Study: D.C.'s teacher evaluation system affects workforce

October 16, 2013

By Emma Brown

Rewards and punishments embedded in the District’s controversial teacher evaluation program have shaped the school system’s workforce, affecting both retention and performance, according to a study scheduled for release Thursday.

Hundreds of teachers have been fired for poor performance since the evaluations were implemented four years ago. But low-scoring teachers who could have kept their jobs also have been more likely to leave than teachers who scored higher, according to the study, published as a working paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study found that imminent consequences inspired two groups of teachers to improve significantly more than others: low-scoring teachers who faced the prospect of being fired and high-scoring teachers within striking distance of a substantial merit raise.

Written by James Wyckoff of the University of Virginia and Thomas Dee of Stanford University, the study suggests that incentives such as those pioneered in the District “can substantially improve the measured performance of the teaching workforce.”

The study is among the first attempts to understand the effects of the District’s teacher evaluation system, known as ­IMPACT. Then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee introduced the system in 2009, and it was among the first in the nation to link teachers’ job security and compensation to student test scores.