$10,000 bonus for DISD teachers may not be enough

There’s an interesting story in today’s DMN about DISD’s continuing efforts to induce the best teachers in the district to move to the district’s most needy schools (in our neighborhood, that includes Thomas Jefferson high school). The story details past efforts to pay top teachers $6,000 to transfer to a low-performing school, which resulted in about 65 teachers taking the bait in 2007; this year, in an attempt to bost the transfer numbers, the inducement goes to $10,000.

Many of DISD’s best teachers seem wary of making the move, primarily because DISD terminates teachers who perform poorly on teacher evaluations (now based to a large degree on student performance), making teachers reluctant to move from a school where they’re performing well to one where the odds are stacked against them. Theoretically, a couple of tough years in a tough school with kids who are behind the eight-ball could cost the teacher his or her job — despite the additional money, maybe it’s better to stay where things are safer and comfortable. DISD is attempting to ease that concern by giving the teachers two-year contracts and other perks. Whether that turns out to be enough remains to be seen.

Supt. Michael Hinojosa says that if enough top-quality teachers don’t volunteer to move, the district may decide to re-assign the best teachers to the worst schools — that has yet to be determined.

It’s a difficult problem, and I wish I had a good answer.

I understand the rationale behind moving the best teachers into the most needy schools, but I have to wonder about the idea of forcing teachers to move, against their will, even if they’re being paid a substantial bonus. Most people perform best when they’re happy, and becoming too authoritarian with people generally doesn’t give them that warm-and-fuzzy feeling needed to do their best day-in and day-out, particularly when they’re being assigned the most challenging jobs in DISD.

The extra money would be nice, but I suspect it wouldn’t be enough to keep many of them employed with DISD for long; if these teachers are as good as DISD thinks they are, I suspect Plano and Highland Park and Richardson and all of the other surrounding school districts could use them, too.


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