Category Archives: IMPACT

The IMPACT of DC Students and Teachers

By Clare Berke May 1st, 2014 5:30 PM

More than one person cautioned me not to take a teaching job in DCPS.  Their reasons varied from rumors of dangerous students to fears about the teacher evaluation system, IMPACT.  Even my university advisor told my mother at our graduation celebration that he didn’t recommend joining the district. However, DCPS offered me a job, and I’m not the type to heed warnings anyway.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to my advisor’s advice because, five years later, I know that taking a job in DCPS is the best career decision I could have made. The students’ impact on me and the District’s evolution of the IMPACT system have helped make it so.

IMPACT is the evaluation system that administrators and Master Educators (who are former, successful teachers) use to rate current teachers. Teachers are observed up to five times per year (formally and informally). Each formal observation is unannounced, lasts 30 minutes, and is followed by a post-observation conference. At the post-observation conference, teachers receive their scores in nine different categories related to teaching and learning. The average of the scores is presented on a scale of one to four, with four being highly effective in all categories.

Besides classroom observations, IMPACT is used to calculate a teacher’s contribution to students’ success on teacher-created assessments, commitment to the school community, and, if you teach a tested subject such as 10th grade English, your students’ growth on the standardized assessment. All of the scores are combined to create your final effectiveness rating for the year. If you receive Effective and Highly Effective ratings, you have the opportunity to receive bonus pay and move up a career ladder.

Before I sound too rosy about an evaluation system that is much debated, let me back up and tell you that (1) I didn’t always feel so positively and (2) significant changes have been made to IMPACT since it began. The first year of IMPACT (2009-10) was my first year in the classroom, and I was lost in many ways. My instruction was weak, my knowledge of the students was minimal, and my resources were lacking. I thought then, and still believe, that IMPACT as it was implemented the first couple of years was not the best system for new teachers.

However, significant changes have been made. Today, new teachers receive an informal observation well before a formal observation, and effective and highly effective teachers receive fewer yearly observations. In addition, if one observation score is a full point lower than the average of your others, you can drop your lowest score. Supports have also been added to help teachers grow professionally. For example, collaborative learning cycles (CLC) led by master educators (ME) and school-based instructional coaches have been the best support that I have received.

I am currently participating in my fourth district-wide CLC led by a ME.   My current CLC is made up of eight high school English teachers from across the city, and with the guidance of the ME, we are implementing three rounds of lesson study, in which we collaboratively design, teach, evaluate, and revise lessons on argumentative writing. The benefits of the CLC are three-fold: (1) you try out and reflect on best instructional practices, (2) you network with other teachers, and (3) you receive one-on-one support from an ME.

Before, many teachers viewed the ME as a potential threat to their jobs, but my experience in the CLC has shown me that ME’s are there to support teachers in the hard work we do every day. CLC’s also proves the idea that there is no singular way to teach, and that no one teacher has all the answers.

I started this post by asserting that working in DCPS is the best career choice I could have made. The role of the ME’s in facilitating CLC’s, and the improved IMPACT system with its financial and leadership rewards, are two big reasons that I am content. There are many other reasons, too, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take this opportunity to highlight the most important reason I know I made the right choice: my students’ impact on me.

No matter the school, no matter the course, I have taught amazing students. Some of the students come from difficult situations, and many students are still grappling with how to be an adult. But, if you are looking for a position where students will appreciate your honest efforts and positive approach, teaching in DCPS is an excellent choice. The students will make you want to be a better teacher, and DCPS will support your growth.

In DCPS, I have found a place to learn, grow, and be rewarded. And, my students are at the heart of it all.


The Impact on Teachers

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.