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Ahh, the Joys of District-Union Collaboration

A couple months back, I posted a copy of an internal Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT) memorandum which laid out the HFT's hostility towards the Houston Independent School District's (HISD) mentoring proposal. You think the HFT was chastened at all by this going public? Doesn't appear so.

Below is another, much more recent HFT communication to its members blasting HISD's effort to revamp its teacher evaluation system in collaboration with the highly regarded organization The New Teacher Project (TNTP). A Houston source was kind enough to send this along. I especially like the calls for secret tapings and the suggestion that "polite" teachers are putting their jobs on the line.

Subject: New Teacher Evaluation:

Dear Members,

Pass to all campus [sic].

Read the article below. This is where the new evaluation is heading, 50% based on value added (EVASS). Members on the SDMCs [shared decision-making councils] need to speak up BEFORE this is policy. Email HFT with reports about the amount of actual input the SDMC groups have in this process so that we can report this to TEA as a process that did not follow the TEA guidelines for developing a new evaluation for the district. Better, we are asking for members to tape thee [sic] meetings and provide us with a recording. No one need know who had the recorder. Send us copies of materials given out in these meetings. NOW is the time to do this, not after it is in place.

Remember health care? We informed members and asked them to call the HISD Board BEFORE it was voted on. Now it is done and there is nothing that can be done about it because members did not make those calls and the Board saw no opposition from the teachers. But HFT gets calls everyday asking what the union is doing about the higher insurance cost!

Don't let them run over you with this, this will cost many teachers (maybe you) their jobs next year if it becomes the policy. The union is the 7,000 members, not the eight people in the office. What will YOU do to stop this? Will you send one email to save your job? Will you speak up in a meeting, or be "polite" and out of work next year?

Curious about the "article" referred to in the first sentence? Looks like it was pulled from a website of uncertain origin. Entitled "The New Teacher Project's Evaluation Standards Mirror Rhee's," it pointed out that HISD partner TNTP favors a design similar to the performance assessment adopted in Washington, DC. The article said, "TNTP standards suggests counting value-added data...when its [sic] available, for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. The rest of a teacher's assessment would be made up of classroom observations (30 percent) and alternative measures of student learning, like 'progress toward Individual Education Plan goals, district-wide or teacher-generated assessments, and end-of-course tests' (20 percent)."

The article explained, "Value-added data is merely a sub-component of one of TNTP's evaluation system guidelines. The six tenets are: evaluations should happen at the very least annually; the standards that teachers will be held to should be clearly and explicitly spelled out; instructors should be evaluated via multiple factors; ratings should come in four to five levels (as opposed to simply 'satisfactory' and 'unsatisfactory'); and the ratings should be significant, bearing on whether a teacher gets tenure, their salary, and employment decisions."

Clearly TNTP's proposals are devious, dangerous stuff.

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The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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