Three Cheers for the HISD School Board!


Three cheers for the HISD School Board for standing up to the unions and seeking the best for the students and families of Houston!  Ericka Mellon on describes how the HISD School Board wants to include student progress in teacher evaluations and how the union bosses are opposed to it.

So here is my reasoning regarding the disconnect between the school board and the union bosses.  Where is the flaw in my logic?

What is the goal of teaching?  My answer is that teachers are hired to help their students grow in knowledge and academic ability each year to the extent that the students’ ability allows.  If that is the goal, then measuring progress toward that goal should be the fundamental test of teaching success or quality.

That is exactly what “value-added” evaluations are.  A teacher’s students are given the same achievement test at the beginning and end of the school year.  This measures academic progress through the year, not just academic levels at the end of the year.

So why would Gayle Fallon, Chuck Robinson, and Randy Weingarten, all union bosses, consider value-added evaluations a “deal breaker”?  Why would they not want what is best for the kids?  Because their goal is not maximizing student achievement!  Their goal is maximizing union dues payments.  How would “value-added” threaten their goal?  Because it would weed out the bad teachers.

Good teachers don’t need the unions for job protection, so they are not “faithful” union members.  They can always find a job at some school because principals need their good services.  Many good teachers say that they are union members for the professional liability insurance.  But they are unaware that they can get liability insurance at non-political teachers associations at less than one third the cost of TSTA membership, at or  (I have no financial connection with either of these organizations.)

It’s the bad teachers (a minority) that desperately need the unions for job protection.  Likewise, the union bosses need them.  They are the loyal union members.

A clear example of the union bosses goals can be seen in the excellent movie, “Waiting for ‘Superman'”.  The Washington DC school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, makes an creative contract offer to the union bosses.  It would offer to double the salary of every teacher who voluntarily gives up “tenure,” the union’s job guarantee.  This offer threatened the union bosses so much that they refused to let their members vote on the offer.  After two years the union relented and let the members vote.  The teachers voted 80% in favor of accepting the offer that the union bosses had refused to let them vote for.

In summary, the union bosses will always sacrifice the students’ education in order to protect their faithful members, bad teachers.  What other motivation could explain their actions?

5 Responses to “Three Cheers for the HISD School Board!”

  1. Tom Jackson Says:

    I am unaware of the assessment test that you refer to in this article. At this time HISD does not give an assessment at the beginning of the year and the same assessment at the end of the year. If you are referring to the Stanford test, my campus made students take the test in one day instead of the ususal 2 days which eliminated the extra time HISD requires students to be given. This was not a teacher decision. I wonder who will be held to blame if the results are not good. My particualr school is is so focused on TAKS scores that it drives every decision made. We have numerous TAKS tutorial classes instead of allowing the talents of thsoe teachers to be used to teach higher level classes. Teachers who are known to be good at handling the tougher discipline issues routinely have students moved in to their classes from teahcers who cannot handle them. This will inevitably cause them to have larger class sizes and the probablility of having more down time due to disruptions. Do you then punish these teachers if test scores are lower?
    How do you make the teachers repsonsible for outcomes and not the administrators . To assume that teachers are the only ones that should be held accountable is to ignore all the facts that have been stated for years as how to improve education of our children – equal funding, parental involvement to name two. In HISD funds for campuses except Apollo 20 schools seem to be frozen.
    At the same time your article appeared in the Chronicle, one stating that HISD had approved new bonuses for principals was posted. How are teachers more respnsible, yet principals rewarded financially. I would love to debate thsi with you in the chronicle, but I do not have the luxury of being to state my opinion as you do wihtout repercussions.
    By the way, have you ever taught in and HISD school?

  2. Parental Choice in Education Says:

    Dear Tom,

    Thank you for responding to my “editorial” post at Usually, I feel like I am “preaching” in the desert.

    I am unaware of the assessment test that would be used. I just support the general approach of “grading” teachers based on the product that they deliver, which is the academic progress of their students. Any other assessment is of secondary importance and much more susceptible to politics rather than performance.

