Most of the headlines about Dallas schools the last few months have been about the controversial home rule effort to remake the system. But on Thursday night, the school board approved a proposal that could have a huge, immediate impact in the classroom.
Here's a recap of the trustees' marathon night that resulted in a dramatic new way to evaluate teachers.
Just how dramatically different is this new evaluation process? Ask Superintendent Mike Miles
“It is bold and yes, it is disruptive," Miles said. "It’ll require the courage of many.”
Miles said the situation in Dallas schools is urgent.
“Yes, we have a number of great schools and, I’ve said before, a lot of progress in Dallas ISD we can all be proud of," Miles said. "But there is no mistaking the fact that we have a long way to go, and not all of our kids – 160,000 – are getting the best education possible.”
The new system is called Teacher Excellence Initiative. Instead of being paid based on education and tenure, teachers will be graded in three areas: a teacher’s performance, student test scores and surveys filled out by students. And the traditional salary schedule is being replaced by what’s being called an effectiveness scale. It has nine levels ranging from “Unsatisfactory” to “Master.” Teachers can make between $45,000 and $90,000 a year."
Angela Davis, president of the National Education Association in Dallas, told the board she’s concerned teachers won’t be evaluated or compensated fairly.
“Teachers do what they do because they love children. They want to help educate them and become a part of their lives, but if you make this more difficult for them to make a living wage, then they’re going to look elsewhere," Davis said. "With this plan, there’s little chance most teachers will ever get past $54,000 on the pay scale.”
Trustee Nancy Bingham, who voted for the measure, said she was struck by the generational divide on the issue.
“It seemed like teachers who were more experienced – I’m not going to say older because I hear that word all the time – but more experienced are more reluctant to try out this new system," Bingham said. "But then the ones who were in favor of it were the younger teachers.”
She wasn’t wrong about that. Pinkston High School teacher David McDaniel who spoke in support of the changes said he’s taught for four years, this last one in Dallas. But he already has some pretty strong opinions about the district.
“For too long, Dallas ISD has suffered with ineffective teachers and low student achievement," McDaniel said. "By not passing this proposal or by not passing it with the strategic compensation, you are failing to take the lead in telling these teachers and students that the current level of achievement is acceptable.”
Just before midnight trustees passed the measure 7 to 2. Bernadette Nutall and Carla Ranger cast the "no" votes. The new teacher evaluation system will be in place for the 2014-15 school year.