Caught on her cell phone today, Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said that many people are distorting what Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a Tuesday eight-page speech about overhauling teacher evaluations.
The speech was reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post today and both accounts said that Weingarten, in her call for an overhaul of teacher evaluations, supports using student test scores as one way to assess teachers. Which would seem to put Fallon at odds with the president of her parent organization.
This week, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier proposed using a teacher's continued low student test scores as another reason for dismissal. The Houston school board is slated to vote on the proposal at its Thursday meeting and it looks likely to approve it. In response, there has been push back from the local unions and their leaders, including Fallon.
In fact, the Texas AFT issued the following statement from its president Linda Bridges:
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Texas AFT President Linda Bridges said that AFT's recommendations are exactly what are needed in Texas, where some districts are inappropriately trying to tie standardized test scores to individual teachers. "Houston ISD's recent push to use test scores for evaluating teachers for possible termination is nothing more than a district looking for easy answers," Bridges said. "A productive evaluation system will look at every aspect of the teacher's professional practice, not just a factory model based on test scores that doesn't reflect the true quality of the teacher."
"We're willing and able to work with districts like Houston on developing an evaluation system that actually helps develop teachers professionally and ensures teaching quality, but a starting point will be abandoning the invalid reliance solely on test scores and instead embracing a comprehensive system that makes sense," Bridges added.
According to Fallon, Weingarten specifically blasted proposals like HISD's which Fallon called "snapshots where you take a test and misuse it." Instead, Weingarten said "an evaluation should be an all-year, formative process. We've always said that. That's not what they're doing. She said it should be something the teachers are informed about. That's not what they're doing," Fallon said, insisting that teachers do not undestand how the district puts together its evaluation score.
"She has said that it should include a lot of observation, a lot of assistance; you can look at student progress, but not on a simple test snapshot. And that's her complete remark," Fallon said. "I've talked to AFT and they said this is a total misinterpretation."
"No way is that what Randi Weingarten was saying and if necessary we can bring her down here to cut the bullshit coming out of the superintendent," Fallon said. You might say the honeymoon's over."