HISD Magnets Get One More Week to Plead Their Case, Teachers to Get a New Set of Evaluation Rules

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Members of the Houston ISD community upset about proposed changes in funding for magnet programs throughout the district will have one more week to marshal their persuasive skills and move trustees away from the changes proposed by Superintendent Terry Grier.

Board President Juliet Stipeche on Monday morning pulled the item from the agenda for Thursday night's board meeting. It will still be up for discussion - and it's anticipated there will be a lot of it from the public Thursday - but it won't be voted on until June 19.

Trustee Paula Harris hosted a community meeting on the issue for her district at the Hattie Mae White administration building right before the board met for agenda review in preparation for the meeting.

Under the proposed redistribution of wealth, schools like T.H. Rogers would lose thousands of dollars while other magnet schools, previously not so well funded, would gain thousands. Opponents to the change argue that their programs have accomplished a lot in terms of student achievement and recognition for the school district and want to know why what they consider a very successful formula is being jettisoned.

During Monday's board agenda review, trustees reviewed proposed changes to how teachers are evaluated in the district in an administration proposal to drop student performance (aka test scores) from 50 percent to 30 percent.

Everyone seems to want to dial back the pressure on teachers with student test scores -- and as a scientific experiment this one was a doozy, leading to not completely rare instances of cheating. But as board members questioned Academic Chief Dan Gohl it seems that all the details haven't been worked out on what specifically is going to take up the increased percentages elsewhere.

Yes, instructional practice will increase (now 50 percent) and professional expectations will as well to 20 percent. But what those exactly mean and how that will be assessed remained a question unanswered at Monday's review.

Trustee Anna Eastman said she thought when the district moved to 30 percent for student performance there would be one method of evaluation for teachers and questioned whether the district would still be maintaining a system that is difficult to understand (especially important because it leads to the possibility of teacher bonuses each year.)

Gohl responded that using just one measurement "could be perceived as arbitrary" and that "two externals were better than one."

"I hope we're moving away from the old style retaliation through growth plans," Eastman said.

Trustees also discussed the fact that teachers in the lowest grades (pre-K through second) are not eligible for bonuses because their students do not take the kind of standardized tests that are administered in the third grade -- despite whatever time and effort they put into their teaching methods.

Gohl responded that that has been district policy for years and Eastman said she hopes it is something the board will look at in the future.

Attorney Gene Locke of Andrews Kurth came in to give trustees a quick glance at the proposed redistricting map that will be up for public review in July and a trustee vote. The redistricting is mandated after HISD absorbed the former North Forest ISD resulting in a surge of population in the northern HISD districts. By law, that population has to be equalized, Locke said, promising that 90 percent of the residents will remain in the same district they are now.

Locke said his group is still tweaking the voting lines. Originally one of the proposed lines went right through the middle of Booker T. Washington High School, he said, so they decided to change that.

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