I talked for a bit last night with a DCPS teacher about IMPACT. While he expressed some concern about the system, he also said he was proof of it's effectiveness. See, he's a third-year elementary teacher at a struggling school in Northeast. He had twenty kids on IEPs in his class last year--which, along with the extra strife that caused in the classroom, meant hours of added administrative work. This spring, he got a job offer to teach at a school in a wealthy Virginia district--with a guarantee of no more than five IEP students per year and a significant salary bump.
He didn't take the deal. Why? Because he was ranked highly effective this past year and earned himself a $15,000 bonus through IMPACT. That bonus was enough to keep this quality new teacher in a classroom at a needy DCPS school. (A big deal when you note that the trajectory of so many strong teachers is to "put in their time" at an urban school and then slide over to a cushy job in a suburban district, draining our cities of teacher talent.)
So on that front, IMPACT seems to be working.
A few days ago, 206 ?ineffective? or twice-rated ?minimally effective? teachers were dismissed from their positions at the District of Columbia Public Schools thanks to the District's new teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT. As we wrote in yesterday's Gadfly,
D.C.'s terminations over the past two years mark a major milestone: the first time that teachers have been systematically, objectively assessed?and then held to account for their performance. Not even Montgomery County or Cincinnati (both of which are praised for their teacher-eval systems) can boast the rigors or consequences of IMPACT. What's more, IMPACT has survived the Fenty-Gray mayoral shift (and the exit of its architect, Michelle Rhee). It looks like the evaluation system is here to stay.
But should we really be celebrating, as Kevin Carey has asserted, ?the triumph of empiricism?? Not just yet.
Claims that the ?system is working? are, at best, premature and, at worse, detrimental to that very system's future. (Is it no more than a fancy way to axe teachers, the opponents may say?) Tallying the number of educators fired cannot be the gauge for assessing the success or effectiveness of a program like IMPACT. And banners touting the program's success cannot be raised on the basis that all fired teachers are ineffective; that assumption is not necessarily valid.
IMPACT may be a ground-breaking new evaluation system. Still, it's one that needs adjustments and improvements (check out this report from Susan Headden at Ed
Over the past decade, Detroit's population has declined by 25 percent. Since its heyday in 1950, the city has contracted by about 40 percent. (It now sits at about 700,000, making it the 18th most populous city in the country.) Coupled with this exodus is a gang of usual social ills (some causes of the flight, others caused, or exacerbated, by it)?emptied buildings lead to urban decay, companies having difficulty attracting talent leave in search of stronger human-capital pipelines, idle and disaffected youth turn to street gangs for income and worth.
And the schools suffer. In Detroit (though this problem isn't unique to Motown), school buildings are only filled to half-capacity. Parents who can have plucked up their children and quickly deposited them in neighboring suburban districts with more resources and better teachers.
Couple these general issues with the particulars that ravage Detroit Public Schools?a long history of corruption among city officials, abysmal student achievement (just look at the latest fourth-grade NAEP results), a steadfast and ridiculously antiquated system (including a hell-bent teacher union)?and you've got the ultimate dog's breakfast.
And things just don't seem to be getting better. Of course, this isn't for a lack of trying. You've got to praise Teach For America, which has recently pushed its way back into Detroit after a union-forced seven year hiatus. Kudos should also go out to the work the Skillman Foundation is doing on the ground in the city, as
For six years, Prince George's County Public Schools, a Maryland district just outside our nation's capital, has aggressively recruited foreign teachers (predominantly from the Philippines) to teach in PG County in order to help the district address its desperate need of Highly Qualified teachers (NCLB-style) in difficult-to-staff areas like science, math, and special education. And the recruiting paid off: Hundreds of foreign national teachers answered the call, in a large part because of the opportunity (heavily underlined by PGCPS recruiters) that a H1-B visa (or ?work visa?) could lead in the long term to a permanent resident status (or ?green card?). Put aside for a moment the problem with attracting teachers via the lure of a potential ?green card? (something the district can in no way ensure). The biggest issue with the program?and why it fell under investigation by the Department of Labor?is that it charged would-be teachers thousands of dollars in illegal fees (for visa processing, placement, attorneys fees, etc.). The Department of Labor called the practice a ?violations of willful nature.?
This DOL investigation (which wrapped up yesterday when PGCPS dropped its appeal) found quite the rat's nest at the program's core. To start, the overseas hiring practices of PG County, while well-intentioned, were completely ill-managed. More importantly, though, PGCPS has effectively condemned hundred of teachers to not only lose their
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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