Nearly every D.C. teacher offered the chance to forego some of their classroom evaluations chose to do so, under a new incentive program for top teachers.

D.C. Public Schools introduced a pilot program in the fall that allows teachers rated "highly effective" on their Impact evaluations for the past two years to skip three of their five classroom observations if they perform well on the first two, The Washington Examiner first reported. Teachers and other educators are scored on a scale of 1 to 4, or "ineffective" to "highly effective," during each classroom evaluation.

Of the 225 teachers who qualified -- receiving an average of 3.5 or higher on their first two observations this year -- 221 decided to forego the rest of their observations. Only one declined the opportunity, and three did not respond to the school system's offer.

Opting out
Many top teachers and other educators in the District chose to skip more evaluations under a new incentive program:
 TeachersOther school-based educators
Employees highly effective in 09-10 and 10-11267363
Eligible for a waiver after first two 10-11 evaluations225 84.3%(299) 82.4%
No response330
Source: D.C. Public Schools

Melissa Salmanowitz, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Kaya Henderson, told The Examiner that DCPS is planning to continue the pilot program.

"We are certainly planning to continue recognizing our best teachers through policies like this," said Salmanowitz, adding that the system is "currently in the process of assessing how this policy is working and how we can improve it."

Shira Fishman, a math teacher at Ward 5's McKinley Technology High School and the DCPS Teacher of the Year, decided to go for the new incentive.

"Just having observations hanging over your head, or knowing they're coming up, adds a bit of stress," said Fishman, noting that the evaluations also create work for school principals, who conduct some of the observations. "Instead of them spending the time on my observations, this seems like a better use of their time."

A majority of other top-rated school employees, like counselors and social workers, also scrapped their Impact observations. Of the 299 eligible employees, 253 waived their spring-semester observations, 16 declined and 30 did not respond.

The school system is considering other tweaks to Impact, a controversial evaluation tool developed under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. While Impact rewards top educators with annual bonuses of up to $25,000, it has led to the firings of hundreds of school employees -- 309 last year alone.

Impact also has drawn criticism because top teachers tend to be clustered in more affluent areas of the city, despite the larger number of schools and students in Wards 7 and 8.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown plans to hold a hearing Monday on "The Highly Effective Teacher Incentive Act of 2011," which provides bonuses of $10,000 for highly effective teachers who relocate to low-income, high-needs schools, The Examiner first reported.

Brown also has urged Mayor Vincent Gray to conduct an analysis of waiving Impact evaluations for these teachers.