DCPS evaluation system frustrates teachers

Gil Leifman and Maya Roskes

With impending teacher evaluations, Wilson staff members have expressed mixed opinions regarding “IMPACT: the DCPS Evaluation and Feedback System for School Based Personnel.”

Evaluations are conducted twice a year for most school staff, where they are formally observed and then provided with frequent, specific, and consistent feedback. A number of teachers and administrators like the IMPACT system. “I feel like what’s expected of me is very clear-cut,” 11th grade dean Dominik Burkes said, adding that he feels the feedback he gets really helps him move forward.

 While the IMPACT team constructs the rules and guidelines for evaluations, they do not conduct the observations themselves. Principals and school administrators oversee the formal observations of teachers’ classrooms, and teachers must show that they’re meeting the expectations and standards. 

Lady Arteaga is a Spanish teacher new to Wilson this year, experiencing the effects of IMPACT for the first time. “I am starting to get familiar with the system. The support that DCPS gives to new teachers is very important. I have found very interesting and supporting material,” Arteaga said. 

Offering a contrasting view, an anonymous returning teacher expressed the hardships they have experienced with IMPACT evaluations this year.

“Why does it need to be more difficult to be evaluated, when this year is so challenging already?” They added that DCPS as a whole is too big for this evaluation system to fit everyone’s needs.

The IMPACT system was designed with input given by DCPS school staff, but the process is not finalized yet; it will continue to change with the feedback issued from the Washington Teachers’ Union, school administrators, and national evaluation experts.

In 2019, Chancellor Ferebee launched a massive IMPACT review, where over 3,500 teachers and staff gave their input on the system. The analyzed data led to the multi-year examinations implemented this school year. One consistency that the review found was that many teachers experienced stress prior to receiving their evaluation scores. It also showed that numerous teachers, especially those new to DCPS, did not feel they had a full understanding of the system. 

On the positive side, results show that the number of teachers staying in DCPS from year to year has increased from when IMPACT was first implemented. Finally, teachers were split on whether or not the system helped them grow.

IMPACT has adapted and changed through the years since its creation in 2009, but when the pandemic caused drastic changes in education and learning, IMPACT evaluations stayed much the same. An anonymous teacher expressed their frustration with IMPACT not adapting to new pandemic-related changes: “I think teachers, students, and families are more affected than people are letting on. It seems like we’re just supposed to go on, as if it didn’t happen,” the teacher said.

An anonymous school administrator and evaluator said they hoped DCPS could modify IMPACT to “reflect the new realities of post-pandemic learning in education.” •