Forty percent of D.C. Public Schools teachers rejected the thousands of dollars in bonuses offered to them for being "highly effective" educators under the evaluation system introduced last year. It wasn't out of humility, but because teachers would have to sign away some of their job security to accept the cash, the union chief said.

Thanks but no thanks
Many D.C. Public Schools teachers turned down their pay-for-performance bonuses.
Bonus Amount Eligible Accepted Percent accepted
$25,000 2 2 100%
$20,000 12 9 75%
At or over $10,000 268 168 63%
Less than $10,000 354 203 57%
Total 636 382 60%
Source: DCPS

Of 636 teachers rated highly effective on evaluations, 254 turned down their bonuses. The smaller the bonus, the more likely teachers were to reject it: 43 percent of the 354 teachers offered less than $10,000 rejected the money, while nine of the 12 teachers offered $20,000 accepted their bonus. Both teachers offered the maximum $25,000 award accepted.

The Impact evaluation tool has stirred controversy since its creation by interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who was Michelle Rhee's deputy. The funds Rhee raised from private donors for the bonuses was a popular talking point of her administration, which held "A Standing Ovation" gala for teachers rated "highly effective."

But accepting the bonuses would contractually allow the school system to lay off the teachers if programs changed or enrollment declined at their schools.

Henderson's spokeswoman, Safiya Simmons, told The Washington Examiner: "A key element of our reform effort is to provide our teachers with the opportunity to make the professional decisions that best suit their individual needs. ... We respect the choices our highly effective teachers made and deeply value their service to the District's children."

Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders said that without the strings attached to the money, 100 percent of eligible teachers would have taken the money. "They don't feel being a good teacher should constitute a reason to lose their job benefits. It's not an incentive, but a disincentive," Saunders said.

"It sounds like a sly way of getting more opportunities to terminate a teacher," he added.

To qualify, District teachers had to be rated "highly effective" on Impact, made up mostly of classroom observations and students' test scores. Those teachers earned $10,000 for working at high-poverty schools -- where 60 percent or more students were eligible for free or reduced lunch -- and another $10,000 if they taught a standardized testing grade. Another $5,000 was awarded to teachers of "high-need" subjects, including special education or English as a second language.