Lesson Plans, Spot Observations, Textbooks & More



Question: Why do teachers have to turn in lesson plans?

Answer: There is no district requirement for teachers to turn in lesson plans. Campus leadership decides whether some teachers or all teachers need to turn in lesson plans. District guidance to principals is that only new or non-proficient teachers should have to turn in lesson plans. Of course, all teachers should make lesson plans as that practice helps the teacher use time effectively and keeps the lesson focused on key concepts.

Question: Why do experienced teachers need as many spot observations as new or inexperienced teachers?

Answer: Once we have identified the effectiveness level (not the experience level) of all teachers, we will differentiate the number of spot observations. Next year, we will be able to decrease the number of spot observations for effective teachers. Preliminary plans call for distinguished teachers to receive only six total spot observations (three per semester). Proficient teachers will receive eight, and Progressing or Novice teachers will continue to receive 10.

Question: Why not do that now?

Answer: We have heard this question from a number of teachers and will work with principals and the TEI expert group to implement a change this year. Even though in this first year of implementation we do not yet have baseline data on our teachers’ effectiveness levels, we do know that the principals are currently identifying teachers who are eligible to apply for a distinguished teacher review (DTR). One suggestion is to reduce the number of spot observations for a teacher who is eligible and applies for a distinguished review. Those teachers would only have to undergo two spot observations for the entire second semester.

Question: Can we eliminate the “score” on the spot observations?

Answer: School leadership and I will consider this. We will take this suggestion to the Principal Focus Group and the TEI expert group for input and have an answer for you by winter break.

Question: Do teachers have to use the district-adopted textbooks?

Answer: No. This is another building-level decision. While the district takes great pains to adopt textbooks that are tied to the Texas standards, the use of resources is a teacher and/or principal decision. As long as the teacher is teaching the state standards, he or she may use any appropriate resource or material that helps teach those standards. The district encourages teachers to use a variety of resources, including online sites, to instruct and engage students.

Question: Why is the district dictating how teachers teach?

Answer: The “what” of teaching – what students need to know at each grade level – is directed by the district and found mostly in the state standards. That is why teachers have to post a lesson objective and demonstration of learning (DOL). These two items are the two bookends of an aligned curriculum, meaning that they frame the instruction – what the student needs to know and whether the teacher will know the students have learned what they were asked to learn.

The “how” of teaching is left to the teacher’s creativity, imagination and experience. Teachers choose the program, the resources, the materials, the method, the strategies, the activities, the worksheets, etc., that they feel will best help the students learn.

You may have heard that the district requires the use of multiple response strategies. Actually, we insist that students be engaged and that teachers use strategies to engage most, if not all, the students. These types of strategies fall under the umbrella of “multiple response strategies.” We have trained principals and instructional coaches in the use of multiple response strategies. However, it has been made clear to them that if a teacher wants to use other strategies to engage students, they are welcome to do so. The objective is for the students to be engaged.


  • On Nov. 4, the district honored our most distinguished principals at a reception at the Communities Foundation of Texas. The new principal evaluation system yielded six Exemplary principals and 16 Proficient III principals.
  • In a survey of new DISD teachers conducted in September, 84 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “there is someone at work who encourages their development.”


Last week, principals received refresher training on cultivating a climate where teachers are valued and the steps they can take to retain effective teachers. The presentation featured an article entitled the Irreplaceables. Excerpts follow.

From The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), 2012

So who are the Irreplaceables? They are, by any measure, our very best teachers. Across the districts we studied, about 20 percent of teachers fell into the category. On average, each year they help students learn two to three additional months’ worth of math and reading compared with the average teacher, and five to six months more compared to low-performing teachers. Better test scores are just the beginning: Students whose teachers help them make these kinds of gains are more likely to go to college and earn higher salaries as adults, and they are less likely to become teenage parents.

Teachers of this caliber not only get outstanding academic results, but also provide a more engaging learning experience for students. For example, when placed in theclassroom of an Irreplaceable secondary math teacher, students are much more likely to say that their teacher cares, does not let them give up when things get difficult and makes learning enjoyable. Irreplaceables influence students for life, and their talents make them invaluable assets to their schools. The problem is, their schools don’t seem to know it


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