The fate of pro-teacher reforms designed to reward teachers and improve student achievement inside Dallas Independent School District (DISD) will be determined in May’s school board election.

The Teacher’s Excellence Initiative (TEI) has been an overwhelming success, and is supported by many teachers. As a result of the new plan, approximately 70% of teachers received a pay increase of varying degrees last year.

Former superintendent Mike Miles spearheaded the reform along with former DISD board member, Mike Morath. It passed the DISD board in 2014 by a vote of 7-2.

TEI was born out of a desire to treat teachers more fairly by adding an incentive component to their pay, rather than system based solely on education and tenure.

The idea is simple, but powerful.

Incentivizing and rewarding teachers will help the district retain its high-performers, recruit new staff, and reward existing teachers for their accomplishments based on merit.

A combination of test scores, the progress of individual students, and qualitative student feedback are now factors in determining annual increases, in addition to other evaluations.

Critics opposing the broader reform movement continue to speak out against TEI by citing teacher turnover statistics and spinning it negatively. But supporters argue that staff turnover is necessary in order to recruit better talent and help shed the district of teachers who fail to perform.

The old system is analogous to giving every student the same grade, regardless of how well they achieve. Such a grading system wouldn’t be fair, nor would it motivate students. In fact, it would discourage students who are outperforming expectations and devalue the importance of academic success.

The same is true with teachers. Tenure-based systems provided little incentive for individual teachers to excel because compensation is entirely unrelated to performance-based metrics. The longer a teacher teaches, and the more degrees they acquire, the more they are paid.

The simple reality—as with any labor market—is that individual teachers are inherently different in how they perform. In the tenured system, high-performing teachers were discouraged by a system that treated everyone the same, regardless of merit.

Teachers should be encouraged to work hard, improve their skills, and succeed. While there may still be ways to further improve TEI, it’s implementation was a huge leap forward in attempting to reward hard-working teachers and promote student achievement. Parents and taxpayers should support reformers who champion these ideas in the upcoming elections.

To that effect, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has endorsed Dustin Marshall for District 2, which covers North and Near East Dallas. Marshall is running in a three way race to fill a vacancy left by former DISD trustee and pro-reform advocate Mike Morath, who resigned after Gov. Abbott appointed him as Education Commissioner.

Not only is Marshall articulate, passionate, and knowledgeable, he’s also pledged to protect the gains already made by the district. He’s also a vocal advocate for numerous reforms aimed at improving educational achievement inside DISD.

Ross Kecseg

Ross Kecseg was the president of Texas Scorecard. He passed away in 2020. A native North Texan, he was raised in Denton County. Ross studied Economics at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Public Policy and U.S. Constitutional history. Ross was an avid golfer, automotive enthusiast, and movie/music junkie. He was a loving husband and father.