I know at some point I’ve mentioned DC’s teacher evaluation system, IMPACT. As always, there is a lot being written and researched on the subject, including this recent call from the Network for Public Education to assist with a research project.

Cool beans.

I’m not going to add any redundant critique about IMPACT and, more broadly, teacher evaluation. I am opposition to them in their current forms.

Here’s what I will add, however. The IMPACT system, which strictly grades teacher performance on a highly detailed nine-point rubric, does nothing to foster collaboration or cooperation between teachers. It breeds cutthroat competition.

But how?

In the majority of cases, it’s the little things. Teachers will avoid responsibilities or are reluctant to serve more difficult students because they cannot “afford” the effects on “their IMPACT.” Teachers will consider leaving more difficult schools MID-YEAR and transition elsewhere because they can sense that their IMPACT scores will decline if they stay.

Teachers will hoard resources for their classroom, passively denying other classrooms necessarily materials because of some perverse Darwinian ethos. Teachers falsify pre-assessment, or beginning of the year, data, purposely skewing it lower so their students can show more growth throughout the school year. Teachers will falsify end of the year assessments (not state mandated tests) so, again, their students demonstrate more growth.

Teachers will script out lesson plans and perform the scripts when observers come in to the classroom. And by the way, when observers sign in at the office, the office calls down to tell teachers. I’m sure that’s very helpful to get those scripts out. Oh, and another trick: tell the observer that you don’t have time right now for an observation, but later. But not too much later. See, say you’ll have time in 30 minutes. That way, they won’t leave the building and you’ll have time to get ready.

These are tricks that many teachers use to survive. And how do I know about this? When you get DC teachers together, that’s all a lot of them talk about.

But there’s no way to prove or disprove anything I’ve said about IMPACT, or anything that anyone else can say about IMPACT, because the District won’t release any meaningful data on the matter. We are thus free to speculate.

David Kirp has an op-ed on the mixed outcomes of universal Pre-K programs.

“Money doesn’t guarantee good outcomes, but it helps,” they say.

Even as more 4-year-olds attend pre-K, many states are delivering it on the cheap. While Boston spends $10,000 for each preschooler, in 2014 the average expenditure, nationwide, was $4,125. That’s $1,000 less (adjusted for inflation) than the 2002 average — and a third of what’s spent for each K-12 student. In education, as in much of life, you get what you pay for.

I can definitely tell the difference when an incoming Kindergartener has or has not been to school before. A year of Kindergarten will mitigate those differences. A child’s individual development will also likely determine whether the impacts of pre-K are realized or simply vanish.

But rather than speculate about the impacts of money and whether low-income children are equally deserving of adequate investment, let’s spend a year or two, maybe three, on giving all children in all corners of every major American city the same resources and investment as the most prestigious preschool around.

Should those outcomes not arrive, despite massive investment, then I’ll eat my words. I will never advocate for more money ever again. I would also urge the “more-money-is-not-a-guarantee’ crowd to tell families in more affluent areas to cease wasting their time and energy on those big PTA fundraisers that collect many thousands of additional dollars to support their child’s school.

Money doesn’t matter.

Let us all be clear on this.

When teachers disparage students to their faces, call them “evil,” “bank robbers,” “murderers,” and then lament how behavior is out of control, perhaps you suggest that this attitude is not the best strategy.

I can attest to the fact that teachers in high-poverty schools must dig very deep to get through a school year. We experience furniture being thrown, hallway tantrums accompanied by blood curdling screams, fights, threats of violence against adults, and additional threats of violence from members of the community. It can be very frustrating.

But I don’t care if I’m a green monster and you’re a purple people eater, I say something about your attitude. We’re all stressed, we all struggle, and not one struggle is more important than another.

Get over it and try to solve your problem.


The most important thing that teachers must remember is that they have the power, not middle managers or secretaries of education.

Despite mandates, there are countless ways individual classroom teachers can subvert the status quo and teach precisely how they want to teach. As a white male with a PhD, I recognize that I am not the average public school teacher, let alone a traditional Kindergarten teacher. I have certain privileges. But because of those privileges, I neither let them go to waste nor do I expect other teachers to have the same latitude that I do.

I’ve taken a lot of heat over the years asking tough questions and looking critically at every new initiative. I’ve tried to act as cover for other teachers who have been less willing to stand up for themselves, promising to have their backs.

Whomever Whoever is the Secretary of Education, teachers are the gatekeepers. Education reform has and continues to do whatever it can to demolish that wall of protection. Almost like a positive affirmation, I remind myself everyday every day that I am in control of all the influence that the Secretary has over my practice.

I am fortunate to be teaching Kindergarten because I am not subject to an excessive amount of standardized assessments. Unlike other teachers, I’ve had the latitude and privilege to choose my grade level out of many interviews and assert my preference to stay in Kindergarten despite the transitions that other colleagues are forced to make.

As a result, I spend almost no time looking at the Common Core. I have no need for it. Because administrators don’t care as much about untested grades, and therefore spend less time harassing me, I can and will add additional play time, outside time, and adjust my practices so there is less seat-time overall. The research and evidence are on my side, so I tend to worry less about the consequences.

I also spend a lot less of my time complaining about the impact of reform on my practice because I am quick enough to come up with alternatives. If I can’t stand a certain strategy or new initiative, I’ll adjust it or find an alternative rather than piss and moan about it all the while attending to business as usual.

Ultimately, my students will learn and succeed on all the canned assessments that are thrown my way. I have the evidence and record to back that up. But always remember: you the teacher have the control over what extent any reform has on your practice. Try taking back some of that control and you’ll see what I mean.

Few things in any given teacher’s career will make the ceding of ground more obvious than new administration. We’ve had three principals in as many years. Our school has struggled mightily all three of those years. Each new regime promises to turn the screws on us teachers by adding new meetings or initiatives, most of which are new ways of doing the same things as before.

As the old ways are lumped together with the new, it’s not obvious at first how much we’ve given, and how much has been taken. Quick example. A huge bone of contention in our District last year was the topic of an extended school day. Leadership wanted it; teachers didn’t. Or, at least, they didn’t want to simply add more time to the school day without some guarantee that the time, our time, would be well spent. There were too many questions about the extended day that teachers, with union support, easily voted it down on a school-by-school basis.

Our school voted the extended day down because we couldn’t really get our questions answered. We were simply adding an hour to the school day and that was that. There was nothing to say about the quality of the time we were adding.

With new administration, suddenly we are an extended day school. Funny how that happens.

I get it. Teachers are very reluctant to say no, especially with how easily it is to suggest we don’t give a sh*t about our students if we don’t do a million extra things every day. So we keep giving, and giving, until pretty soon, all those inches added up to a mile. And we wonder why teachers, especially those in struggling schools, are walking zombies.

No matter how small, watch how many inches you give. That ground is very hard to get back.