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Daniel Oshiro
Professor Cabello
American Studies 140
29 April 2015
Kicking Teachers Out: How Teacher Turnover in D.C. Harms Minority Students
The nations capital is known as an intellectual Meccahome to universities such as
Georgetown, George Washington, and American. It is residence to the Smithsonian Institution as
well as a host of memorials and monuments. First and foremost, though, the capital is a platform
for the nations politics with Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court a mere metro ride
away. Despite the grandeur, Washington, D.C. remains to be one of the most underperforming
school districts in the country. Graduation rates are at 58%, compared to 81% nationally.12
Children in Washington are scoring 12 points lower in math and 15 points lower in reading than
the rest of the nation.3 In light of this, my research seeks to answer, Why have students in the
DC Public School (DCPS) system stopped academic improvement, even when compared to other
metropolitan areas?" I set out to synthesize how black and Hispanic students are unfairly
penalized by standardized testsyielding low scoresand how the DCPS then applies these
skewed scores to teacher employment. This results in an increased teacher turnover rate (the rate
teachers leave a school or the profession) where students are learning less and resources are
leached from the schools that are most in need, producing even lower test scores. My argument is

1 National Center for Education Statistics, "Public High School Graduation Rates," Institute of
Education Sciences https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp.
2 District of Columbia Public Schools, "Dcps at a Glance " District of Columbia Department of
Education, http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/About+DCPS/DCPS+Data/DCPS+at+a+Glance.
3 National Center for Education Statistics, "District Profiles from the Trial Urban District
Assessment," Institue of Education Sceinces http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/districts/.

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that the uninformed decisions to link minority student test scores and teacher employment,
resulting in extremely high turnover rates, have caused stagnation in DCPS achievement.
Standardized tests administered to children in the United States are racially biased against black
and Hispanic students, producing lower scores at no fault of their own. There are several schools
of thought when considering how standardized tests impact minority students. Education
scholars Deborah Meier and George Wood write that standardized testing has a broad implication
for minority students: they simply go missing.4 What this means is black and Hispanic students
are actually being pushed out of the education system because these tests are too hard5. The
effects are grave, and that is seen with DCPS graduation rate 23% lower than the national
average.67 But other scholars say that the tests themselves are affecting students who stay in
school. Brenda Townsend, writing in the Journal of Special and Remedial Education, reveals
that standardized tests are based in large measure on the experiences of middle class
European Americans.8 This means students who do not belong to middle class European
Americans are taking these standardized tests through an impoverished minority lens. According
to Townsend, when minority students84% of students in the DCPStake these tests, they are
unable to perform at high levels due to unfamiliar terminology. This lens of unfamiliarity is what
the majority of education scholars agree is the cause of low minority test scores. Ivory Toldson,
Howard University, reinforces this idea when he comments that the problem is not how to teach

4 Deborah Meier and George Wood, Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind
Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools (Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2004).
5 Ibid.
6 National Center for Education Statistics, "Public High School Graduation Rates"; Schools,
"Dcps at a Glance ".
7 "Dcps at a Glance ".
8 Brenda Townsend, "Testing While Black: Standards-Based School Reform and African
American Learners," Remedial & Special Education 23, no. 4 (2002).

