Big payday today for many HISD employees

January 27, 2010 11:35:21 AM PST
The Houston Independent School District handed out more than $40 million in performance bonuses today. Those bonuses will go to 90 percent of eligible employees and they range from just $25 to more than $15,000. The money is going to teachers and others as a reward for a job well done. The performance pay plan is supposed to reward academic gain, yet some teachers complain not all teachers get the same chance to get the bonuses.

Employees at Burbank Middle School are receiving more than $560,000 in bonuses. HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier went there this morning to congratulate three top earning teachers in person. Teacher David Schellberg is one of three teachers who is getting over $10,000 in bonuses.

The bonus is part of the much touted "ASPIRE" program, started three years ago by former HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra. "ASPIRE" measures teacher, principal and certain staff member performances in the classroom, tied to TAKS tests scores.

There have been lingering criticisms of the bonus program as not being fair by cutting out certain teachers from big bonuses, teachers of pre-K through second grade, for example, those students too young for standardized testing. Also, teachers of core subjects, such as math and science, can earn more in bonuses. It's a complicated system that the HISD superintendent says he will review, but for now, the system stays in place.

"The key is we have to use the information we have right now. Not to use that information is irresponsible. We have student data that shows us the some teachers simply are not getting the job done," said Dr. Grier. "I want to point out that this is a small percentage of teachers. We have to be able to help those teachers. We need to design staff training to help them improve their job performance."

"The teachers look at it as if, 'Well I just won the lottery.' They have no clue what they did to get the money," said Gayle Fallon, President of Houston Federation of Teachers Union. "They have no clue why they got the amount they got and then it creates the bad feelings because no one clearly why teacher X got it, but teacher Y didn't."

According to HISD, the average teacher bonus is $3,600. The biggest teacher bonus is over $10,000. The average principal bonus is $6,100. The largest principal bonus is $15,530. The biggest administrator bonus is just about $2,500. More than 15,000 employees earned a bonus totaling $40 million. That is nearly $9 million more than last year.

The bonuses range from $25 to $15,530 for teachers and administrators.


A new standardized test is coming to Texas grade school students. Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced yesterday that students will start taking the STAAR test next year, which stands for 'The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness." It's supposedly more rigorous than its predecessor, the "TAKS" test. STAAR includes 12 end-of-course exams in four core subject areas. Officials say it will not only measure a child's performance, but also their academic growth. This year's seventh-graders will be the first class who must meet the STAAR requirements to graduate high school.