In Response to Its Teachers, Dallas ISD Plans to Offer Retention Bonuses Under Its Merit Pay System

Dallas ISD wants its best teachers to stick around, and is hoping to offer a little more money for them to do so.Administration officials will present a list of proposed changes to the district's teacher evaluation and merit pay system, Teacher Excellence Initiative, during a board briefing Thursday. Included is a retention raise for better-performing teachers.The recommendations come at the end of a yearly review on the plan, and are driven by survey responses from two-thirds of DISD’s 10,000 teachers.Currently, TEI sorts teachers into nine “effectiveness” levels — based on a combination of student test scores, student surveys and evaluations — and uses that rating to set a range for a teacher’s salary. One of the biggest complaints about TEI is its rigidity. Effective teachers who stayed at the same performance level over the past two years did not get raises.When asked why TEI was thought to be unfair, teachers ranked the lack of a pay increase as a top complaint (53 percent). The second-greatest number of complaints involved the inclusion of a student survey on teacher effectiveness ratings (50 percent), followed by concerns about disadvantages in the evaluation system because class size isn’t taken into account (48.1 percent).Stagnant wages would end, at least for some teachers, under the new plan. Those rated as proficient or exemplary — just around half of the teachers in the district — would get pay bumps from $600 to $1,500 per year if they maintain their effectiveness rating.There would still be a cap on how much teachers could make without jumping to the next tier; for example, teachers graded as “proficient” at any of three levels could never make more than $70,000. That said, highly rated DISD teachers can make a larger salary much faster than many other area districts; for example, in Grand Prairie ISD, it would take a teacher with a master’s degree 42 years to hit a $70,000 base salary under its professional pay scale.The proposed raise was floated on the survey, and 80 percent of respondents said the changes would make TEI more fair.In addition to the retention bumps, DISD is considering an increase in starting and early teachers’ salaries to stay competitive in the market, as well as adjusting first-year salaries for newly hired veteran teachers.Other proposed changes include tweaks to the "distinguished teacher review" process — an added series of steps required of teachers in the highest effectiveness levels. DISD hopes to increase the number of teachers eligible for the review from 25 to 30 percent, while reducing the frequency and length of the application.DISD staff is also considering a drop in the number of spot evaluations. In the survey, over 81 percent of respondents agreed that fewer evaluations “would still provide sufficient opportunity for my principal to know the quality of instruction in my classroom.”The district’s teacher evaluation system has been under the spotlight in recent weeks. It has been one of the main points of contention in the District 2 race between trustee Dustin Marshall and challenger Lori Kirkpatrick. Marshall supports the concept, while Kirkpatrick opposes it.Marshall’s seat is considered to be the swing vote on the measure, with the remaining trustees largely split on TEI’s effectiveness and viability.On the survey, when teachers were asked about one of the basic tenets of TEI — “My salary should be based on how effective I am as an instructor” — less than 15 percent of respondents disagreed.  Continue reading...

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