There are fun dates, like the ones that come with new love; dates that mark important days like birthdays and weddings. Then, there’s DATE – District Awards for Teacher Excellence; an incentive, performance-based bonus once given to Texas teachers.
“Dallas added other criteria for people to be able to qualify for that money, in addition to what the state requirements were,” Rena Honea said. She is the President of Alliance American Federation of Teachers.
DATE was enacted in 2009, and was a bonus paid to teachers based primarily on student test scores.
“For the people that got it, it was a nice sum of money that they enjoyed having,” Honea explained. “But, there was a lot of controversy over who was eligible to receive it, what the guidelines were, and there were some issues with the payout.”
“What we find an awful lot, is when things look good on paper, the implementation causes problems or it doesn’t really work like it should.”
A study conducted by Vanderbilt University found a correlation between educators who receive DATE and higher classroom performance.
“If you look at research across the nation for large, urban school districts, incentive pay like that normally does not equate to higher test scores or higher achievement rates for students.”
“There are so many other factors that contribute to that; you have the poverty issue, you have the large class sizes, you have to look at the support of the administration on the individual campuses,” Honea said.
The Educator Excellence Innovation Program is still under development and will replace DATE in the 2014-15 school year.
According to the Texas Classroom Teacher Association, the program will, “improve student learning and academic performance, particularly in districts that receive federal Title I funding and that have a majority of campuses with a student enrollment of which at least 50 percent is educationally disadvantaged.”
Yet, the issue remains: in many cases, throughout the state, teachers are not earning enough money.
“When the legislature in 2011 cut $5.4 billion dollars from the public education system, it was devastating. Many teachers lost their jobs, the classroom sizes became larger; it was just a horrific event that had taken place,” Honea said.
For the first time in four years, teachers at Dallas Independent School District received raises.
“We see more and more educators, because the salaries are so low, having to do second and third jobs to be able to make it for their families.”
According to the Association of American Educators, 41% of Texas teachers reported having had a second job in 2010.
“That does take away, to some degree, their ability to be rested to be focused, on the classroom,” Honea explained. In spite of the added responsibilities for some, Honea acknowledged, “Our students are still progressing.”
“If education is top priority, as our legislature campaign, as our school districts say, the we need to pay the people well that are taking care of our children every single day.”