IMPACT evaluates teacher performance based on measurements of student achievement, instructional expertise, professionalism and collaboration. Teachers get feedback five times annually and at the end of each school year, they receive one of four ratings: Highly Effective, Effective, Minimally Effective, or Ineffective.
Henderson said teachers who fall into the minimally effective range have a year to improve or also face losing their jobs.
Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders, 46, said he's still not sure how many teachers were fired because he hasn't received final numbers from District School officials. If teachers don't have a license, he said, he and the union have no objections with them being fired.
"An issue of concern for me is about teachers who receive two 'minimally effective' ratings. What's important is to look at an analysis of the scores to see if they stayed the same or if they are moving [forward]. That's why I supported exceptions," Saunders said.
"The reality is that if a teacher scored a 2.1 the first year, plus 2.45 the next year, he or she should get an exception with a recommendation from the principal. Initially, DCPS only offered exceptions for new teachers. (However), DCPS has embraced that policy. That was a win. It is common sense, a no-brainer."
Saunders said he is equally concerned about the impact of the firings on veteran teachers, particularly African-American women educators.
"This is another thread that is too important to be dismissed. There is a pool of terminated teachers who despite being effective and highly effective were fired because they were not able to find a job in the school system," he said. "DCPS has an employment practice to act as if teachers are not employed. You might have someone teaching third grade for 18 or 19 years and who is not spending time enhancing his or her employment skills. It's unfortunate."
Saunders said it costs approximately $40,000 to move teachers in and out of the system.
"They still have to kick out payments. There are fees, administrative costs and other expenses. The problem is that if a new teacher is brought in, there's no guarantee that that person will be rated effective or highly effective," he said. "So that means they've wasted more than $800,000 with those individuals. If teachers are rated effective, they should be placed. It makes sense economically. You have to put them in a job so they can serve the children. The lust for new teachers is overwhelming the interests of veteran teachers."
DCPS educates more than 47,000 students in 126 schools in the nation's capital. DCPS evaluated 6,500 employees using IMPACT. Approximately 4,100 of these are members of the Washington Teachers' Union, and about 3,400 are teachers.
Saunders said fewer teachers in Wards 7 and 8 were rated highly effective or effective than their counterparts in other more affluent wards.
"What happens over there (Wards 7 and 8) is that teachers are being punished as a result of teaching children with higher needs and who are dealing with a number of social issues," he said.
"Teachers will not want to teach over there. They will shy away. At the end of the day, teachers need to buy food, pay a mortgage, and take care of other needs. With this, teachers are implicitly told to stay away from those places if they want a long career. The solution is to counterbalance the system by adding to the support for children with high needs."
Henderson said the teacher tests are a way to correct problems the culture created prior to her arrival.
"There are not many ways to measure people across all competencies," she said. "...Test scores are a small part of the overall teacher evaluation ... teachers aren't widgets. They are all different. We need objective benchmarks."
"How much do teachers grow kids? Is there better than average growth?"
District teachers and union officials have opposed IMPACT on the grounds that it doesn't take into full consideration all facets of a teacher's abilities.
At the same time that the firings were announced, Henderson also lauded those teachers who scored highest on IMPACT ratings. Based on their scores, these teachers will receive bonuses that range between $3,000 and $25,000 and they will be honored in September at an event titled, "Standing Ovation for DC Teachers" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Northwest.
Henderson said 60 percent of teachers who were rated weak scored higher this year. Going forward, she said, school officials will continue to offer incentives and support to teachers.
"We reward and retain," she said. "We work with teachers where they are weakest. We offer targeted support to people who need development. We also look at using instruction coaches and mentors in a different way."