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minority students the right way to take these tests, but rather the tests themselves.9 The literature
is clear as it determines that racial bias exists in the standardized testing system. This argument is
not necessarily specific to Washington, but what the city does with these tests scores is very
unique.
Washington, D.C. implemented a program dubbed IMPACT, resulting in masses of teachers
being fired and a halt in improvement to DCPS. The New York Times reported that under
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of DCPS, 241 people lost their jobsmany of whom were
rated ineffective.10 The Education Consortium for Research and Evaluation at George
Washington University reveals that the largest criteria that decides teacher effectiveness is in fact
student achievement.11 DCPS uses the test scores that the children receive and apply it to teacher
employment. This is sheer madness. Teachers employment is based on tests that are known to be
racially biased and known students are known to yield historically low scores. To deem teachers
suddenly ineffective because of skewed test results is simply criminal. The fact of the matter is
DCPS was improving faster than the national average and these teachers were still deemed as
ineffective. How could improvement be ineffective? Rhee violated the principle of teacher
tenure, a system put in place to protect educators from changing political pressures. Education is
not inherently political, but when it is attached to teacher employment, it becomes very
polarizing.
The effects of Rhees crusade to violate teacher tenure have caused a stagnation of improvement
in DCPS. Teacher turnover in DCs high-poverty schools (determined by how many students
9 Ivory A. Toldson, "Editor's Comment: When Standardized Tests Miss the Mark," The Journal
of Negro Education 81, no. 3 (2012).
10 Tamar Lewin, "School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington," The New York Times
2010.
11 Education Consortium for Research and Evaluation, "Evaluation of the Dc Public Education
Reform Amendment Act (Peraa)," (Washington, DC: George Washington University, 2013).

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received free or reduced price lunch) is at 32.4%, and has an average of 19.1% for all schools.12
As a comparison, the national average is 15.7%.13Baltimore public schools have a similar
demographic makeup as Washington (63.4% and 67% black respectively).14 15 This similar racial
makeup would in theory control for any racial bias standardized testing may have on teacher
turnover; however the difference is in how much of an impact IMPACT really has: Baltimore
Citys teacher attrition (teachers who leave after 5 years of employment) is 34% compared to
DCs 56%.16 17 The vast difference in the amount of teachers who lose their job in Washington is
due in part, if not in whole, to DCs IMPACT teacher evaluation program. When comparing
historical student achievement in DC and nationally, a rate of improvement in DC is seen that
was greater than the rate of improvement achieved at the national level.18 This trend of DC
gaining on national achievement continued until Rhees mass firings, at which point there were
no more gains towards meeting national achievement levels. The current rate of improvement in
DCwhen controlled for variables such as raceis no longer making any gains compared to the
nation.19 While it may be easy to see a correlation between when DC stopped making gains on
the national achievement levels, causation on why this occurred may be harder. However, by

12 Matthew Carlo, "Teacher Turnover in Dcps," Albert Shanker Institute,


http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/teacher-turnover-dcps.
13 National Center for Education Statistics, "District Profiles from the Trial Urban District
Assessment".
14 ProximityOne Information Resources and Solutions, "Baltimore City Public Schools, Md -Dp1 General Demoraphic Characteristics,"
http://proximityone.com/acs/dpmd/dp1_2400090.htm.
15 Schools, "Dcps at a Glance ".
16 Education Consortium for Research and Evaluation, "Evaluation of the Dc Public Education
Reform Amendment Act (Peraa)."
17 Maryland State Department of Education, "Maryland Teacher Staffing Report," (Baltimore,
Maryland2012).
18 National Center for Education Statistics, "District Profiles from the Trial Urban District
Assessment".
19 Ibid.

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analyzing the effects teacher turnover has on children, it is possible to understand why IMPACT
is so detrimental to students.
The effects of teacher turnover cause students academic harm and leach resources from the
schools most in need. Gary Barnes, Edward Crowe, and Benjamin Shaefer, writing for the
National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future, have done a case study on how teacher
turnover affects student achievement. The most evident problem found with turnover is the costs
associated with the practice: Turnover costs become a drain on already scarce resources that
could otherwise be invested to improve teaching effectiveness and student growth.20 In other
words, Barnes, Crowe, and Shaefer identified that the costs associated with trying to hire new
teachers to fill the void leach resources from schools who desperately need it to put towards
constructive programs for childrens learning. Building on this finding, Linda Darling-Hammond
and Gary Sykes determined that not only do schools spend frivolous resources hiring new
teachers, but also the replacement teachers are generally underqualified compared to the ones
they replaced.21 Not only are under-funded schools being forced to spend money on the hiring
process to fill vacancies left by Rhee and her IMPACT program, but also the teachers they end
up hiring do a worse job than the ones they replaced. Children in these schools are impacted
twofold: they lack programs students at other schools can afford with funds they did not spend
on teacher turnover and their teachers are not as qualified as the ones who left. Furthermore, do
not lose sight of the fact that the need for teachers was in fact created because of a connection
between teacher employment and students test scores.

