• Lori Kirkpatrick

Other states jettison merit pay, with good reason

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

The Dallas Morning News published an op-ed on 2/1/20 titled The STAAR Test Doesn’t Measure What We Need it to Measure – Whether Kids Are Learning in School. My letter to the editor in support of the piece wasn’t published so I’ll share it with you here.

Since it’s school board election season, I hope this op-ed will motivate the community to pay a little more attention and ask critical questions of those campaigning. The authors stated:

A 2019 study found that the models measuring teachers’ effects on students’ standardized test scores were only slightly more valid than if the same models measured teachers’ effects on students’ height.

Dallas ISD uses such a model in their merit pay system, Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). Such systems have been a central component to the education Reform movement.

However, it has become clear that models like TEI were not fully vetted before being implemented, and now many states are abandoning them, including Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Wyoming as well as Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Former Superintendent Mike Miles brought this system to Dallas ISD from his district in Colorado, Harrison School District 2, which suspended using the merit pay model last year.

As the mother of a DISD fifth grader, I hope 2020 is the final year of TEI.

This past week Indiana became the latest state to discontinue the use of teacher merit pay based on standardized test results.


Say it with me: Because the STAAR test doesn’t measure what we need it to measure – whether kids are learning.

During the last decade there has been a plethora of peer reviewed research (reviewed by multiple experts in the field before publishing to ensure quality) proving these standardized test based models do not work as intended. (Here, here, here, and here)

I want teachers held accountable for educating students and I support differentiated pay.

As such the education of our children is too important to be getting this so wrong. We should do as New York state did, place a moratorium on using standardized tests for high stakes while we work toward an alternative.

We have the opportunity to elect two new DISD trustees (District 2 and 8), and I encourage you to ask these candidates what they intend to do about the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in DISD's merit pay system.


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