Controversial DC Education Reform Has Raised Teacher Salaries Substantially

yglesias_matthew_bioVia Dana Goldstein, a Democrats For Education Reform analysis (PDF) of the controversial IMPACT evaluation system in DC raises a couple of interesting issues about the real Michelle Rhee legacy.IMPACT

For starters, as you can see the way the evaluation system (which combines in-person evaluations with test scores) works the number of people who get a negative evaluation is the same as the number of people getting a positive evaluation. There’s a lot of fairly sensationalized talk about firing “bad” teachers, but the actual system we’ve implement here in DC is equally about identifying which are the most effective teachers. And concurrently with that, the net upshot of the change has been to increase teacher salaries:

— Last year, over 660 (out of a total of just over 4,000) Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) members were eligible for bonuses ranging from $3,000 to $25,000.
— 290 WTU members (7%) were eligible to have a base salary increase of up to $27,000 for being rated Highly Effective two years in a row.
— The maximum teacher salary under IMPACT is $131,540, compared with $87,584 under the previous contract.
— 65 WTU members (2%) were rated Ineffective and were terminated.
— 141 WTU members (4%) were rated Minimally Effective for two years in a row, and were terminated.

In other words, an approximately even number of people are getting IMPACT raises as are getting impact terminations. Another larger set of people are getting one-off IMPACT bonuses. And the compensation ceiling is going up.

The national political legacy of this is quite clear. The American Federation of Teachers decided that it had nothing better to do in the 2010 election cycle than spend $1 million on a primary challenge to Adrian Fenty who lost. New mayor Vince Gray got rid of Chancellor Rhee, and replaced her with Rhee’s deputy while keeping the evaluation system AFT objected to in place. At the same time, a bumper crop of new Republican governors and state legislators were elected who’ve gone about enacting various kinds of education cuts. Rhee has frequently been collaborating with these new governors on their education agenda, and both Rhee and Fenty seem pretty bitter about getting fired and are making various kinds of anti-union statements. In turn, union folks are constantly pointing to Rhee’s post-DC career as evidence that education reform has “really” been all about union busting and budget cuts from day one.

This is all unfortunate in my view, but it has relatively little to do with what actually happened in DC. Here, DCPS teachers are still represented by the Washington Teachers Union and have all their collective bargain rights intact. What’s more, they’re earning more money than ever. The city implemented a fairly basic compensation swap, in which teachers gave up some job security in exchange for higher pay. This got dragged into a larger national ruckus for various reasons, but in concrete city-level terms this plan to give teachers more money doesn’t bear a close resemblance to the vicious, teacher-hating reforms I frequently read about.

This blog post originally appeared in ThinkProgress on October 19, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Matthew Yglesias is a Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Harvard University. His first book, Heads in the Sand, was published in May 2008 by Wiley. Matt has previously worked as an Associate Editor at The Atlantic, a Staff Writer at The American Prospect, and an Associate Editor at Talking Points Memo. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, The Washington Monthly, and other publications. Matthew has appeared on Fox News and MSNBC, and been a guest on many radio shows.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.