D.C. Schools Chief Rhee Fires 241 Teachers Using New Evaluation System

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Washington, D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced Friday the firing of 241 teachers who did not meet standards set forth by a new district-wide evaluation system.

The new system, known as IMPACT, for the first time ties D.C. teachers’ job performance to their students’ performance on standardized tests.

According to a statement on the D.C. Public Schools website, IMPACT “seeks to create a culture in which all school-based personnel have a clear understanding of what defines excellence in their work, are provided with constructive and data-based feedback about their performance, and receive support to increase their effectiveness.”

The firings, which put D.C. at the center of a national debate over teacher performance and accountability, come on the heels of a long-awaited contract agreement reached between the Washington Teachers’ Union and Chancellor Rhee last month. The contract increases new teacher salaries by 21 percent but gets rid of teachers’ seniority designations. Instead, teachers will be evaluated based on students’ classroom performance and are eligible for $20,000 to $30,000 in “performance pay” if their students exceed expectations on standardized tests and if they meet other benchmarks.

Chancellor Rhee said in a statement that “Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher — in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this city.That is our commitment. Today, with the release of the first year of results from IMPACT, the educator assessment system, we take another step toward making that commitment a reality.” Her office also detailed that:

A total of 302 employees are subject to termination effective July 31 and August 13; 226 based on performance, 76 for licensure. Of this total 241 are teachers. An additional 729 employees have been put on notice that they will be subject to termination after the upcoming school year, if their performance does not improve substantially.

The Washington Teachers’ Union has said it will contest the firings. The union recently released the findings of a teacher survey on its website, revealing that 52 percent of the approximately 1,000 teachers surveyed do not understand what is required of them under the IMPACT evaluation system.

“We will challenge today’s firings of roughly 81 teachers based on their IMPACT evaluation score because we strongly believe that the instrument should have been piloted during this first year so that teachers, principals, master educators and evaluators could have provided critical feedback on the flaws of the instrument and its’ implementation prior to full scale implementation,” said Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker. “Our survey results strongly reflect these sentiments.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who hired Rhee three years ago to transform the city’s notoriously underperforming schools, said in a statement:

“My commitment from the start has been to ensure that every child in the District gets an excellent education. As mayor, I will not sit still, and I will not be satisfied until a highly effective teacher is in every classroom. Today’s action puts us one step closer to that goal.”

Education correspondent John Merrow has been covering Rhee’s reform efforts — and sometimes-contentious relationship with teachers on the NewsHour. You can find his reports in our Education archive or on his site at LearningMatters.tv.