Rhee fires 6% of D.C. teachers

Now able to dismiss ineffective teachers, Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 6 percent of the district’s teachers.  Of 241 teachers fired, 165 were judged to be low performers; the rest did not have proper credentials. Another 17 percent, judged “minimally effective,” did not get a raise this year and could be fired next year if they don’t improve, reports the Wall Street Journal.

 In the past, 95 percent of teachers were rated excellent; none were fired.

The Washington Teacher’s Union will challenge the firings, saying the evaluation system is unfair.

The teacher evaluation system developed under Ms. Rhee is one of the most rigorous in the nation. It requires numerous classroom observations of teacher performance and measures teachers against student achievement. It also allows Ms. Rhee to quickly get rid of of poorly performing teachers.

. . . Under the Washington, D.C., system, teachers are evaluated five times a year by school administrators and master teachers on such things as creating coherent lesson plans and engaging students. After an initial observation, teachers receive a plan detailing weaknesses and are offered coaching for improvement, district officials said.

Students’ improvement on reading and math tests counts for half the evaluation only for the 20 percent of teachers who teach reading and math in fourth through eighth grade. Rhee plans to expand the achievement component to high school teachers in future years.

Teachers are ranked into four categories. This year, 16% reached the highest ranking, compared with 45% in past years. Some 20% landed in the bottom rating, compared with 4% in years past.

The union has a point about the new IMPACT evaluation system, writes the Post’s Valerie Strauss on Answer Sheet.  There are a lot of bugs in the system.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    My question is this… would the 6% that were fired still be fired under any ranking system? It seems doubtful to me that administrators would let a truly effective teacher go, so does the IMPACT system merely enable administrators to fire ineffective teachers?
    In upstate NY most schools are using Danielson for evaluations… and I’ve known a couple teachers whose lesson styles violate most of her tenets for good teaching. If truly judged objectively, they would have been placed on improvement plans and let go a long time ago. Yet, they have had a lot of success with students (as defined by test scores and success in succeeding courses) so their observations always end up rosy.
    As long as administrators and master teachers are involved in observations, there will never be a truly objective evaluation system. Trying to design one is futile. There will always be some administrator with a bone to pick against a good teacher… the trick is to design a system that holds the administrators responsible for their evaluations.

  2. Being new to education I’m not certain how this particular evaluation system works. However, I am retired military and am very familiar with yearly evaluations, and even quarterly evaluations. I don’t have a problem with evaluations but there should be four components to it (among others probably): 1) a fair rebuttal system for bad evaluations; 2) a method of retraining for poor evaluations (in an effort to get a better evaluation next time); 3) evaluated teacher input; and 4) a fair and impartial senior rater and reviewer of the entire process (this would attempt to ensure that the rater is not being bias or prejudicial toward the evaluated teacher. Will this make the system perfect? Absolutely not, but it will be better than simply allowing poor teachers to continue in a classroom. Another thing that needs to happen in my opinion is that administrators should not be a principal or AP in the school they taught in – they should be moved and trained to be professional in their evaluations. Poorly written evaluations and poor teachers should definitely impact an administrator’s career as much as poor teaching should impact a teacher’s career.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    I don’t remember where I saw it but roughly 1/3 of the teachers were let go or “non-renewed” for certificatation (or lack thereof) reasons.

    I also saw where another large percent of teachers could be eliminated next year.

    I am all for removing an ineffective teacher from the classroom. My question is what happens next? Where will the new/replacement teachers come from and how good are they? On shouldn’t fire/RIF anyone without being able to do the job as well or better with the remaining personnel or be able to hire stronger people. What is the case in DC?

  4. SuperSub says:

    Can’t describe the case in DC, but if it’s anything like upstate NY there’s 50 qualified teachers (or more) to apply for every open position. While not all 50 will be good teachers or better than the one fired, there will be some quality applicants in the pool.

  5. When a former Montgomery County, MD (suburban DC) superintendent became superintendent of DCPS, he identified attracting better teachers as one of his goals. He said that MCPS had no trouble attracting A-level teachers (which would also be true of the VA suburbs), while DCPS attracted C-level teachers. Given the conditions in DC schools and the behavior/motivation of many students, it’s not surprising that stronger teachers go elsewhere.

  6. tim-10-ber says:

    One more question — how does one know these are “A” level teachers if historically teachers have rarely been honestly evaluated…not even one is above average…

  7. My hat is off to Michelle Rhee who has worked relentlessly to improve the DC schools. We need more like her.

  8. There will always be some administrator with a bone to pick against a good teacher… the trick is to design a system that holds the administrators responsible for their evaluations.

    This is why I’d much rather be evaluated by my students’ test scores than a ratings system.

  9. I watched the interview on CNN, and, as a parent I totally respect her position from this standpoint.
    “Rhee told King that she had heard the teacher’s union say teachers with poor evaluations should have been given more time to improve.

    “But the question that I ask to them is ‘Whose children are we going to put in the classroom of ineffective teachers next year?’ My two kids go to DCPS. I’m not willing to put my kids in those classrooms, and I don’t think any parents anywhere in this city should be forced to make that decision,” Rhee said.”

    There are worse measures than test scores, including uneven administrative reviews. In a large school district like DC, I don’t know how you could do fair administrative reviews.

  10. In a large school district like DC, I don’t know how you could do fair administrative reviews.

    At the least the administrators would have to have as much at stake as the teachers: their jobs. That means administrators would have to be evaluated using the same criteria scaled to their level of responsibilities. But however the rating system is set up it has to be based on the educational attainments of the kids which is the underlying problem. The educational attainments of the kids aren’t part of the structure of public education the way profit is part of the free market system.

    There’s simply no reason, other then pride, to want to achieve professional excellence.

    Teaching skill, where it’s valued at all, isn’t related to any professional reward, i.e. money or recognition that leads to money. Lack of teaching skill isn’t, to any reliable degree, related to the likelihood of continued employment. Good teachers are good not because it’s remunerative but because they can’t be anything else.

    The message those good teachers get from their institution though is “who cares?”

  11. The key is to make sure that adminisrators are *themselves* evaluated on performance, which will give them an incentive to keep it real in evaluating the teachers, rather than rewarding the suck-ups.

    Re Linda’s question about whether you can do fair administrative reviews in a large system–I think she means subjective reviews by administrators of teachers–in a large corporation such as IBM or GE, the reviews of many employees (and managers) inherently have a substantial subjective factor, but they have still been done with a good enough combination of rigor and fairness to keep these companies in existence, in competitive markets, for a long time.

  12. When did it become a teacher’s job to “engage the students”?

    Teachers are not entertainers, they are educators. It is the student’s responsibility to be engaged.

  13. Independent George says:

    This is a necessary development, but only 1/2 of the equation. There’s still the matter of figuring out how to create effective teachers, instead of just removing ineffective ones.


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