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Federal Suit Settlement: End of Value-Added Measures in Houston

Oct 10, 2017 by

HOUSTON—In a huge victory for the right of teachers to be fairly evaluated, the Houston Independent School District agreed, in a settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers, to never use value-added scores to evaluate or terminate a teacher.

Value-added measures for teacher evaluation, called the Education Value-Added Assessment System, or EVAAS, in Houston, is a statistical method that uses a student’s performance on prior standardized tests to predict academic growth in the current year. This methodology—derided as deeply flawed, unfair and incomprehensible—was used to make decisions about teacher evaluation, bonuses and termination. It used a secret, inexplicable algorithm: = + (Σ∗≤Σ∗∗ × ∗∗∗∗=1)+ .

In May 2014, seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers brought an unprecedented federal lawsuit to end the policy, saying it reduced education to a test score, didn’t help improve teaching or learning, and ruined teachers’ careers when they were incorrectly terminated.

“This victory should mark the end of a destructive era that put tests and a broken evaluation system over making sure our students leave school well prepared for college, career and life,” said HFT President Zeph Capo.

Daniel Santos, one of the plaintiffs and an award-winning sixth-grade teacher at Navarro Middle School who was rated ineffective by the flawed EVAAS method, was elated with the settlement.

“I have always been devoted to my students and proud of my teaching skills.  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,” Santos said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the agreement to never use value-added measures is the latest nail in the coffin of using tests as a punitive tool. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, eliminated the emphasis on test scores.

“Testing and EVAAS don’t measure critical or analytical thinking skills, don’t allow for engaging learning, and certainly don’t improve or create joy in teaching or learning. Instead of value-added methods, let’s value what kids really need: attention to their well-being, engaging and powerful learning, a collaborative school environment, and opportunities for teachers to build their skills throughout their careers,” Weingarten said.

In addition to agreeing to never use value-added measures, including EVAAS scores, the school district agreed to create an instructional consultation panel—with representatives from the district and the Houston Federation of Teachers—to discuss and make recommendations on the district’s teacher appraisal process. The settlement also requires HISD to pay Texas AFT $237,000 for attorneys fees and expenses related to the lawsuit.

Here is the amended summary judgment opinion.

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