Questions about IMPACT firings by Mystery Writer “f314 l314”

Mystery writer F314L314 has had some very interesting posts recently, and I would like to share one of them with my own readers.

From the National Journal – July 24, 2010 4:30 PM

— DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired more than 200 teachers on Friday, and then promptly went on MSNBC to talk about it. It’s all part of an effort led by Rhee’s main booster, Mayor Adrian Fenty (D), to hinge his fortunes in the upcoming Dem primary largely on his and Rhee’s stewardship of DC Public Schools. By going out in the media to frame these firings as a victory for transparent school reform — and not an arbitrary, poorly-executed power grab — Fenty blunts an argument that his rivals, including City Council Chair Vincent Gray  (D), used with a measure of success when Rhee canned 266 educators last fall.

So, which is it?

1)  “a victory for transparent school reform”, or,

2)  “an arbitrary, poorly executed power grab”

The answer depends on how good or bad IMPACT is;  and how good or bad it was implemented during it’s first year; and whether teachers got the promised support and professional development promised with both the IMPACT program and the WTU contract.

It was implemented and used as a sledge hammer last year.  First by being implemented without trial or testing across the board for all teaching positions.  And second by doing immediate firing based on the first year of implementation without any grace period.

This would suggest a need to look very hard at the 165 with poor ratings.  To do that would require real transparency which Rhee has implacably failed to do over her three years so far.  Some of the questions would be:

— What support was given after the first poor observation?

— What did the Master Educators do to support these individuals?

— Why weren’t the people RIF’ed last Fall instead of the “good teachers” that were?

— Are there concentrations of the poor performers by school, ward, grade, or other groupings?

— Are we sure there wasn’t any administrator or ME bias in these observations?

— Were they all observed by ME’s with expertise in their area?

— Where there any extenuating circumstances and if so were they taken into account?

— What were the actual scores of these individuals?

— Were the poor scores across the board or did they cluster in certain IMPACT areas?

— Were there local school failures that overly contributed to these poor scores?

— Does IMPACT actually measure “effectiveness”?  (Define ‘effectiveness’?)

— How were these teacher rated on other measurements?  Parent survey? Other areas?

— Did these individuals receive sufficient training of the techniques that IMPACT is based on?

— Were these all teachers or were other categories included (aides, custodians, staff, etc.)

— Also, do these 168 represent ALL the people evaluated by IMPACT that scored 175 or less?  If not,  how many others were identified?  Please justify the difference between those fired and those not fired?

— Also, since DC CAS scores went down at a lot of schools, it seems that there should have been more than 26 teachers identified as ineffective (175 points or less) when one takes into account the 50% and 5% of the IMPACT score based on the DC CAS “growth” or “negative growth” that occured?  Please provide more detail about how this is working!

— When looking at the DC CAS portion of the IMPACT calculation, how many teachers had negative growth and thus reduced their IMPACT score based on the DC CAS results?  Please characterize these negative growth situations?  How many had “a little”;  had “some”;  had “a lot”; had a “very large” amount of negative growth?  What schools and grades had these negative growth amounts?  What was the distribution?

— Similarly describe and characterize the “positive growth” sub-scores from DC CAS.

I have heard from several independent sources that the teacher classroom interactions that IMPACT monitors and rates are the very same things that the TFA teachers learn in their summer crash course!  It’s pretty much all the TFA people learn – how to stand up in front of a class and teach according to a formula.

So, in contrast, vet teachers would be learning a lot of these techniques for the first time in IMPACT training sessions.  I heard that a lot of the new teachers were bored in the IMPACT sessions, having just learned it.

Given that this is so, then new teachers have an automatic advantage on style and training, but being inexperienced, one assumes they have a disadvantage on substance.   Conversely, veteran teachers would not have had this training recently they would tend to score poorly on the IMPACT rating rubric.  So,  was there sufficient training (during the the first year when observations were already going on)?  Is a one or two day PD presentation sufficient for IMPACT training and expectation?  Were there enough opportunities and were these opportunities taken advantage of by the teachers during the rollout year and sufficiently encouraged by administrators?

