Michelle Rhee dismisses 226 D.C. teachers

Michelle Rhee, left, has let go hundreds of teachers based on peer evaluations. CC by Center for American Progress/Flickr

District of Columbia Chancellor of Public Schools Michelle Rhee has dismissed 226 D.C. teachers, reports The Washington Post. Not only that, but an additional 737 instructors are under threat of dismissal in a year if they don’t improve markedly. This barrage of cutbacks stems from a new evaluation system called IMPACT, which D.C. public school officials will use on a yearly basis to determine whether teachers are performing to expectations.

The teachers union says punishment doesn’t fit the crime

Washington Teacher’s Union President George Parker classified Michelle Rhee’s actions as “punishment-heavy and support-light,” reports the Post. Rather than helping teachers improve through coaching, the teacher’s union takes the position that IMPACT plays the role of a corporate efficiency expert. That it was instituted on a large-scale basis rather than being tested in a smaller pilot program first didn’t sit well with the D.C. teachers’ union. As it stands, the union will protest the 226 D.C. teachers fired.

‘Every child has a right to a highly effective teacher,’ said the chancellor

Chancellor Rhee has always said that D.C. Public Schools will work to provide students with top educational opportunities. “Today, with the release of the first year of results from IMPACT, we take another step toward making that commitment a reality,” she writes in a public statement. The 226 D.C. teacher firings – also as the warning notice for 737 more – come following the chancellor laid off 266 teachers in the fall of 2009 during what was called a spending budget crunch. It was said that the spending budget could not sustain them, although 500 new teachers had just been hired over the previous two terms. Quality was part of that decision, according to Rhee.

Being paid what you are worth

There had just been a contract agreement between the union and administration that raised salaries by one-fifth, but the trade-off was that seniority and tenure positions were scrapped and changed to a merit system. “Performance pay” bonuses were instituted, which set aside $20,000 to $30,000 annually for teachers who met various growth and test score benchmarks. This goes along with President Obama’s $3.4 billion “Race to the Top” program to improve America’s public schools.

How IMPACT works

D.C. teachers get five 30-minute evaluation sessions per year, reports the Post. Teacher skill is evaluated via a nine-category system. Results are scored for a final tally.

D.C. teachers feel the IMPACT

A sample poll of 1,000 D.C. teachers (conducted by the teachers’ union) found that 52 percent did not understand what was required of them by the IMPACT system. Three-quarters of respondents claim they “were not provided adequate examples” of what a high-scoring performance looks like. An equally large group didn’t feel they got the instruction they needed after first being told they needed improvement.


Washington Post