Study concludes Rhee’s ‘impact’ improved D.C. teachers

BY newsdesk  October 17, 2013 at 5:37 PM EDT

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Before resigning as school chancellor in 2010, Michelle Rhee had already put in place a sweeping strategy that rated teachers’ effectiveness in Washington D.C. on a numerical scale. The worst teachers were fired; successful teachers were given substantial bonuses (up to $25,000) and the district invested in instructional coaches in hopes of fostering teacher growth. Rhee’s plan, known as Impact, evaluated nearly 6,500 school-based personnel in Washington.

A new study released Thursday by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Virginia concluded that the controversial plan improved the city’s teacher workforce. Rhee’s successor Kaya Henderson told Politico that she was thrilled with the study’s conclusions, stating, “The system we designed to improve the quality of teaching is actually improving the quality of teaching.”

However, the findings did little to satisfy opponents of the system. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, pointed to the fact that student proficiency rates on standardized tests in the district remained about the same since Impact’s implementation in 2009.

“If an evaluation system you create fails to improve student achievement, then you must question the value of the evaluation system,” Weingarten said.

Also, Rhee, who is now the CEO of the nonprofit Students First, continues to be dogged by allegations of cheating in Washington schools during her tenure. Reports cited sudden and often significant academic gains at schools in question before scores leveled off once more security was added.

For her part, Rhee lauded the findings on Twitter, writing “This study affirms: It is possible to identify, support & improve teacher effectiveness.”