Might we also see some inverse relationships that show high IMPACT scores among new teachers but whose kids have low DC-CAS scores?

Of course there are other variables, like previous achievement level of the kids in question, irrespective of teacher experience.   Were all these variables taken into account properly during the “growth” model calculations?  Where is the transparency of these “growth” calculations?  That is, what is the more detailed explanation and some real world examples?

So, is it a question of style and sensitivity?  Or a question of a flawed evaluation instrument?  Or a question of needing more than IMPACT and tests for evaluation?  Or a questions of implementation, training and support?

So is it a “perfect storm” of the negative side of all of the above?  A mixed bag?  (tilted more negatively, evenly, or even positively?)  Or does one take the position that any change is a good change no matter how ill conceived and foisted upon the DCPS system since we so bad we couldn’t go anywhere but up?

We need some heavy duty investigative and materially informed reporting to get any kind of idea in the public space.

What is the status of review by outside and independent agencies?

Where is the research that shows that IMPACT actually measures effective teaching?

How much of this is simply political grand standing during an election cycle and leveraging national images?

How much will IMPACT change in it’s second year?  If there is a lot of change, what does that say about the first year?

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. See if you can get it published in the WaPo or somewhere else that the masses that don’t read too deeply about such things, might read. Love your blog and your son’s. Thanks for keeping us informed.


  2. I know of one example of a crazy evaluation at my kids school. One of our top teachers is a primary montessori teachers and her first review the ME rated her poorly and specifically noted that the movable alphabet was a bad way to teach reading and if she continued to use this they would not learn to read. Not surprisingly the ME had no background or understanding of Montessori methods.

    My own son was reading before he turned 4 in her class and left her program at the end of Kindergarten with a passing grade on the 1st grade EPS, along with 4 of his classmates also passing the 1st grade EPS. There is a mountain of research showing that montessori students start reading earlier than kids in traditional preK and K programs. Fortunately our principal is well aware that this is an excellent teacher and all her reviews by our principal were very good.


  3. As I posted at the Post:

    What happened to Dan Goldfarb who shared his IMPACT story in Jay Mathews column last fall?–one_teachers_evalua.html

    (you can see some slipperyness from Jason Kamras here:
    read the 4th comment.)

    I wonder if Miss Rhee will move the excellent teachers to the classrooms/schools where the teachers were fired.
    That would be the next logical step in the its all about the children mantra.


  4. I would love to see these questions answered by DCPS. As a DCPS kindergarten teacher, I agree IMPACT is a work in progress and more information should be shared with the community on the status of that work.

    I want to add another anecdote to the conversation, this one more positive towards IMPACT. Statistical information like the data points you requested above would illuminate the whole situation more clearly than single experience — but we can gain insight from anecdotes, too. This year, I actually found IMPACT and related professional development really helped improve my teaching. I moved from a low Minimally Effective score in the beginning of the year to a high Effective score. I attribute this growth to excellent, job-embedded professional development provided by my school leaders, as well as hard work on my end. I do NOT think this kind of excellent support was available for teachers in all schools, and its absence needs to be addressed immediately. I wrote a blog post (before announcement of the IMPACT-related firings) about my own experience with IMPACT here:

    I hope you’ll read the post to A) Consider some potential benefits of IMPACT for DCPS children, and B) Picture an example of effective support which needs to quickly be brought to scale in DC.


