Houston Teaching Jobs Will Depend on Students’ Scores

3 04 2009

Those with Houston teaching jobs will soon have to prove their worth through their students.

The Houston Independent School District recently announced that it would begin evaluating teachers based on how students do on standardized tests. This places the school district among a small but growing number planning to make it easier to layoff bad teachers.

Currently, the school district uses a statistical analysis of student test scores to decide which teachers will receive performance bonuses. Under the new “value-added” plan, that same formula would be used to pinpoint ineffective teachers.

The new method would measure whether a teacher’s students scored better or worse than expected on standardized tests. The formula to be used projects how each child should score based on their past performance. Teachers whose students exceed expectations will be considered the most effective.

Under the new plan, a teacher’s marks would be included in their job appraisals beginning the next school year. The policy does not specify how much weight would be given to the data in the overall evaluation.

It has been made known that a teacher could lose their job based on the data, as the plan would allow the school district not to renew a teacher’s contract because of “insufficient academic growth as reflected by value-added scores.”

Officials have said that teachers would be given the chance to improve before losing their jobs, and the decision to oust a teacher would rely on multiple years of poor data.

The district’s current plan includes 33 reasons that could lead to non-renewal of a teacher’s contract, and although none specifically mention student test scores, a teacher can be fired for “a significant lack of student progress attributable to the educator.”

The push ties in with President Barack Obama‘s Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion education grant competition that calls for increased teacher accountability. That initiative excludes states that don’t link student test data to teachers’ evaluations.

However, according to an article by the Houston Chronicle, the two largest teacher associations in the school district oppose the plan. Those include the Houston Federation of Teachers and the Congress of Houston Teachers, both of which are challenging the legality of the plan.

One of the biggest concerns is that only those educators who teach core subjects in elementary and middle school have individual data. High school teachers, on the other hand, are rated as teams by subject, including math, English, science and social studies.

During the near future, look for the Houston Independent School District to change the way it evaluates the jobs of principals. They would be held accountable for numerous factors, including value-added data, financial stewardship, community outreach, school culture, the percentage of students enrolled in advanced courses and the percent scoring at the “commended” level on state exams.

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