Just two weeks after the Dallas Morning News reported that Texas had scrapped student performance-based merit pay for teachers, it appears that standardized test results will now, in part, determine teachers’ salaries in the Dallas ISD. Previously, teachers were eligible for pay hikes based solely on seniority; as David Lee from The Alliance AFT (a local teacher group) stated, this system was beneficial in rewarding and “recogniz[ing teachers] for their longevity, particularly in a challenging district like Dallas.”
However, as part of a larger top-down push from DISD Superindent Mike Miles to overhaul his district’s administration, a new seven-tier rewards and incentives system will be introduced as early as next school year which will change the criteria the district uses for pay increases. According to the Dallas Morning News, new teacher evaluations will be based on student achievement (35%), student evaluations of their own teachers (15%), and principals’ observations (50%). These evaluations, in turn, will determine a given teacher’s pay grade.
The inclusion and value of merit-based testing has become a controversial and equivocal issue in the DISD. Besides the district’s decision to discontinue performance-based merit pay – only to then include performance as part of teacher evaluations and income scales – as Thesis recently reported, a group of district teachers recently convened to discuss alternative teacher evaluation systems that do not include results from standardized tests. As educators and administrators grapple over the intrinsic worth of standardized testing and of “teaching to the test,” the inclusion of student evaluations in teacher assessments represents an innovative addition to the existing system.
Still, support is far from unanimous. While the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, as part of its Measures of Effective Teaching project (which included data collected from the DISD), concluded that student evaluations are more reliable than classroom observations and test results in terms of gauging teacher performance, several teachers are worried that students, while completing such evaluations, will focus more on a teacher’s personality than a teacher’s performance, thereby turning the evaluation into a popularity contest.
Before Superindent Miles can enact these plans and others, the board must approve them in May. Still, seeing as they largely coincide with ideas the board was already hoping to implement, their chances of approval is quite high.
Additional reforms that Superintendent Miles wishes to instate in the upcoming school-year can be found here.