  5. We all know that there are ineffective teachers, much like there are ineffective lawyers, doctors, sales clerks, bus drivers, mechanics, brick-layers, cleaning personnel, plumbers, custodians, politicians, and so on. Most people who start teaching soon find out how amazingly stressful it is, especially in the “inner-city” where teachers receive next to zero support, especially in disciplinary matters. A lot of them find out that they simply cannot handle the stress of the job, and thus are going to be ineffective. So, they quit.
    In other words, the majority of teachers who cannot hack teaching decide on their own to leave.
    A fair number of other ineffective teachers are “counseled out” – i.e. advised by their bosses that this is not the job for them.
    There are a few teachers who are ineffective who decide for some reason to stick around. Administrators for years have had the tools to eliminate those teachers, but they have probably felt it was too much hassle. So they didn’t.
    Another thing: The amount of stress, and lack of support, on the job in the inner-city, which means most of the schools in DCPS, is simply incomprehensible. Teachers who could do a fine job in a private school or a relatively well-to-do suburban school district are – I think – often total failures in the inner-city.
    Unfortunately, a study released today (see my latest post 7-27-2010) indicates that ‘value-added’ measurements of test scores are probably going to be too inaccurate to do a good job of identifying those teachers.


  6. I sympathize with many who feel Impact was unfair because it is flawed. It does have flaws, but also values, as some of the earlier comments point out. But I don’t sympathize with Impact critics to the point of saying, ok, let’s just forget about identifying who is good enough to stay and who may need some remedial work, and, who needs to go, soon, because they are ineffective. We need to put ourselves in the position of a parent — in any ward, and they are in all wards — who fears having his/her children being in the classroom of an ineffective teacher. For another year, or during some teacher remedial work? That is unspeakably bad, and if our bias is toward any group, it has to be for the children, not to make the DCPS into some sort of extremely high priced jobs program.


  7. Okay, so let me start by saying that I am not stating a position on IMPACT, Rhee or TFA. I simply want to bring to the attention of those with ears to “hear” how ineffective the anti-Rhee argument sounds at times, and why they will continue to fall of deaf ears. Consider what you are saying. If the Rhee/Fenty movement–and by the way this is bigger than them–provides faulty information, then your information should be crystal. For example, one question asked for the public to ponder was, “What did the Master Educators do to support these individuals?” Why are you asking this when supporting teachers is not the role of the ME? For the opposition, you’ve already invalidated your rant–and yes, they are calling your words pointless rants that aren’t “good for kids.”

    You also stated, “Does IMPACT actually measure “effectiveness”? (Define ‘effectiveness’?)” In their eyes they did define it. It’s the Teaching and Learning Framework. And in their rebuttal, they’d simply say we provided training on how to be effective all year based on how WE defined it. Perhaps a stronger case might be “how did they come to define it, and what long term ‘DATA’ do they have to support their definition?” Notice the word “DATA?” Use their language on them. Make them support their own un-supportable (not a word) claims.

    “Why weren’t the people RIF’ed last Fall instead of the “good teachers” that were?” The first round of observations was dated after the RIF. Again, you’ve rendered your question invalid.

    And for Christ’s sake, if you’re going to come at Rhee’s alma mater, then have a valid argument. To simply tear down TFA is another strike against your cause. That chatter is heard as, “teachers…fighting change…status quo…yada, yada, yada.” That’s how they spin your words. Don’t you get it? It’s about making you and those who believe what you believe look like the enemies of change, and student achievement! I know you’re not, but when you argue this way, you make it easy for them to say you are.

    Please people, consider your words carefully. Think about how to use their language and pose valid questions that are difficult to dispute. If you sincerely want to be heard as achievement loving, “good for kids fair for teachers” advocates (which you should want to be heard as) then present better arguments.

    If I’ve upset you, I apologize. That’s not my intention. My intention is to help you make a better case.

    P.S. pardon the typos…it’s late.


  8. @Braided Avenger. You have it completely right. I just love the anti TFA bias. It often comes across as ageist, racist, and even, Lord help us, anti Ivy League (who cares on this one). The latter is only an issue because it kinda reminds me how some kids attack other kids for trying to learn. That is so sad and sick, it makes me want to vomit, although that is a real thrust of local culture and values in not a few hoods. But I can see where it comes from. If the teachers are not inspiring, are disrespecting and condescending to the kids,self centered, immune to feedback, and enjoying the good pay–believe me, it comes across. The kids can see that the schools are run for the teachers, not them, and that is the root of so much anti-reform pushback.


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