20 Gary Barnes, Edward Crowe, and Benjamin Schafer, "The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Five
School Districts: A Pilot Study," National Commision on Teaching and America's Future (2007).
21 Linda Darling-Hammond and Gary Sykes, "Wanted: A National Teacher Supply Policy for
Education: The Right Way to Meet the "Highly Qualified Teacher" Challenge," Education Policy
Analysis Archives 11, no. 33 (2003).

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The only plausible answer to the stagnation of progress in student achievement is the
implementation of the IMPACT program. In hopes to create a transparent teacher evaluation
system, Rhee has failed and it is hurting the poorest minority students. The IMPACT program
uses racially biased standardized test results to arbitrarily assign teachers effectiveness. Teachers
are then fired because of this and the schools with the highest concentration of minority students
also the ones most likely to score the lowestare stuck with trying to find new educators. This
daunting task causes financial resources to be routed from programs that can enhance learning, to
trying to field basic necessitieslike a teacher. These new teachers do not have the experience or
prowess necessary to be effective educators, and their pupils do not learn. Now the new
educators are going to be evaluated on test scores of children who had a hard time understanding
the teacher, and they will most likely be fired. The cycle continues and it is because of IMPACT.
Many were happy to hear that the lowest performing teachers were fired from teaching
DCs youth, but at what cost. What has been gained from firing hundreds of teachers? How much
time have these children lost because of new and inexperienced teachers, when time is something
that cannot be given back. There is absolutely nothing to show for the IMPACT program but lost
time and no progress. People should be outraged that this program is still in place and continues
to arbitrarily connect test scores with employment opportunities. There are other methods of
teacher evaluation that do not rely on biased sources, but connect the vital institutions of
education with one another.

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Bibliography
Barnes, Gary, Edward Crowe, and Benjamin Schafer. "The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Five
School Districts: A Pilot Study." National Commision on Teaching and America's Future
(2007).
Carlo, Matthew. "Teacher Turnover in Dcps." Albert Shanker Institute,
http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/teacher-turnover-dcps.
Darling-Hammond, Linda, and Gary Sykes. "Wanted: A National Teacher Supply Policy for
Education: The Right Way to Meet the "Highly Qualified Teacher" Challenge."
Education Policy Analysis Archives 11, no. 33 (2003): 1-55.
Education Consortium for Research and Evaluation. "Evaluation of the Dc Public Education
Reform Amendment Act (Peraa)." Washington, DC: George Washington University,
2013.
Education, Maryland State Department of. "Maryland Teacher Staffing Report." Baltimore,
Maryland, 2012.
Lewin, Tamar. "School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington." The New York Times,
2010.
Meier, Deborah, and George Wood. Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind
Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2004.
National Center for Education Statistics. "District Profiles from the Trial Urban District
Assessment." Institue of Education Sceinces
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/districts/.
. "Public High School Graduation Rates." Institute of Education Sciences
https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp.

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ProximityOne Information Resources and Solutions. "Baltimore City Public Schools, Md -- Dp1
General Demoraphic Characteristics."
http://proximityone.com/acs/dpmd/dp1_2400090.htm.
Schools, District of Columbia Public. "Dcps at a Glance " District of Columbia Department of
Education, http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/About+DCPS/DCPS+Data/DCPS+at+a+Glance.
Toldson, Ivory A. "Editor's Comment: When Standardized Tests Miss the Mark." The Journal of
Negro Education 81, no. 3 (2012): 181-85.
Townsend, Brenda. "Testing While Black: Standards-Based School Reform and African
American Learners." Remedial & Special Education 23, no. 4 (07//July/August 2002
2002): 222-30.