Are our Dallas kids at the center of the TEI debate?

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Dallas kids should have a quality teacher in front of them every day. Although that is still not the case for every student, the progress that TEI (Teacher Excellence Initiative) has achieved is catapulting Dallas ISD towards achieving that end and gives us confidence that the district is heading in the right direction.


At the school board briefing on November 2nd, 2017, Superintendent Hinojosa shared updates for the teacher evaluation system used across Dallas ISD schools. For this controversial initiative, he determined that “the debate is over.” But are our Dallas kids at the center of its controversy? Fortunately, the data-sets shared with Trustees highlighted overwhelmingly positive outcomes for them.

One of the highlights demonstrated that there was a correlation between student achievement results from standardized testing (common assessments, end-of-course exams, etc.) and a teacher’s classroom observation score, otherwise known as summative points. The correlation emphasized that the cumulative points a teacher earns from classroom visits done by their principal or assistant principal matches the rate of student achievement for the classroom.

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Beyond the correlation between student achievement and a teacher’s classroom observation points, there is also a correlation between a student’s experience in the classroom and their student achievement. In these surveys, students in grades 3-12 are asked to share their perception on the teacher’s support, expectations, and instructional strategies during class.

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Although there have been doubts on the efficacy of using student surveys to identify effective teaching, the graph shows that the surveys are in fact a useful metric for gauging teacher effectiveness - an idea that opponents of TEI can no longer revert to as a drawback of the evaluation system. A Dallas ISD middle school teacher who also serves as an instructional coach shares, “The data definitely speaks for itself and the charts are a great visual to see the correlation.”

One of the major arguments against using TEI is that it goes against using a teacher’s years of experience in the classroom as a measure of excellence for kids, however, the results from the data gave prominence to the weak correlation between the number of years a teacher has taught and student achievement results from standardized testing. This is not to say that our lifelong educators are not valuable to the fabric of our schools, but to also give credit to teachers of all experience levels making a difference each day for our kids.

 

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From an educator’s standpoint, TEI has also made it easy to tease apart retention rates based on teacher performance. On the whole, Dallas ISD’s retention rate exceeds the state measure. More significantly, TEI visualizes the fact that DISD is retaining higher performing teachers at a higher rate than lower performing teachers. The graph below shows this correlation between performance and retention. As a parent, community member, staff member, or student - we can celebrate that the best educators are the ones sticking around for our kids.

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Just as much as TEI is helping the district identify high performers, it is also opening up the opportunity to support those who are struggling and/or want to grow. Ongoing support and development of all our educators is critical to ensure we continue to meet the diverse and evolving needs of our students. This is an expectation we set in our classroom for students from day one. Our teachers and school system are leading by example with TEI, which is something to be celebrated.

At the briefing, DKF-endorsed Trustee Dustin Marshall (District 2) shared that even with the positive outcomes up to date, there is of course room for improvement. A task force brought together by the district, Next Generation Teacher Evaluation Project, will dive into issues relating to sustainability, re-branding, and overall upgrades.

Among these improvements, Trustee Marshall shared the need to have a competitive starting salary to recruit teachers. This was something around which many Trustees found consensus. In addition, because TEI allows the district to identify high-performing teachers, DKF-endorsed Trustee Miguel Solis (District 8) recommended partnering them with their peers to develop instruction beyond their classrooms. Solis shared, “As you get better, as you get more money, you also gain more responsibility in helping your colleagues.”

This is something others have found agreement in, as a Dallas Morning News editorial shared, TEI “helps identify teachers who can be groomed for more campus responsibility, such as becoming an instructional coach or acting as a critical mentor for newly hired educators.”

With the help of the Next Generation Teacher Evaluation Project, it is critical that Dallas ISD stays focused on a key ingredient to increasing student outcomes: supporting the educators who are in our classrooms every day. In the meantime, our DKF community will stay alert and engaged on the impact it has on our kids.

 

For more information, follow this link to a second Dallas Morning News piece.