Inside IMPACT: D.C.'s Model Teacher Evaluation System

Reports & Briefs | June 30, 2011
Picture of a competition award ribbon.

School districts across the country are struggling with whether—and how—to incorporate multiple measures into teacher evaluation systems. In the District of Columbia, however, the decision has already been made. The D.C. IMPACT system, originally developed under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is a rigid, numerically based teacher evaluation system that rates teachers on the basis of classroom observations and student performance data.

IMPACT replaces a previous teacher evaluation system that rated 95 percent of D.C. teachers "satisfactory" or above. Yet NAEP scores for District of Columbia students were among the lowest in the nation.

"In the two years since this high-stakes report card was launched, it has led to the firing of scores of educators, put hundreds more on notice, and left the rest either encouraged and re-energized, or frustrated and scared," says author Susan Headden in Inside IMPACT.

In this report, Headden takes readers inside the D.C. teacher evaluation process. She spent months talking with teachers. She sat in on classroom observations—and the subsequent conferences—by D.C. "master educators." She spoke with the District of Columbia administrators responsible for developing and implementing the program. She offers both an inside view of the process and some suggestions for how to make it stronger.

As school districts around the country work to devise their own evaluation systems that include student test scores (so-called value-added measures) and classroom observations, they are closely watching how this high-profile prototype is playing out in the nation's capital. But as Inside IMPACT makes clear, multiple-measures teacher evaluation is the future of K–12 education. And in Washington, D.C., the future is happening now.