Columbia, gave the administration the
right to unilaterally impose changes in
the teacher evaluation system.
Rhee deputized former national
teacher of the year Jason Kamras and a
consultant, Michael Moody, to develop
the system behind closed doors. Kamras
and Moody used language and ideas
from many other systems to construct
a method for conferring a judgment
on each teacher’s worth. But there was
little evidence in Rhee’s first year that
improving teaching and learning was a
priority (Davis, Sylvia, & Simon, 2008).
According to Kamras, the initial goal
was simply to “identify the highest performing teachers and . . . to identify and
focus support on the lowest performing
teachers and be able to release them
if they don’t improve” (Curtis, 2011,
The school district rolled out its
IMPACT system in 2009. Although
IMPACT was a giant step forward,
bringing a focus on the components
of good teaching for the first time, the
system has remained controversial—a
point of conflict between the administration and the teaching workforce.
Effective Teacher Evaluation:
Lessons from Experience
A comparison of Montgomery County Public Schools and the District of Columbia
Public Schools yields the following guidelines for effective teacher evaluation:
1 Collaboration. The cornerstone of effective teacher evaluation is a
collaborative environment in which the teachers union and the district codesign,
coimplement, and coevaluate the evaluation system. If the evaluation process
does not have credibility, if teachers don’t value what they learn from it, or if
they perceive it as unfair, it will fail.
2 Professional culture. Strong teacher voice helps establish a culture
focused on good teaching. Teacher leadership and a professional, knowledge-based culture are preferable to a hierarchical system.
3 Deep knowledge base in teaching. Deep training of all evaluators
and teachers communicates respect for the complexity of the craft, establishes
a common language around good teaching, and creates credibility for decisions
that affect individual teachers’ careers. If the credibility of the system is not
earned, it will foster cynicism.
4 Integration with professional development and school culture.
Evaluation is most effective when it is integrated with other processes that
support professional growth. The goal should not simply be to rank and rate
teachers, but to create a healthy professional culture.
5 Responsiveness to differentiated needs. The evaluation process
should be differentiated on the basis of what each teacher needs. One-size-fits-all
processes waste time and add unnecessary expense.
Elements of the D.C. Model
One-size-fits-all process. Under IMPACT,
every teacher is formally observed five
times a year—twice by a master educator and three times by the school
principal. Each observer writes a formal
post-observation report that is based
on a rubric. The rubric translates the
6 Reliance on intrinsic rewards. In a professional culture, evaluation
doesn’t have to result in wasteful extrinsic rewards. The process can be its
own reward. Daniel Pink1 cautions that people who do work involving complex
decision making and professional skill are motivated not by monetary rewards,
but by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
1Pink, D. H. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York:
observation into a numeric score that
ranks the teacher as highly effective,
for an observation and once a few
training in how to recognize or discuss
effective, minimally effective, or ineffective. days later for a conference to explain
good teaching, only in faithful appli-
Teachers who are rated highly effective
the observation write-up and score.
cation of the rubric.
get substantial bonuses. Those who are
Master educators are trained to faith-
Schools are also provided with
rated minimally effective are given one
fully apply the rubric, with careful
instructional coaches, whose job is to
year to improve; if they don’t, they are
attention given to making sure that dif-
work with all the teachers at the school
then subject to dismissal. Teachers who ferent evaluators would reach the same
on their skills, with an emphasis on
receive an ineffective rating can be fired. conclusion on the basis of the rubric.
literacy and numeracy. There is little
Minimal training for evaluators. Each
master educator has a caseload of 80
Almost all ( 87 percent) of the master
educators were initially recruited from
integration, however, between IMPACT
and these professional development
to 100 teachers. That means master
educators only see each teacher when
they show up (usually unannounced)
outside the school district, where they
had experienced different frameworks
and training. Principals receive no
coaches except that the coaches see
their role as helping teachers score high