Dozens Of DC Teachers Rated Incorrectly

School officials have disclosed that 44 D.C. teachers, including one who lost his job because of low ratings, were victims of an erroneous performance evaluation. Since the system launched a controversial initiative in 2009 to evaluate teachers in part on student test scores, school officials described these errors as the most significant.

According to chief of human capital for D.C. Public Schools, Jason Kamras, half of the evaluations for the 44 teachers were too high and half too low. The school system has about 4,000 teachers, only about 1% of which were affected. However, of the teachers whose work is judged in part on annual city test results for their classrooms, they comprise nearly 10%. The school system will leave unchanged the ratings that were too high but will raise those that were too low while the fired teacher would be reinstated and compensated for lost salary as Kamras put it.

“We will make the teacher completely whole,” he said.

Kamras also said that a bonus of $15,000 would be handed to each of three teachers whose ratings are being revised upwards.

According to Nick Anderson of The Washington Post, to quantify the value a given teacher adds to the classroom, the evaluation errors underscore the high stakes of a teacher evaluation system that relies in part on standardized test scores. IMPACT, as the evaluation system is known, has drawn widespread attention since it began under former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. It remains a centerpiece of efforts to raise the performance of long-struggling schools in the nation’s capital, and a flashpoint in the national school-reform debate. It is essential to hold ineffective teachers accountable for poor results and reward those who are highly effective as backers of IMPACT suggest. However, efforts to distill teaching outcomes to a set of numbers are misguided and unfair according to critics.

The president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, Elizabeth A. Davis believes that the disclosure of mistaken teacher ratings for the 2012-13 school year was disturbing.

“IMPACT needs to be reevaluated,” Davis said. “The idea of attaching test scores to a teacher’s evaluation — that idea needs to be junked.”

A letter was sent to D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson by Davis demanding more information about the errors and the evaluation system. In response, Kamras said that as soon as school officials learned of the errors from Mathematica Policy Group, the research firm the city hired to crunch numbers used in the evaluations, they reacted swiftly to rectify them.

“We take these kinds of things extremely seriously,” Kamras said. “Any mistake is unacceptable to us.”

All teachers are evaluated based on classroom observations and other metrics under IMPACT. The value-added formula accounts for 35 percent of the evaluation for teachers in affected grades and subjects. One of five ratings; ineffective, minimally effective, developing, effective or highly effective, are given to the teachers. Those rated ineffective are subject to dismissal . It is the same fate for those rated “minimally effective” two years in a row or “developing” three years in a row.