HISD halts teacher evaluation system
District pays $237K to settle a dispute over secret algorithm
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.”