D.C. Public Schools Teachers: More Accepting Performance-Based Bonuses Than Before

More highly rated teachers in D.C. Public Schools are accepting performance-based bonuses than in the past, American University Radio WAMU reports.

Of the 670 teachers eligible for bonuses, 70 percent accepted -- a 10 percentage point increase over the previous year, in which 60 percent of the 636 eligible teachers took the offer, according to WAMU.

Based on numbers reported by WAMU, the less a teacher was offered for the bonus this year, the less likely the teacher was to accept. The one teacher who was offered the highest $25,000 bonus took the incentive.

DCPS evaluates its teachers and staff on a system it calls IMPACT, which assesses teacher performance according to student achievement, instructional expertise, collaboration and professionalism.

The system was put in place under former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and the incentives program allows teachers to earn up to $25,000 in one-time bonuses for high performance, and those earning ratings of "highly effective" for two consecutive years could see base pay raises of up to $26,000 annually, The Washington Post reports. Bonus offer amounts can vary based on factors like a school's socioeconomic layout or course subject.

IMPACT mandates that teachers be observed five times a year, scoring them on a scale of 1 to 4, with a score of 1 being "ineffective," and 4 being "highly effective."

Current DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson relaxed some IMPACT policies after she took her post, and the district further eased the policy this month with the announcement that teachers who earn "highly effective" ratings for the last two years and who scored a 3.5 average on their first two evaluations this school year can opt out of the final three observations, according to The Washington Examiner.

While D.C. teachers who earn the top mark of "highly effective" are taking in the bonuses, 413 other D.C. educators were let go for being deemed ineffective or failing to comply with licensure requirements.

The awarded bonuses and educator firings also come at a tumultuous time for DCPS. The district released in July standardized test results that show overall improvements among its students, but the results and the district's test practices have become the target of an Education Department investigation into alleged cheating among teachers to attain those scores, which also factor into a teacher's performance evaluation.