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Scoring Tweaked For DCPS Teacher Evaluations

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Teacher evaluations in the District will focus less on student standardized test scores.
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Teacher evaluations in the District will focus less on student standardized test scores.

The controversial teacher evaluation tool IMPACT was introduced in D.C. Public Schools in 2009. It tied a teacher's job security to their students test scores. DCPS has modified the evaluation tool every year, including a change this year that reduces the impact of student test scores.

This year, how students score on standardized tests will count for 35 instead of 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. The other 15 percent will be a goal each teacher decides on with his or her principal. Other changes include allowing teachers to drop their lowest observation score and giving first year teachers an informal evaluation to help them get comfortable with the system.

Under the previous method, hundreds of teachers have been fired, and some are wondering whether those educators might still have jobs under this current iteration of the evaluation system.

"It's fair to say if the IMPACT modifications made this year in version 3.0 been implemented in the very first year, you definitely would have had less terminations and a different focus in district schools," says Nathan Saunders, head of the Washington Teachers Union. He says some teachers have been "unjustly hurt" in the past.

Jason Kamras, who oversees IMPACT, says he doesn't think it would have dramatically changed ratings all that much.

"This is an evolution," says Kamras. "We explicitly said that this would evolve over time and we would take feedback from teachers. That's exactly what we did. And so while I understand that critique, I think people understand you live by the rules that are enforced at that time."

Regardless, Saunders says placing less emphasis on test scores is a good thing for teachers.

"The IMPACT teacher evaluation system will be a much more humane system, it will cause less tension and it will contribute to more creativity in the classroom," he says.

Saunders says he would like to see test scores count for 20 percent of a teachers evaluation. And he says in some cases, student scores shouldn't count at all.

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