Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Susan Headden of Education Sector has written an excellent and balanced report on the DC Public Schools’ controversial IMPACT system that is used to evaluate teachers and instrumental in the dismissal of hundreds that were rated in the system as not effective. In Inside IMPACT: D.C.’s Model Teacher Evaluation System, Headden breaks down the system for the reader into its core components. She presents the perspectives of teachers who were evaluated; how they felt and what they liked and didn’t. She also presents the administration’s point of view, including Jason Kamras the former Teacher of the Year who is the architect of IMPACT.
Headden’s report, which is an easy read, doesn’t shy away from the complexities of education. It could go further in detail by presenting independent analysis of the district’s data rather than relying on what DCPS says and by interviewing teachers at random rather than those who agreed to speak to ES. What Headden doesn’t say, which would be helpful to understand, is why the value-added models that are a major part of the evaluation for teachers in tested subjects are important in the first place. They are supposed to help compare teachers who teach in different circumstances. While there is much press about how poor wards have teachers rated less effectively than others, Headden’s report doesn’t help us understand whether this is a problem with the teachers or the measurement system. Still, this is no whitewash and she doesn’t pull many punches.