Is your kid's teacher making the grade?

August 26, 2008 5:00:34 AM PDT
On this, the first day of school, 13 Undercover is hitting the books, all for a parent's right to know. School teachers and administrators are required to pass state tests to make sure they should be in the classroom. That's to check to see they are making the grade. 13 Undercover has the information parents have been asking us for all summer long.

You should have read the teacher hate mail last year when we first showed you the test scores of teachers. But it's a new school year and we have new numbers. And parents have a right to see them.

Its back to school. At Richter Elementary School in Dayton, the assistant principal last week was Geri Maxwell. State records obtained by 13 Undercover show she has taken the state certification test required for her job 18 times, and failed it every single time.

In fact, her state certification to even be an assistant principal expired two years ago.

"You know how this looks," we said to Dayton ISD Superintendent Greg Hayman.

"Yes sir I do," he responded. "Clearly, that looks bad."

Maxwell broke an appointment to talk with us, so we went to find the superintendent.

"I agree. She's taken it and not passed it, you said eighteen times," said Hayman.

No other Houston area assistant principal has failed the test more, although new data we've got show she's not the fail champion. Two guys have failed the test 22 times.

"She's been an administrator in the district five years and has done a super job," said Hayman.

And that's why Maxwell had gotten a break. After our visit, she resigned.

All Texas teachers and administrators are required to pass certification tests.

"It's to demonstrate that the teacher is competent in that particular area to go into a classrooms," said TEA Associate Superintendent Ray Glynn.

"They are important," said Hayman. "They test your knowledge of your subject, but some people do not take tests well."

But if kids in Dayton fail state tests three times. They won't just fail. They could be held back.

Again this year, Channel 13 will post the test scores of all Houston area educators on our website.

Miriam Saravias is a first grade bilingual teacher at Fonwood Elementary school in North Forest ISD. She spends most of her day teaching in Spanish, just 45 minutes in English.

"I know I am a good teacher because I try to do my best," she told us. "An example for this is that my kids have a 98 percent reading in first grade."

But Saravia was in the classroom for a year before she passed the state bilingual test. In fact, she had failed it thirteen times before passing it.

"You failed it 13 times," we said to her.

"That's not exactly thirteen times," she told us.

Yes it is.

"My first language is in Spanish. This is the big reason," said Saravia.

"Because test is in English," we said.

"I know," she said. "But I tried to do my best."

She still has to pass the general teachers test. Bilingual teachers are having troubling with that one.

"To be able to assess the students, whether they're making progress and so forth," said Glynn. "That test is where they're having more difficulty."

There are now 25,000 Texas teachers in the classroom with probationary certificates and considered highly qualified even though they haven't yet passed the required state test to make sure they make the grade.

"It's a local decision whether they place a person in a classroom who's not certified," said Glynn.

And not all of them can blame language.

"You can say my English it not a one-hundred percent very well," said "But I am learning every day. I try to do my best. That's it."

Thanks to The Woodlands State Rep. Rob Eissler and the teachers lobby, some of the test information is no longer public. But the teachers with the most failing test scores will be easy to find. We have the information here.

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