Keeping Irreplaceables in D.C. Public Schools

In education, only two things, once gone, cannot be replaced: Time and excellent educators. So argues TNTP (née The New Teacher Project) in this tag-along to its blockbuster August report, The Irreplaceables. While the August report assessed how schools and districts could retain top-flight teachers, this case study  of the District of Columbia school system (DCPS) scrutinizes whether its new teacher-evaluation system, known as IMPACT, is effectively weeding out the bad and retaining the good. Evidently it is. In 2010-11, D.C. retained 88 percent of its irreplaceable teachers (those who were rated “highly effective” by IMPACT), compared to just 45 percent of its low-performers. Impressive, when compared with the retention patterns of other districts studied by TNTP, which retained, on average, 85 percent of low and high performers alike. But improvements are still possible. For example, two-thirds of DCPS principals do not consider smart retention a top priority. Further, D.C. Irreplaceables are 30 percent more likely to teach in the District’s lowest-poverty schools than its highest-poverty ones. (Conversely, while only 3 percent of teachers in the lowest-poverty schools are ineffective, 36 percent of educators in the highest-poverty schools are.) As D.C.—rightly—continues to identify and nudge out weak teachers, it must take a keen look at where replacements are needed, and enact policy to help get them there. How much more aggressive the district will be on these fronts will mostly be up to Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, herself a TNTP alum.

The New Teacher Project, Keeping Irreplaceables in D.C. Public Schools: Lessons in Smart Teacher Retention (Brooklyn, NY: TNTP, 2012).

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