Kids Come First in DC

Michelle Rhee’s teacher evaluation design has put the Nation’s Capital on the map. IMPACT,  process she established in 2009, allows DC Public Schools officials to circumvent the monopoly bargaining contract in order to evaluate and reward good teacher performance, and improve student outcomes.  Arnold F. Shober is author of “Teacher Dismissal in the District of Columbia,” an American Enterprise Institute publication.

Like other American school districts, teachers in DCPS are also covered by local civil service protections in municipal code and by a collective bargaining agreement with the district’s teachers’ union. These processes can take close to a year to wend through a judicial process. IMPACT’s timeline is clear and short. What makes DCPS’s situation unique, however, is that the two more traditional mechanisms have been largely supplanted by IMPACT except in cases of illegal activity.

Although IMPACT makes headlines for its focus on student performance, the system provides teachers with a core focus on classroom practice and multiple opportunities for feedback on their teaching. The stress of IMPACT evaluation has not noticeably reduced teacher retention in the district. Some studies suggest that student performance has meaningfully improved for some students as a result. Even critics of the program have credited IMPACT with driving DCPS to focus on student achievement, and it seems that students have come out ahead.