How Much Should a Teacher's Job Depend on Test Scores?
This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from voaspecialenglish.com | facebook.com/voalearningenglish Students in Washington, DC, returned to classrooms in August to begin a new school year. But at least five percent of their teachers did not return with them. In July, the District of Columbia public schools told two hundred six teachers that they were not good enough to stay. The school system in the nation's capital dismissed seventy-five teachers in twenty-ten. It was the first year of a new teacher rating system. Experts say such large numbers of dismissals are rare in American schools. But in Washington the rating system is not governed by the labor contract with the teachers union. So school officials have more freedom. The system is called IMPACT. Teachers are observed in the classroom five times a year for at least thirty minutes each time. They are also judged by student test scores. Administrators rated sixty-five of the two hundred six teachers as "ineffective." The others lost their jobs because they were rated "minimally effective" for a second year.Emily Cohen at the National Council on Teacher Quality, a private research group, praises the IMPACT system. "This is an evaluation instrument that is finally able to capture who is highly effective and who is ineffective and who could be doing better and could use some assistance. Most evaluation instruments in the country do not capture teacher performance -- all teachers are rated satisfactory." Some Washington teachers say their ratings depend too heavily on test scores. For some teachers, half of their rating is based on how well their students do. But Emily Cohen says testing is probably "the most objective data that we have on teacher performance." The District is also looking at other things, she says, "so it's not just looking at student test performance." Teachers with the highest rating can receive a bonus of up to twenty-five thousand dollars. In addition, they can receive a pay increase. Almost sixty percent of the teachers who were rated "minimally effective" in twenty-ten stayed in the school system and improved. School officials say these teachers received help to become better.The Washington Teachers Union says IMPACT unfairly hurts teachers who work in schools with high rates of poverty. The Washington Post reported that most of the teachers with the highest rating work in schools with lower poverty rates. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. For more education news and to learn American English, go to voaspecialenglish.com. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 11Aug2011)