By Earl Jones March 19th, 2014 10:00 AM
Prior to joining DCPS, I noticed two major flaws in my non-K12 work environment: a lack of clear expectations for my teaching and specific feedback on how to improve.
So, when I was looking for a new position, I made sure to do my research. That’s when I found IMPACT, the performance assessment system in DCPS for all school-based positions. I found it to be exactly what I was looking for. It promised clear expectations, support, and the feedback that I was missing to help me push my students academically.
In my experience, I have found that the most useful component of IMPACT is the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF). Through the TLF, my administrators and master educators (the district’s content area experts) assess my effectiveness through classroom observations and then provide feedback and support during a debrief session. They observe obvious things, like how well I explain content, engage my students, and develop higher-level thinking in my classroom. Then they go even further, looking for indicators of teacher effectiveness like a supportive learning-focused classroom and maximized instructional time (i.e. a lack of student disruptions, distractions, and “down-time”). These clear expectations about what defines excellent teaching help me plan every part of my lesson, from the hook to the independent practice. In fact, there are times when I literally check my lesson plan against the TLF criteria to make sure I’m doing my best work.
During the debrief session, I meet with either my principal and master educator to go over what they saw in my lesson. These sessions have been important to my development, helping me gain insight into how to increase my effectiveness in the classroom. For example, my observer recently suggested that I reinforce vocabulary when working with my English language learning students. This gave my students more choice in how they wanted to show mastery of a concept and helped further push my students who perform above grade level.
Most times, I have agreed with the feedback given. While I, of course, put my best effort into planning each lesson, sometimes I don’t see the gaps in my planning until an objective observer sheds light. It drives me even more when I see that many times, there’s always something I can do better for the benefit of my students.
Since I am a 4th grade teacher, I also receive an Individual Value-Added Achievement (IVA) score as a part of my evaluation. This score is calculated by looking at my students’ projected DC CAS scores (based on a number of criteria, including past test scores) and comparing them to how my students’ actually scored on the day of the test. If my students performed better than projected, this says that I have had a positive impact on my students’ learning throughout the year. As a PD tool, revisiting my IVA score allows me reflect back on my best practices from the previous year when planning for the upcoming school year.
Linked with IMPACT is IMPACTplus, the compensation system that recognizes teachers who achieve a Highly Effective at the end of a school year. These teachers are eligible for leadership opportunities without transitioning from classroom teaching, increases in base pay, and bonuses of up to $25,000. I feel as though IMPACTplus proves how much DCPS values its teachers. A pat on the back and a “great job” are one thing, but providing new opportunities and writing a check are another.
I am truly fortunate to work for a school system that utilizes a system like IMPACT. I feel as though DCPS shows a true investment in their teachers. The use of a concrete assessment and feedback system, in conjunction with recognition and compensation system based on merit and effectiveness, has definitely impacted me and other teachers in the district.