Frequently asked questions

I’ve heard that the student achievement component in Dallas ISD's Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) is fair. Is this true?


Proponents of TEI say:

  • Three metrics are used, and the teacher gets credit for the best of the three.
  • Even if the student isn’t on grade level the teacher will get credit for academic “growth” shown. ​
Student achievement in TEI is based on standardized test scores. Listed below are the three metrics used to rank and pay teachers in DISD's TEI, and why they shouldn't be. STAAR pass rate – The higher the socioeconomic status (SES) of your students the better they will perform on standardized tests. This statement is uncontroversial as it has been well documented for decades. Teachers cannot control the SES of their students and thus should not be paid accordingly. Furthermore, rapid improvement in pass rates on high-stakes tests has been shown to be due to test prep not content mastery. ( New York, Texas, Texas) Value-added model (VAM) – It is an unreliable growth model in education.
  • No less an organization than the American Statistical Association raises serious concerns about the lack of reliability with VAM for evaluating teachers.
  • Peer-reviewed research, that included Dallas ISD 4th and 8th grade teachers, found weak to nonexistent relationships between VAM measures and the quality of teachers’ instruction. The author said, “Given the growing extent to which states are using these measures for a wide array of decisions, our findings are troubling."
  • The Intensive Partnership for Effective Teaching was a six year national study that mirrored the TEI model and found no improvement in student outcomes and no improvement in teacher effectiveness.
Student Growth Percentile (SGP) – It is an unreliable measure of academic growth. DISD’s SGP is called Academic Peer Groups. SGPs were approved in Race-to-the-Top grants in 2010 which led to wide use of SGPs. Unfortunately it’s statistical properties had not been well researched at that time. Research conducted since that grant concluded that the SGPs are unreliable.

While there is information to be gleaned from standardized tests, current tests were not designed for nor are they capable of what is called high-stakes use, such as grade advancement, participation in advanced coursework, salary determination, and failing and closing schools. And when a test-based metric is given such importance, the focus of instruction becomes test centered, reducing or eliminating subject areas that aren’t tested.




I hear people say with TEI the district is always "shifting the goalposts" or "changing the cut scores." What does that mean and why does it matter?


TEI limits the number of teachers allowed in each rating category and publishes the required catgory "cut scores" at the beginning of the year. As an example, let's look at the Proficient II category. Only 17% of teachers are allowed in the Proficient II category. At the end of the year once evaluation scores are calculated if 20% of teachers meet the cut score for Proficient II, that cut score will be changed (the goalpost will be moved) so that only 17% will achieve the rating and associated raise. This score change will likely have a snowball effect on the remaining cut scores and rating categories. Teachers have described this process as a bait and switch system and rightfully so. This practice by an employer can lead to employee distrust, low morale, and dissatisfaction resulting in staff turnover. It is important to note that DISD turnover rates began increasing when the Reform administration came to power and began implementating TEI in 2013. Year ----- Turnover % 2009----- 14.4 2010----- 8.5 2011----- 8.5 2012----- 12.2 2013----- 17.8 2014----- 21.9 2015----- 21.2 2016----- 21.6 2017----- 19.1 2018----- 18.4 2019----- 19.1 2020----- 17.6* Source: TEA Snapshot, except 2020 TEA TAPR *During the pandemic school year of 2019-2020 the STAAR exam wasn't given and therefore TEI ratings weren't calculated. Instead teachers were given standard increases.




Doesn't TEI weed out the "bad" teachers?


Former DISD Research and Evaluation employee Dr. Michael Dryden* published a white paper showing "dramatic increases in the number of teachers who voluntarily left Dallas to take positions in other districts" as the Reform administration came to power and TEI was implemented. The most common reason teachers left Dallas ISD was for employment in other districts, followed by moving from the Metroplex, regular retirement and then personal reasons. Per the report, "These reasons are indicative of teachers with competencies exiting the system since other entities are willing to hire them." You can read the full paper here. Mathew Haag 12-4-2013 A Fifth of Dallas ISD teachers departed in MIles' first year _____________________________________________________________________________ DISD has approximately 10,000 teachers and each year less than 1% of teachers are rated Unsatisfactory in TEI with only about half of those teachers exiting the district. Based on these numbers and when considered against the turnover of competent teachers (averaged 20% from 2015-19), there is a solid argument to be made that TEI isn't effectively weeding out "bad" teachers, but instead the good teachers. _____________________________________________________________________________ *Michael Dryden, PhD, taught middle and high school math and science in the South Pacific, Indonesia, Australia and the U.S. He obtained a doctorate in Research and Evaluation in Science Education and has evaluated international, national, local programs. He was a principal evaluator in the Dallas ISD for 20 years and evaluated most educational reform programs including Federal Court Ordered Learning Centers, Yale Professor's James Comer's School Development Program called School Centered Education, the Edison Schools Project and the National Science Foundation's Urban Systemic Initiative in Dallas ISD.




Why are there limits placed on each rating category?


In progress, check back soon.