We hear an awful lot about how the Dallas ISD education Reforms are working. One such Reform is the teacher evaluation system known as the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) that began in 2013.
TEI is a test based reward and punish system. The better your students do on the state test (STAAR) the more money you will make as a teacher. If your students don’t do so well on STAAR, no raise for you.
According to DISD, our test scores are soaring:
And according to a local Reform group, DISD’s test scores are the most improved. Reforms are working.
Are they? Dallas ISD scores are actually flat to falling in reading and math on the 4th and 8th grade federal tests known as NAEP, widely viewed as the gold standard in evaluating educational progress.
So what's going on here? Let's look at what history tells us.
The Texas Miracle it was called, as the standardized test scores (on then TAAS) of Houston ISD students soared in the 1990's.
Reform is working they said. Testing and accountability is leading to improved student performance.
But then the results on the national tests came in, and Houston ISD actually had very little educational progress. The skyrocketing standardized test scores were what’s known in academia as score inflation.
Score inflation is seen when tests are used for high-stakes, such as in Dallas for teacher evaluations and Texas for school closures and district takeovers. As reward or punish emphasis is placed on scores, the teaching focus shifts to the tested content at the expense of other content that is important but not tested.
In the 2000’s, New York City Public Schools were claiming great gains in math. The Reforms of test and punish were being heavily implemented. If test scores were low, student’s were denied grade advancement, schools were closed, teachers were denied tenure and even fired.
So test scores began rising and the Reform is working they said.
But when a Harvard researcher(1) and journalists (here and here) examined the scores, they found that NYC public schools showed no gains to tiny gains on the federal math tests. The final data analysis from Harvard found score inflation.
It seems like a good time for a history lesson in Dallas.
1. Koretz, D. (2017). Score inflation. The testing charade (pp. 49-54). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Show up at the Dallas ISD Board Meeting Thursday September 26, 2019 to hear what teachers have to say about TEI.
More NAEP results: