Teachers upset over new HISD policy

HOUSTON HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier said the vast majority of the district's teachers are doing a good job. He wants to focus on those teachers who aren't and hopes a number of initiatives will do just that. One of those initiatives drew criticism and huge crowds.

So many teachers showed up at the HISD school board meeting Thursday night that the lobby of the administration building became an overflow room, complete with two TVs and rows of chairs, but it still wasn't enough. It was standing room only.

Inside the meeting, board members were getting an earful.

"Are you really going to risk the careers of many dedicated teachers on a number that is questionable at best?" asked one teacher.

More than 60 people showed up to speak their minds about a proposed policy that would allow the district to fire teachers whose students don't make enough progress on standardized tests. Each person was allowed one minute to speak, but there were many more with opinions.

"One big complaint that we all have is we don't understand the formula that they use," said another teacher.

The policy would rate teachers on whether their students met, exceeded or fell short of expectations based on test score history. The rating would be used in formal job evaluations. Currently, more than 400 teachers, that's three percent of all HISD teachers, would be at risk.

"It's not about firing teachers, it's about ensuring that we provide the support necessary to ensure that you are the best that you can be," said HISD Board President Greg Myers.

Another teacher said, "The children are more than a test score. I am more than a test score."

There were cheers for those who opposed the policy and boos for supporters. A handful of parents told the board it would hold teachers accountable.

"I'm held accountable and I think most people in the industry are held accountable," said parent Christianne Melanson. "Teachers are so important to our kids that they need to be comfortable with being held accountable."

In the end, the show of force didn't matter. The policy passed 7-0.

Hundreds of teachers left disappointed and uncertain of what it will mean.

"I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see," said teacher Letrell Myers.

There were complaints from teachers whose students test in the 99th percentile. There's concern there's no room for growth and the new policy looks at growth potential.

Principals do not get a free pass - they will be evaluated on whether their teachers are doing a good job.

For the more than 400 teachers who are at risk under the new policy, help is available in the form of training and mentoring. They will be given three chances to improve their students' test scores or face termination.

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