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DC Public Schools Move To Throw Out Independent Teacher Evaluations

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

A key reform that boosted test results in Washington, D.C., public schools by adopting independent teacher evaluations will be rolled back in an attempt to bring teacher oversight under internal control.

Aspects of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system will be changed in an effort to return performance evaluation of teachers back to school principals. The reforms, spearheaded by D.C. Public School (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson, will also introduce student-teacher evaluations that will be included in individual analyses of teacher performance, reports WAMU.

“We think we’re now at a point in our trajectory as a school system where principals should have a full accountability for the evaluation of the teachers on their staff,” said Jason Kamras, Chief of Human Capital for DCPS told WAMU. “We have an entire training program – complete with a $1 million online, video-based training platform. It involves 18 months of training prior to the principalship.”

The decision represents what may be the most controversial move by Henderson yet during her tenure as chancellor of public schools. Many teachers liked the independent evaluations and evidence shows that the policy is a major factor in turning the DCPS system around in recent years. Federal achievement tests reveal that D.C., public schools made the quickest progress in improved results. Four month gains in reading and math were also documented in situations where the District replaced teachers with poor evaluations, reports The Washington Post.

Former D.C. Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee transformed the DCPS system under her tenure from 2007 to 2010, with controversial actions that straddled political lines. Rhee cut through bureaucracy at the DCPS and was friendly to charter school initiatives while also raising teacher and principal salaries. Her years in power were tumultuous however, and Rhee left the position in 2010.

Elizabeth Davis, head of the Washington Teacher’s Union is alarmed by the decision and disagrees with the rational behind the change. She takes particular issue with the introduction of student-teacher evaluations, lambasting the “unilateral and top-down initiatives” and DCPS officials for failing to consult with the union on the policy shift.

“The students who are receiving grades, say they haven’t participated or not completed course requirements and they get a grade they’re not happy with,” Davis told WAMU about the new student-teacher evaluations. “They’re not happy with the teacher. How would you expect the student to respond? Be honest.”

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