaching IMPACT is; the sample inspected is the behavior taking place during a small block of time. Is teaching that homogeneous all day, every day, that what is observed in one half hour is pretty much what is observed in an another.
Is this the way one would sample the work behavior of nurses, fire fighters, cops......hell, anybody not doing recurrent and repetitive tasks, drawing half-hour time samples for inspection? Not from any book or course on the design and statistical analysis of experiments I have seen.

Posted by: incredulous | February 18, 2011 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Incredulous, thanks for that post. The illogic behind the 30-minute framework is so obvious. There is no way to have the class in the IMPACT mode each 30-minute period, at least no way that works for me. I am using scores of strategies to try to reach all of my students and many of those strategies are not going to get 3s or 4s in each Teach area. So, those of us using lots of strategies revolving around student needs cannot score high if the non-master evaluators do not understand what we are doing. Its the most bizarre expectation on the part of Kamras/Rhee/Henderson/Thompson and it demonstrates to me that they are unfit to be in their positions. Thanks to Guy for pointing out how Kamras has overstated his "impact", at least with test scores. I would prefer not to attack his teaching and give him the benefit of the doubt. But, he is in a group of delusional, cult-like people in important positions in this district and they need to think seriously about their next gig. You will see how spineless they are when the Mayor takes the reins of control of IMPACT away from them. The moment they cannot manage it "as they see fit" they are probably out. They can only function if given carte blanche authority (in other words, the ability to bully and intimidate teachers in the classroom). And they insist on calling themselves leaders.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | February 19, 2011 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Sir, I am no supporter of ineffective teachers or ineffective leaders. Ineffective teachers make ineffective leaders. However, you continue to support a fraud who pretended to be an effective teachers and leader.

You are very pompous in your attitude toward unions and teachers. Rhee tapped into the sentiment of many who think like you. She rallied against teachers by shouting "ineffective" but failed to announce that she was among that group.

You refuse to mention the fact that she lied and suckered many into following her fake agenda. She is lying all the way to the bank with money from DC taxpayers in her pockets while shouting "student/children first". She did not even care enough to find an original slogan for her fake national organization.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 19, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Tension speaketh the truth! Impact is so far from providing an accurate picture of a teacher's skills and worth. On the other hand it has a demoralizing effect in what is an already thankless job. For more of my ramblings on this and other true stories see:

Posted by: itsalltrue70 | February 23, 2011 11:49 PM | Report abuse

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