D.C. school system gets rid of 413 teachers, staff

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The D.C. public schools system laid off 413 teachers and staff  Friday for failing to meet expectations in its teacher-evaluation system or falling short of other requirements.

Chancellor Kaya Henderson said 288 were fired based on the results of the controversial IMPACT evaluation system rolled out two years ago. She said 21 teachers were not rehired after being “excessed” a year ago and 104 failed to comply with licensing requirements. Despite the number of low evaluations, Ms. Henderson congratulated 663 Washington Teachers’ Union members for receiving a “highly effective” rating.

The IMPACT system was introduced during the 2009-2010 school year — when Ms. Henderson was deputy to  Chancellor Michelle Rhee — and uses five observations and student achievement ratings to place teachers into four categories: Highly Effective, Effective, Minimally Effective, or Ineffective.

Teachers who rate in the top category are eligible for bonuses, while those in the bottom two face separation from the school system.

The 413 layoffs are a notable increase from 211 last year, mainly because IMPACT is in its second year and there were 175 teachers found to be “minimally effective” for consecutive years in 2011, a category that did not exist in 2010.

In a recent interview with The Washington Times, Ms. Henderson said the “robust” program uses multiple observations by administrators and master educators.

“If you have a bad day, you don’t sink or swim because of that bad day,” she said. “You have five opportunities over the course of a year.”

In a recent change, employees who were found to be minimally effective for two years in a row and subject to termination could get a second life if their principals saw them as young, on-the-rise talents. At the request of the teachers’ union, Ms. Henderson consented to allowing the administrators to go to bat for older teachers who did poorly. The school system granted four of the 14 appeals received from DCPS employees this year.

“The teaching job has changed dramatically,” Ms. Henderson said in The Times interview, noting technology and the life skills needed to be successful have altered learning requirements. “Part of what we’re trying to help people understand is you can’t just do what you did 20 years ago and expect kids to be successful.”

Teachers who received separation notices in this round of results can choose to resign or retire (if eligible) before their date of separation. They can also appeal the notice according to the rules in their collective bargaining agreements.

While the firings created a bad day for many teachers, “there is a larger group of people for whom this is a spectacular day,” Ms. Henderson said.

Ms. Henderson said those rated highly effective are eligible for performance bonuses up to $25,000. Of the 663, 290 were rated highly effective for the second year in the row and are eligible for a base salary increase of $20,000 on top of the bonus. They also will be feted at a Kennedy Center event on Sept. 19.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, whose Committee of the Whole oversees the DCPS, released a statement that says IMPACT is an “important tool” in ensuring there is “an effective teacher in every classroom.”

“While we must do more to help those teachers on the bubble get better, we must embrace IMPACT as one of the tools that will allow us to achieve true education reform for the District’s school system,” said Mr. Brown, a Democrat.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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