The implementation of teacher performance-assessment systems is an important topic for those working and interested in education policy. At all levels of government, especially state and local, government administrators and school leaders are struggling to reform current evaluation systems to ensure that they are collecting the right information and assessing teachers fairly. Below, I discuss recent reforms to the District of Columbia’s teacher performance-assessment system and provide my insights into the reform’s successes and shortcomings.
Introduced in 2009 by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, IMPACT, the DCPS teacher performance-assessment system, gauges teacher effectiveness through use of quantifiable measures. Its overarching goal is to improve student-learning achievement by holding teachers accountable for the content and effectiveness of instruction. For the 2012-2013 school year, current Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced changes to IMPACT in coordination with A Capital Commitment, a new education plan designed to improve student achievement in the next five years. Alterations included:
- Implementing a new rating, developing, for teachers that earn a final score between 250 and 299;
- Reducing the number of observations for effective and highly effective teachers;
- Enabling teachers to drop low outlier observation scores;
- Decreasing the weight of Individual Value-Added Student Achievement Data for Group 1 teachers from 50-percent to 35-percent;
- Introducing Teacher-Assessed Student Achievement Data for Group 1 teachers, making up 15-percent of the IMPACT score; and
- Expanding opportunities of support through informal administrator observations, additional master educators in the lowest-performing schools, and additional TLF resources.
Below, I briefly describe the reforms successes and shortcomings, and explain how it could have been implemented differently to be more effective.
The reforms were successful in addressing several school administrator and teacher concerns about IMPACT. By reducing DC-CAS’s importance and including Teacher-Assessed Student Achievement data, the Chancellor mitigated teacher anxieties that there was too much emphasis placed on the DC-CAS when determining the final IMPACT score. The Chancellor elevated administrative burdens of conducting numerous evaluations on effective, high performing teachers by decreasing the observations for these teachers. Finally, the Chancellor increased teachers’ abilities to perform strongly on IMPACT evaluations by allowing teachers to drop low outlier scores and offering more opportunities for professional support.
Unfortunately, there were shortcomings associated with the reforms, which could potentially be alleviated through a different implementation method. These weaknesses specifically concern alterations to the Individual Value-Added Student Achievement Data and addition of Teacher-Assessed Student Achievement Data, which diminished the comparability of teacher IMPACT scores. In altering the IMPACT score’s highest weighted component, the Chancellor reduced the comparability of each teacher’s score from year to year. This is especially difficult when administrators are making teacher employment decisions based off current and previous IMPACT scores. Further, by adding Teacher-Assessed Data that is developed by teachers and not standardized, the Chancellor limited the comparability of teachers’ scores within the same year.
These shortcomings could potentially be resolved through two methods. First, the Chancellor should delay negative consequences associated with poor IMPACT scores by one year, allowing low performing teachers to effectively understand and benefit from the reforms. Second, the Chancellor should require each school’s administrators to construct standardized Teacher-Assessed Data for individual subjects, enabling teachers of similar subjects to be comparable within each school. By following these two methods, the Chancellor could increase the comparability of teacher IMPACT scores across years and within schools, ultimately alleviating the reform’s shortcomings.