In most school districts around the country, teachers have what's called "tenure" - a level of job security based on how long they've been teaching. But Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C.'s controversial schools chancellor, changed all that when she introduced a new way of evaluating teachers based on classroom observations and student test scores.
When Michelle Rhee began her job as D.C. schools chancellor in 2007, just 12 percent of eighth graders in the district were proficient in reading, and only 8 percent in math. Rhee's aggressive changes to the status quo got her national media attention as well as sharp criticism from many Washington, D.C. residents and teachers' unions. When she fired 15 percent of her central office staff, replaced nearly one-quarter of the city's principals and closed 23 schools, some accused her of pushing ahead without listening to the community's concerns.
Some teachers say Rhee's new system helps them stay accountable in the classroom and has helped their students learn more over the course of the year. Most recently, Rhee made headlines by firing more than 600 teachers whose scores didn't meet the requirements set out by the IMPACT evaluation system. But, reading and math proficiency among D.C. eighth graders have improved to 14 percent and 12 percent respectively, demonstrating slow but consistent growth under the new system.
That upward trend may not be enough for Rhee to keep her job, though. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who hired Rhee, is up for re-election in November and faces a fierce battle against a competitor who may choose to replace Rhee if he wins.
"How can you possibly have a system where the vast majority of adults
are running around thinking, 'I'm doing an excellent job,' when what
we're producing for kids is 8 percent success?" - D.C. Schools
Chancellor Michelle Rhee
"A principal at the middle school that I was working at this last year
came up with a fictitious evaluation date, a fictitious conference
date, and entered in fraudulent scores for me." - Ben Bergfalk, D.C.
public schools teacher
"My commitment to the children of the city was, regardless of all that
noise that might come up, I'm going to continue to forge ahead." -
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee
"So, every day, I had to make sure that my objective was clear, that
my kids knew it, not just the days I got observed. And I think that
made my classroom a little bit more consistent, and they learned a
little bit more this year than last year." - D.C. teacher Matt Nagy
1. What is an evaluation?
2. How is your performance at school evaluated?
3. How are people evaluated at their jobs?
1. Do you think teachers should be able to be fired if their
evaluation scores aren't good, even if they've been teaching for a
long time? Why or why not?
2. What do you think is the most important factor in how much you
learn from a teacher?
3. Why do you think it's so hard to evaluate teaching? How do you
think teachers should be evaluated?
4. Do you agree with the measures Chancellor Rhee is taking? Why or why not?