Issue 11 – What ‘target distribution’ means under TEI, peer spot observations and more


“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.


I’m currently a DTR-eligible teacher, but I’ve been offered an instructional coach position for 2015-16. Will my salary as an instructional coach be informed by the effectiveness level I receive in September?

Answer: No. Throughout the district, all staff members are compensated according to
their current positions. Any teacher who moves into a CIC role for 2015-16 will be paid according to the CIC salary schedule next year and not according to their effectiveness level earned in the 2014-15 school year. Teachers will receive a salary quote when they receive the official offer for a CIC position from HCM, which should allow teachers to make an informed decision before accepting.

TEI’s strategic compensation model provides the opportunity for highly effective teachers to remain in the classroom and earn significantly more money. Teachers interested in ultimately moving into campus administration may decide to pursue an instructional coach position as one of many pathways into administration.

Question: Under TEI, what does “target distribution” mean?


The target distribution is the district’s goal for the allocation of effectiveness levels. The best analogy may be that of classroom grades. On any particular assessment, a teacher may change the cut points for student grades on the exam. For example, she may set 90 percent and above as an A. If the test was relatively easy, and all the students scored well, the teacher might set 94 percent and above as an A in order to differentiate the results of the test. Similarly, if the test was very hard and no one scored above 90 percent, she might set 85 percent and above as an A.

Target Distribution
The target distribution is also used to ensure equal rigor across the system. Because the target distribution is applied to all assessments and all categories of teachers, each teacher has a similar chance of success regardless of grade or discipline. In this way, secondary math teachers and elementary specials teachers have equal opportunities to achieve distinguished effectiveness levels.

The district hopes to reach the target distribution for teacher effectiveness levels by the end of the second year of the TEI program. For more information on the target distribution and how it is used to determine cut points in multiple ways for TEI, click here.

Question: Will peers be able to conduct spot observations next year?

Answer: As you know, next year distinguished teachers will receive a minimum of six spot observations during the year; proficient teachers will receive a minimum of eight; and progressing teachers will receive a minimum of ten. Additionally, the Principal Focus Group decided at its last meeting to allow schools to choose whether to use peer observers to conduct two of these spot observations. This is a principal decision.

Should a principal choose to allow for peer observations, he must adhere to the following steps and parameters:

  • The principal would create a list of teachers or instructional coaches in the school who are calibrated and have a strong instructional lens. Peer observers, who are also teachers in the school, must agree (volunteer) to serve as peer observers.
  • The principal would allow each teacher in the school to select a peer observer from the list. Teachers do not have to have peer observers; this is voluntary.
  • The peer observer would conduct two spot observations of the teacher during the course of the year. The peer observer would fill out a spot observation form and have a brief meeting (within 48 hours) with the teacher to discuss the observation.
  • The spot observation form and the discussion will not be shared with the evaluator or the leadership team. Thus, these spot observations will not be used to assess the teacher’s performance.
  • The peer observer needs to inform the principal within 48 hours of conducting a spot observation that such an observation was completed.In schools that choose to use peer observers, distinguished teachers will receive four spot observations conducted by the evaluator; proficient teachers will receive six; and progressing teachers or teachers new to the district will receive eight.


In schools that choose to use peer observers, distinguished teachers will receive four spot observations conducted by the evaluator; proficient teachers will receive six; and progressing teachers or teachers new to the district will receive eight.


  • Dallas ISD has the largest number of high-performing and high-progress low-income schools in Texas, according to a report issued Thursday by the Texas Education Agency.

    The TEA report listed 25 Dallas ISD schools among the top 400 high-performing and high-progress Title I schools in Texas for 2014–15. Title I schools are campuses with populations of at least 40 percent low-income students.

  • Dallas ISD has 391 campus instructional coaches (CICs) and 62 academic facilitators (AFs) to help teachers and administrators improve the quality of instruction.


From Accountability and the Federal Role: A Third Way on ESEA, by Linda Darling-Hammond and Paul T. Hill, March 2015.

The Goals of Accountability

An accountability system is the mechanism by which public officials make good on their responsibility to ensure that all children learn what they need to become self-supporting citizens who can contribute to the democracy. Government needs to fund schools and support educator training, along with research and development. Public officials need to know—and to provide evidence to parents and other citizens—how well students are learning and that everything possible is being done to educate all children effectively. They also need means to support improvement and to identify and correct problems where they occur.

To pursue these ends, an accountability system includes measurements of results, means for making judgments about performance, and means of effecting meaningful changes when children persistently are not learning what they need. At a time when many children are not learning all that they need to learn, and when there are many ideas about how to improve schools but none is proven best under all circumstances, an accountability system must leave room for experimentation and capacity building.

Because what children need to know evolves with knowledge, technology, and economic demands, an accountability system must encourage high performance and continuous improvement.

These goals cannot be achieved simply by measuring results, labeling schools, or demanding higher performance. To fulfill their responsibilities to children and families, public officials must recognize and act to remedy capacity limitations that constrain school performance, and to eliminate inequalities in funding or access to qualified educators that limit particular students’ opportunities to learn. Public officials must also eliminate regulatory and contractual constraints that impede school problem-solving and innovation, that impose excessive constraints on schools that interfere with problem-solving, while developing educators’ capabilities to learn to improve their educational systems.

Appropriate Assessment Is Important, as Are Other Measures

Achievement testing, despite its limitations, is an important tool for knowing whether students are learning soon enough to allow prompt correctives for those who may be falling behind. High-quality assessment systems are needed to allow parents and educators to track individual student progress, and policymakers to evaluate the learning and equity outcomes of the education system as a whole.

Assessment that provides valid and useful information about individual student learning, as well as the trends of groups of students over time, is essential to inform all responsible parties in the education system about where to focus attention.

However, standardized testing, when overused or misused, can lead to overemphasis on test preparation and other “gaming” that can weaken instruction and depress student learning. Longer-term measures (e.g., progress toward graduation and career readiness, successful completion of college and career-ready courses of study) provide needed counterweights. Other forms of student performance assessment (e.g., on progress toward meaningful, ambitious learning goals in key disciplines) can supplement and cross-validate the results of standardized tests.

Test results alone are also not enough to identify the lines of action most likely to benefit children and improve schools. In order to evaluate school health and diagnose areas of concern, accountability systems must consider results on other key measures (e.g., attendance, student progress, passage of college and career-ready coursework, graduation) and qualitative evidence of whether a school is able to deliver effective instruction, identify and diagnose performance shortfalls, sustain improvement strategies, and attract and keep quality teachers.

Download Issue 11 of Notes from the Superintendent


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