In a startling reversal of previous statements and his own avowed philosophies, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier today released a statement that he will recommend to the school board that teachers not be evaluated by their students' test scores this next school year.
It was only in May that trustees -- urged on by Grier -- voted 7-2 (Carol Galloway and Juliet Stipeche dissenting) to include student test scores in the formal list of criteria used to evaluate a teacher's performance.
The May vote came after several months of entreaty from HISD teachers who argued that it would be especially inappropriate this coming year to judge teachers on their students' test scores given that the state was introducing a new standardized test system that is replacing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. (Historically, student test scores drop after a new test is adopted.)
But Grier and his administration had remained adamant that it was inconceivable that the district have this information -- student test scores -- and not use it to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom. They have repeatedly said that teachers are the most crucial element in whether a child succeeds or fails in school.
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It is difficult to understand what new information became available in the two months since May that would change Grier's position on this. In his statement, he references "feedback we've heard this summer from teachers about taking on these challenges," but he certainly heard plenty of this feedback before school was out.
And HISD, like other school districts in Texas, has known for several years that the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test was coming as well as what this was likely to do to test scores.
In his statement, Grier said: "A teacher's most important job is helping students learn so measuring Student Performance is critical. If the Board approves my recommendation. only the timing of when schools would assign a numerical rating on the Student Performance component would be amended."
Certainly, Grier's new stance will make teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers happier, as well as trustees Stipeche and Galloway -- all of which might tend to make any future contract extension negotiations on his part more successful.