District of Columbus Public Schools: Defining Instructional Expectations and Aligning Accountability and Support

When Michelle Rhee took the helm of DC Public
Schools in 2007 the district’s achievement was dismal. NAEP scores for DC’s
students were among the lowest in the nation, and achievement gaps between
white and black students were among the largest in the country.  Rhee and her team knew that something had to
change dramatically. This latest case study by the Aspen Institute
describes how Rhee and her team sought instructional excellence in every DC
classroom, by first defining the principles of effective teaching and then
creating a system of evaluation and pay centered squarely on it.

Aspen breaks down Rhee’s overhaul of teacher
personnel policy into three segments: introduction of the Teaching and Learning
Framework (TLF) emphasizing planning, teaching, and effectiveness of teachers;
the creation of IMPACT, a new accountability system to ensure that the criteria
set forth in TLF were carried through; and finally implementation of the
evaluation system in the 2010-2011 school year.

Out of this process came five lessons from which
schools districts across the country can learn, among them: creating common
expectations about what effective teaching consists of,
the need to anticipate that the hardest part of creating a teacher performance
system is helping teachers improve their skills, and that continued development
of organizational capacity is crucial to success. While this story is unique to
DC, states around the country should be forewarned about the challenges of
overhauling entrenched teacher evaluation systems. As Ohio moves forward it
would do well do keep the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from DC in

District of
Columbia Public Schools:
Instructional Expectations and Aligning Accountability and Support

The Aspen Institute
Rachel Curtis
March 2011

Bianca Speranza
Bianca Speranza is a Policy & Research Associate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute