The Dallas Morning News

Teacher Excellence Initiative

Data shows DISD is retaining its best teachers


We’ve heard over and over from critics of Dallas ISD’s teacher evaluation system — including some board trustees — that it hurts the district’s ability to hang on to and reward the best and the brightest.

New data from the education nonprofit Commit tells a far more promising story. An analysis of DISD’s pay-forperform­ance system shows that, so far, the more effective the teacher, the higher the retention rate. And on average, those teachers are getting the biggest raises.

That’s encouragin­g news for the Teacher Excellence Initiative, now in its third year. It’s an indication that the system is working just as it was designed. No longer is teacher pay based on seniority. Instead, it’s directly tied to teacher performanc­e and student outcomes.

Good teachers have transforma­tive power to boost students’ success now — and for the rest of their lives. In a district with 90 percent poverty, the support of effective teachers is one of the best shots students have to avoid the dropout and crime statistics that too often feel like destiny.

The trends from the 2015-16 school year to this one are impressive:

All teachers rated Proficient 1 or above (about 55 percent of DISD’s nearly 10,000 teachers) show a retention rate greater than the statewide average of 83 percent.

The retention rates for the highest levels (Proficient 3, Exemplary 1 and the new Exemplary 2) were at 95 percent or higher.

The overall average teacher salary increased 3 percent, but the pay of those teachers at the highest proficienc­y levels increased by 7 to 8 percent.

The district had 36 percent fewer teachers rated unsatisfac­tory.

We recognize that the pool in the top three of nine performanc­e levels, about 510 teachers, is a fraction of the full teaching force. We also understand that some teachers, already at the top pay of their performanc­e levels, did not get raises last year; some received one-time bonuses instead.

But that’s why the district has been smart to continue to push tweaks in this system, such as proposing that incentive raises of $600 to $1,500 a year be baked into next year’s budget to give those teachers a welldeserv­ed boost. Starting teachers and veteran teachers in their first year would also get a bump to keep the district competitiv­e.

TEI is not a perfect system. That’s why administra­tors wisely evaluate it each year — with input from teachers — to see how it can be improved.

But it’s heading in the right direction. We encourage Dallas ISD to keep TEI on track and resist any urge to water the program down.

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