“Notes from the Superintendent” is a document intended to provide answers to the most frequently asked or most topical questions that I hear from our dedicated teachers and staff members at the campus level. These notes are kept on the HUB, the district’s online newsroom, and will provide brief answers to different questions every two weeks. If you have a question related to something that affects a number of employees, you may submit that question here. I hope this additional form of communication will help all of us stay on the same page and enhance our ability to serve our students.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: What is the “ACE plan”?
Answer: ACE stands for Accelerating Campus Excellence and is the district’s draft plan to improve the distribution of effective teachers through educator choice and incentives. Plans call for ACE to begin as a pilot program at six Improvement Required (IR) schools that will be identified at the end of March 2015. DTR-eligible teachers who voluntarily choose to move to one of the selected schools will receive a stipend. DTR-eligible teachers already at these schools will also receive stipends if they voluntarily choose to remain there. DTR-eligible teachers interested in the ACE program should not apply in the open transfer process. There will be a separate process for DTR-eligible teachers to apply to an ACE campus. Details will be available after the six ACE schools are identified.
More information about the DRAFT ACE plan can be found here.
Question: What happens in the spring to prepare for budget and staffing projections for each campus for the following fall? When will teachers be made aware of changes at their campus?
Answer: Each spring there are several activities that occur to get ready for staffing campuses for the following school year:
- In January, the Budget Services Department provides student enrollment projections to each campus for the following school year. This department applies district staffing ratio formulas to determine the initial number of staff the campus “earns.” (For example, the staffing formula provides one teacher for every 23 third-grade students at a campus.) Staffing ratios can be viewed online on page 137 of the 2014-15 budget document.
- These student enrollment projections are evaluated by campus principals, who may provide additional information to Human Capital Management (HCM) about the appropriate staffing allocations at their schools.
- In March, School Leadership (principals) and Human Capital Management have “staffing meetings” to discuss each campus. During these meetings the types of teachers needed (e.g. bilingual, general education, ESL) and the numbers needed are reviewed and finalized. As a result of these discussions, principals know whether they are going to need more or fewer (or the same) number of teachers for the following year. They also have a good idea of the types of teachers they will need – for example, an additional fourth-grade teacher, a new one for AP, or one less in kindergarten.
- At this point principals can notify current staff of anticipated changes for the following school year. However, principals should let staff know that the staff changes are preliminary as other teachers may retire, resign, or transfer throughout the spring and summer.
- Beginning the first week of March, teachers can use the Open Transfer Period to seek employment at other campuses.
- In March, principals begin to hire teachers for the following school year; this process continues until all needed teachers are hired.
- Teacher Recruitment Job Fairs are held to attract teachers from outside the district. The first open fair will be held March 21, 2015.
- Approved staffing requests are included in the district’s proposed budget for the coming school year. The board of trustees is scheduled to approve the 2015-16 budget in June.
Question: A teacher with only two years of experience was not eligible to go through the DTR process. What happens if she earns more performance, student achievement, and student survey points than a distinguished teacher?
Answer: The teacher will keep her total points (which will be averaged with her total points the following year). However, she may only receive a Progressing II effectiveness level by rule. A teacher must be in at least the third year of teaching to achieve a Proficient I or higher effectiveness level. Similarly, a teacher must have taught at least three years to be eligible for a distinguished teacher review.
A teacher who was in the district this year and who starts her third year of teaching with Dallas ISD next year (and thus was not eligible to apply for DTR in the 2014-2015 school year) will be eligible for the DTR process next year if the following three criteria are met based on her 2014-15 evaluation: she earns at least half of the achievement and student survey points associated with her evaluation category; she receives the minimum qualifying score from her summative performance evaluation; and her evaluation rating was at least Proficient I. A third-year teacher going through the DTR process for the first time (because he was ineligible by rule in the prior year or because he is new to the district) will earn the effectiveness level associated with his evaluation rating, which is based solely on the average total points earned over two years. That means he may earn as high as an Exemplary I effectiveness level should his performance, student achievement, and student survey scores be sufficiently high. Essentially, this means it is possible for a teacher to go from the Progressing II to Exemplary I effectiveness level in one year. This is the only time a teacher may “skip” effectiveness levels.
Question: What about teachers new to the District in August 2015? Are they allowed to go through the DTR process or “skip” levels?
Answer: If a teacher new to the District at the start of the 2015-2016 school year is in at least the third year of teaching, he will be eligible for the DTR process if the principal believes he is distinguished and conducts a summative performance evaluation of that teacher by the deadline (this year the deadline was 7 December). If the teacher receives the qualifying score from that early summative performance evaluation; completes the DTR application process; and earns at least half the achievement and student survey points associated with his evaluation category, he will be eligible for a distinguished effectiveness level. Such teachers do not yet have an evaluation rating, so they will earn the effectiveness level associated with the total points they receive. They may earn as high as an Exemplary I effectiveness level. This is not considered to be a “skipped” level since they do not have any level in their first year in the district.
Question: How can I become a member of the TEI Expert Group next year?
Answer: The principal of every school may assign at least two teachers to serve as representatives to the TEI Expert Group (Based on their size, high schools may name three teachers.). It is up to the principal to determine which teachers serve. Principals may choose to appoint the members or allow the staff to select the representatives. The district has established only one parameter: teachers named to the TEI Expert Group should be supportive of TEI as a concept and be willing to work to improve it.
Principals will submit names for the 2015-2016 TEI Expert Group by 15 May 2015. They may choose to keep the same members or provide an opportunity for others to serve.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Last year 67 percent of all seniors took either the SAT or ACT test. So far this year, 93 percent of all seniors have taken either the SAT or ACT.
- The District has 367 assistant principals. At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, the District had 253 assistant principals.
From The Mayors’ Report Card on Education, The George W. Bush Institute, January 2015.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF 21ST CENTURY SCHOOLING
There are two inescapable realities facing American education: the growing diversity of the nation’s students and the unrelenting demand for jobs that require employees to solve problems, innovate, and adapt. Middle-skill jobs continue to decline as jobs that require critical thinking skills increase each decade. The degree to which we prepare students from all backgrounds for high-skill jobs will determine their economic and social mobility. Even more pressing, what happens in our classrooms will impact the growth of our economy.
There is a growing temptation to lower expectations. While we often hear a rallying cry against too much testing, state leaders, policymakers, educators, and parents need annual, statewide, comparable assessments. These assessments produce the data schools need to understand the performance of their students. More than ever, we need to know whether students are on the path to rewarding jobs. We can’t know that without measuring student achievement. That means testing students and making sure the results from these annual, objective exams are compiled in a manner that is clear to all.
The good news is that we are seeing initiatives to raise standards implemented in more than 40 states. State boards of education have adopted higher academic standards, professional development related to new standards is underway, and materials are being developed to meet these standards. But without accountability, standards alone do not lead to increased student achievement in isolation.
We present this report as a starting point for compiling available data from multiple sources, understanding what is found in the data, and helping inform mayors about what is needed to help prepare all students for success in college and in the workforces of our cities.
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