Dallas union members continue their fight against pay based on student test scores

Members of Alliance-AFT—our local affiliate for Dallas ISD—rallied outside their School Board meeting Thursday night to send the message that they will continue to fight back against a teacher evaluation and compensation system based heavily on student STAAR scores and other assessments. (If you couldn’t make the rally, you can amplify their voice with an online letter to the School Board here.​)

Members then filed into the Board meeting to offer comments on the system–the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). In addition to objections over the harmful impacts to students from the misuse and overemphasis on standardized tests, which were never intended for evaluations, the members stressed significant problems in how the district administers higher pay for higher TEI scores. 

“What we’ve been seeing over the years is that many of our teachers, especially those in mid careers and long-time careers, are missing these cut off points by one or two points every single year, so that means their salary, their compensation, stays the same,” Rena Honea, Alliance-AFT president told the local news. Members described the problem of “moving goalposts,” meaning that even teachers that improve on ratings may not receive the compensation expected, or that higher ratings are needed because of the dwindling pot of money for the system. You can read more about the problems with TEI compensation in a piece written by three Dallas teachers that actually have benefited financially from the system.

The piece also outlines how teaching to the test, time taken for assessments, and teachers seeking positions at campuses where it’s easier to get higher ratings, are hurting student learning. “Our students are doing well, but they could be doing so much more if teachers were truly allowed to teach without the pressure to teach to the test,” Honea said.

Meanwhile, at the meeting the Board extended the contract of its superintendent, Michael Hinojosa–a cheerleader for TEI–by five years and gave him a 5% raise to put his salary at $351,750. Added to that were “incentive” packages for performance (mainly bonuses for good accountability ratings based significantly on student test scores) that could pay him another $140,000. Hinojosa was already receiving a TRS pension of at least $200,000 a year when he returned to Dallas to take the superintendent helm in 2015–after another stint as the district’s superintendent from 2005-20011.