The District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) grant program, Texas' incentive pay program, was significantly revamped during the 2013 legislative session. The revised program, effective in the 2014-15 school year, is called the “Educator Excellence Innovation Program."

The focus of the program was changed. What used to be primarily a performance pay program will become a program that focuses on a variety of educator quality and effectiveness initiatives, including recruitment, preparation, hiring, induction, evaluation, professional development, strategic compensation, career pathways and retention.
The goal of the Educator Excellence Innovation Program is to 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.

The commissioner of education must establish the program by rule as a competitive grant program. The Legislature appropriated $24 million for the biennium for it, maintaining the same amount of funding that was allocated for the previous biennium.
District-level planning and decision-making committees are responsible for developing the local educator excellence innovation plan for each district. A district's plan can provide for all or just some campuses to participate.

Each district must submit its plan to the Texas Education Agency for approval, with TEA giving priority to those plans that most comprehensively and innovatively address the purposes of the program. District plans approved by TEA will receive a program grant that can be renewed for up to three consecutive school years without resubmitting for approval.
A district’s local plan may include:

  • implementation and administration of a high-quality mentoring program for teachers in a teacher's first three years of classroom teaching using mentors who meet the qualifications prescribed by the Texas Education Code;
  • implementation of a teacher evaluation system using multiple measures that include the results of classroom observation, which may include student comments; the degree of student educational growth and learning; and the results of teacher self-evaluation;
  • to the extent permitted under current law, restructuring of the school day or school year to provide for embedded and collaborative learning communities for the purpose of professional development;
  • establishment of an alternative teacher compensation or retention system; and
  • implementation of incentives designed to reduce teacher turnover.

If a majority of the school board and of the educators at the affected campus vote to approve allowing the district to seek a waiver, the district can seek a waiver from the commissioner from these requirements of current law:

  • Any appraisal system must include criteria regarding teachers’ implementation of discipline management procedures and the performance of teachers’ students.
  • Teachers who direct extracurricular activities in addition to performing classroom teaching duties shall be appraised only on basis of classroom teaching performance.
  • School districts are prohibited from paying administrators who have not been appraised in the preceding 15 months.
  • Principals must be appraised annually.
  • Staff development requirements (requiring that staff development must be predominantly campus-based, related to achieving campus performance objectives, and developed and approved by the campus-level site-based decision-making committee. Also that staff development must include training for regular education teachers who teach special education students.)
  • Mentor program requirements.

 A waiver expires when the waiver is no longer necessary to carry out the purposes of the program.