HISD halts teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem

District pays $237K to set­tle a dis­pute over se­cret al­go­rithm

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Shelby Webb John Har­den con­trib­uted to this re­port. shelby.webb@chron.com

Hous­ton ISD has agreed to pay $237,000 in le­gal fees and to stop the use of a con­tro­ver­sial teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem in mak­ing per­son­nel de­ci­sions as part of a set­tle­ment with seven ed­u­ca­tors and the Hous­ton Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers.

At is­sue was the district’s use of a se­cret al­go­rithm that of­fi­cials em­ployed to de­ter­mine which teach­ers were eval­u­ated, fired and given bonuses from 2011 to 2015. The sys­tem, called the Ed­u­ca­tional Value Added As­sess­ment Sys­tem, or EVAAS, is no longer used by the district.

EVAAS was devel­oped by a pri­vate com­pany, which re­fused to give the district and em­ploy­ees a copy of the al­go­rithm it uses to eval­u­ate teach­ers by clas­si­fy­ing it as a trade se­cret.

But with­out know­ing how they were be­ing scored, teach­ers said, they were de­nied the right to chal­lenge their ter­mi­na­tions or eval­u­a­tions.

Those who op­posed the sys­tem said that teach­ers were un­fairly de­prived of in­for­ma­tion that im­pacted their em­ploy­ment.

“I hope this ends the era of test and pun­ish ide­ol­ogy that had ruled Hous­ton ISD for too long,” said Zeph Capo, Hous­ton Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers pres­i­dent. “We look for­ward to col­lab­o­ra­tively de­vel­op­ing a teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem that truly places con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment at the heart of the process rather than just be­ing a state­ment that crosses the lips of its cre­ators.”

A fed­eral judge in May agreed with the teach­ers’ main ar­gu­ment and al­lowed the law­suit to con­tinue un­til Hous­ton ISD set­tled this month.

Daniel San­tos, one of the plain­tiffs and an award-win­ning six­th­grade teacher at Navarro Mid­dle School who was rated in­ef­fec­tive by the EVAAS method, said he is pleased with the set­tle­ment.

“I have al­ways been de­voted to my stu­dents and proud of my teach­ing skills,” San­tos said. “Hous­ton needs a well-devel­oped sys­tem that prop­erly eval­u­ates teach­ers, pro­vides good feed­back and en­sures that ed­u­ca­tors will re­ceive con­tin­u­ous, tar­geted pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment to im­prove their per­for­mance.”

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