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Dallas schools superintendent Elizalde to earn big bonus if students improve

Dallas schools trustees have ambitious goals for Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde to improve student achievement — and she can earn big if she meets them.

Trustees want at least 41% of Dallas ISD third graders reading on grade level by the end of the year, putting the district on track to reach 56% by June 2025. If Elizalde can facilitate this, she’d earn a $20,000 bonus.

The metric is one of five incentives trustees decided to include in its annual superintendent evaluation. The incentives mirror the district’s overall student outcome goals, which the board approved last month.

“I for one deeply appreciate the direct alignment between the evaluation and what this board unanimously agreed [are] the most important things for the school district,” trustee Ben Mackey said. “It is easy to look at what the board set as its goals and how we are tracking progress toward them.”

These stretch goals are based on students’ academic performance and will be measured against how children did during the 2018-19 school year. After approving Elizalde’s three-year contract in July, trustees said the metrics were intended to be “challenging but attainable.”

Elizalde would earn an additional $20,000 for each goal met for a potential total of $100,000.

Trustee Dustin Marshall echoed Mackey and said the goals — and the incentives tied to them — “mimic how big, multibillion-dollar corporations function.”

Marshall, along with trustees Dan Micciche and Camile White, served on the committee that worked with Elizalde and her staff to determine the measures.

Last school year, 39.6% of DISD third graders tested on or above grade level on statewide assessments in reading — a drop from 40.2% in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

Elizalde, who returned to the district in July after heading Austin schools for two years, has acknowledged DISD “has a lot of work to do in literacy.”

Dallas third-graders trail both the state and nation on Texas and national assessments.

Trustees want similar gains in math. At least 42% of third graders must meet grade-level expectations in math this year for Elizalde to earn another bonus. By 2025, trustees want 56% to be on grade level.

Trustees also want the number of DISD graduates ready for college, career or the military to increase from 42% to 67% by 2025.

If at least 65% of 2023 graduates are on track — a six-percentage point increase — Elizalde will be rewarded.

Two other metrics set goals for overall student achievement on all state tests in all subjects, with one specifically looking at middle schoolers. The draft proposal also sets academic targets for specific subgroups of students, including African Americans.

Overall, 60% of Elizalde’s annual evaluation is based on these student outcomes.

The remainder includes stakeholder satisfaction (such as from parents and trustees), financial management, school climate and staff and student experiences.

Elizalde earns a base salary of $338,000 with the opportunity to earn a sliding raise of up to 4% based on her annual evaluation scores.

Her predecessor, Michael Hinojosa, also had the chance to earn hefty bonuses for meeting similar improvement goals as well as ensuring that no Dallas school scored an F in the state’s annual academic accountability grades.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

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