For the past year, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has run into roadblocks in her effort to institute what would be the nation's most ambitious teacher merit pay scheme -- in part because of criticisms that D.C. simply didn't have a fair system for measuring good teaching. Now Rhee's department has responded with a document -- the "Teaching and Learning Framework" -- that lays out expectations for teachers, getting quite specific.

For example, a teacher who loses three minutes or less per class period due to "poorly designed routines and procedures, poorly organized materials and space, or poorly executed transitions between activities" would score highest -- level four. A teacher who loses five minutes rates as level three, and so on and so forth. The document suggests that to maintain classroom order, teachers should "move close to a group of students who are whispering to each other," and that teachers must have "a system for passing out papers efficiently or for allowing students to move efficiently from desks to the rug." DCPS also expects a "level four" teacher to praise student "positive behaivor" 11 to 15 times during a 30-minute class. And there is an entire section of the document devoted to directing teachers on how to craft routine student assessments -- tests -- and then track students' achievement over time.

This graphic depicts the system's basics. Notably lacking is discussion of specific curricular questions -- for example, how much should teachers emphasize writing or public speaking in formulating student assignments? Is multiple choice more effective than true/false at assessing student understanding? Nevertheless, the framework seems commonsensical. Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker says he supports the document, but worries Rhee's new teacher assessment system will be implemented before teachers really have the chance to absorb the expectations. That is a signal, perhaps, that there is still trouble ahead for teacher contract negotiations.


--Dana Goldstein

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