What it means to be distinguished

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Webster’s dictionary defines distinguished as notable, as renowned, famous, celebrated, prominent, or eminent. Under Dallas ISD’s ground-breaking Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), being distinguished requires exceptional teaching skill and expertise that makes a powerful impact on student learning.

According to Lindsay Coshatt, who spearheads TEI, the Distinguished Teacher Review (DTR) is the district’s process of identifying the top 20 percent of highly effective teachers who excel not just in the classroom but as campus leaders; they are teachers who demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning, pursue and share information with colleagues and contribute to the profession.

Specifically, TEI defines a distinguished teacher as one whose effectiveness level is Proficient II or higher on the TEI evaluation. Distinguished teachers achieve high scores in teacher performance, student achievement and, if applicable, on student perception surveys. On a practical level, to be named distinguished, a teacher must be good at his or her craft, capable of moving students academically, active as a campus leader and role model, and able to articulate these characteristics throughout the process as outlined in the DTR Rubric.

Nearly 1400 teachers participated in the inaugural year of the DTR process. The first cohort of distinguished teachers will be identified when scorecards are released Sept. 18. DTR candidate Rachel Harrah, drama teacher at Thomas Jefferson, describes the DTR process as a step toward “giving students the very best quality of education.” Read what other DTR candidates have said about the process.

Below are the steps these teachers accomplished to complete this first cycle of TEI:

  • Eligibility: Teachers identified as eligible and received an invitation to apply.
  • Application: Teachers submitted applications with detailed examples of leadership, lifelong learning and contributions to the professions
  • Observation: In addition to the TEI required observations, DTR candidates further demonstrated their quality of instruction through an additional classroom observation by a two- to-three-person review team from outside their campus.

Go behind the scenes with some of the classroom observers to learn what they looked for in DTR candidates.

TEI and the distinguished designation are controversial in some quarters. In a recent podcast featuring Coshatt discussing TEI, Dallas ISD School Leadership Chief Dr. Robert Bravo acknowledged that some in education question whether or not the step toward merit pay will ultimately lead to better outcomes for students. Acknowledging that TEI is a major paradigm shift, Coshatt expressed confidence it will help the district build an even stronger cadre of teachers.

“We don’t think dangling more money in front of teachers will make them work harder. We already know they’re working incredibly hard, but we do want to reward teachers and, hopefully, retain our most effective teachers through increased compensation,” she said, adding that ultimately the district hopes to attract effective teachers from other districts to Dallas “because our students need them. Our ultimate hope is that through the new evaluation system we can differentiate between all of our teachers, providing additional support to those who need it through our supporting excellence component, and ultimately really reward those who are most effective at creating incredible outcomes for students.”

Talking TEI is an eight-part series that dives into the nuts and bolts of the district’s new teacher evaluation system.

A Beginner’s Guide to TEI

Part 1: Welcome to Talking TEI

Part 2: Ed talk with Dr. Bravo: TEI scorecards

Part 3: On the road to TEI

Part 4: Under TEI, teachers have potential to earn higher salaries faster

Part 5: TEI based on a foundation in research

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