in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD weeding out more poor teachers, keeping more good ones: HR chief
Friday, Dec 02, 2011, 08:50AM CST
By Mike Cronin
Thank a teacher

A recently implemented strategy to fire poor teachers, retain good ones and recruit new instructors earlier is paying dividends for the Houston school system, the district’s human resources chief told board members during a workshop Thursday morning.

“We’re retaining a higher percentage of more effective teachers,” Ann Best told Houston Independent School District trustees and colleagues during the meeting.

For example, HISD officials this year let go 40 percent of those teachers identified as low-performing, compared to dismissing 55 percent of those in that category this year, Best said in her presentation.

Teacher selectivity also improved, she said. Of the 561 who applied for teaching positions, HISD officials hired 17 percent of applicants this year, compared to 21 percent last year, Best said.

“But could that be because there were fewer jobs?” asked Trustee Harvin Moore, who represents HISD District VII.


No, said Best – because even with fewer jobs, HISD’s improved method of identifying the best applicants ensured that the right pool of qualified candidates obtained positions.

“It could have been a different (less impressive) pool,” Best told Moore.

Best also said that 99 percent of teaching positions had been staffed by the beginning of this academic year, “which we’re really proud of.”

But Best also cited areas where HISD could improve, namely in hiring teachers earlier.

Take this year, when 44 percent of the district’s teacher hires occurred in early August, Best said.

“That’s absolutely unacceptable,” Superintendent Terry Grier said in response.

However, Moore pointed out that time frame is “normal.”

Yet Best wants to create a new normal by ensuring HISD posts vacancies during the winter and spring before the upcoming academic year. And, if possible, increase the number of teachers under contract as early as January.

“Early notification of vacancies gives more time for principals to staff ,” Best said. “And it prevents candidates from getting jobs in other districts.”

Late hiring also results in applicants who aren’t as prepared to start, Best said.

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez, who represents HISD District III, suggested focusing on critical positions, such as bilingual and science teachers.

Grier suggested the board consider an approach he’s seen work well in other school districts throughout the nation.

“I’d like to offer scholarships to the top 5 percent of (HISD) students to go to college to become teachers and then teach for the district,” he said. “If you want to win a national championship, you don’t just wait to see who walks out on your team. You get out and recruit.”

***
Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Comments
kevin whited
Sunday, 12/04/2011 - 10:41AM

** For example, HISD officials this year let go 40 percent of those teachers identified as low-performing, compared to dismissing 55 percent of those in that category this year, Best said in her presentation.**

Can someone explain what this graf means? Is HISD keeping more low-performing teachers or firing more? Is there a typo, and what was meant is that MORE low performing teachers have been fired THIS year than LAST?

As it stands, the graf is nonsensical -- problematic since it's the nut graf of an otherwise overly long recitation of bureaucratic spin.

Jennifer Peebles
Sunday, 12/04/2011 - 11:22AM

Kevin,

Let me try to say it another way.

HISD says its goal is to weed out low-performing teachers.

Last year, the district let go 40 percent of the teachers it ID'ed as low-performing.

This year, it let go 55 percent of the teachers it ID'ed as low-performing.

HISD feels this increase (from 40 percent to 55 percent) is a positive step.

If that still doesn't make sense, please give us a shout, and we'll try to explain another way.

Thank you for writing, and take care,

Jennifer P.

jennifer@texaswatchdog.org

Sunday, 12/04/2011 - 02:04PM

Agree with you. Let's fix this educational mess the way New Zealand did. Let's send these bureaucratic cast to their financial grave, the same way they bury young generations in deep ignorance and a sense of entitlement we are soon to see evaporate. (http://4brevard.com/choice/new-zealand.htm)

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