    Clearly there are other factors that should be included in adjusting the assessment; things like class size and percent of students qualifying for the school lunch program.

    Regarding equal funding, as long as we fund education with a property tax, we will always have unequal funding. Rich parents will always want to live together and have their own school district. I favor abolishing the ISD maintenance & operations tax and replacing it with a broad state sales tax. The money will go Austin and be distributed evenly on a per-student basis. Properly done you can have a sales tax rate less than 8%.

    There is also the issue of equal funding within the ISD. Do you know that 50% of the employees in the public school system are NOT classroom teachers? The more non-teaching staff there are, the less money for teachers salaries.

    If you want to have parental involvement, you must give the parents “choosing power”. Why are parents more involved at a (good) charter school? Because they have INVESTED in the school by “investing” their child in the school.

    Regarding the raise for the principals, government agencies, such as public schools, make most decisions based on politics, not on effectiveness and efficiency. Only the private sector does that. Government agencies don’t have a financial bottom line, so they can’t even measure efficiency! But I would suggest using a “value-added” measure for principals and superintendents also. Principals would be measured on SCHOOL progress, and superintendents on district-wide progress.

    Believe it or not, I sympathize with you. The government-school monopoly controlled by the unions, discourages students AND TEACHERS. As you said about “not having the luxury of stating your opinion,” you are powerless, just like the parents are.

    I have taught at Texas A&M and at two private school, but I am a free-enterprise guy. I would never work for the post office or a public school.

    Currently, I have the luxury of volunteering 50% of my time to lobby and build grassroots for education reform in Texas. I have been doing this for 20 years. We have yet to make any headway, but we know what DOESN’T work. Our opponents are not the public school teachers. They are the union boss “Goliath”, as I described in my editorial.

    I think the most important strategy right now is to build a “Teachers for Education Reform” organization so that the unions can’t say, “We speak for the teachers and the kids.”

    There is an interesting website that discusses this very topic.

    I will be so bold to ask you for ideas as to how to build such an organization.

    Bob Schoolfield

  3. Tim Cyr Says:

    In the 11/12 edition of the Houston Chronicle, Mr Schoolfield, the president of Texans for Parental Choice in Education, claimed that “a teacher’s students take an achievement test and the beginning and at the end of the school year. This measures academic progress through the year.” That statement is simply NOT TRUE.
    The state of Texas does not administer a TAKS pre-test at the start of the year. It only tests students at the end of the year.
    In HISD, in my subject (World History) at my grade level (10th), they compare my student’s results on the state TAKS test with their test results on the Stanford Achievement Test they took as 9th graders to determine “value-added.” The Stanford Achievement Test is a national test that evaluates a variety of subjects and so has little in common with the state test. So can that comparison fairly and accurately measure academic progress or my effectiveness as a teacher?
    In addition, the state’s objectives for the 10th grade Social Studies TAKS Test my students take at the end of the year emphasize AMERICAN history and government, while the state’s objectives for the 10th grade Social Studies course that I teach emphasize WORLD history. Again, does this fairly and accurately measure academic progress or my effectiveness as a teacher?

  4. Tim Cyr Says:

    You rail against teacher unions as if they are the sole factor holding back student achievement. In Texas, there are four major teacher’s unions (TSTA, TFT, ATPE, and TCTA). That in itself is a major reason why teacher’s unions in Texas are impotent. The first priority of any union movement is UNITY, which teachers in Texas obviously lack. As a right to work state, teachers are not required to join a union. Many don’t, and as you said, if they do its usually to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits. In addition, Texas teachers are state employees and as such have no right to strike. Any union without that power is virtually powerless. Finally, in Texas, few if any school boards collective bargain with teacher’s unions about teacher responsibilities, salaries, and benefits. If anything, its more like collective “begging” on the part of unions.
    Therefore, to attack unions as the reasons for the failure of schools in Texas is simply ludicrous!

  5. Parental Choice in Education Says:

    Dear Tim,
    Thank you for responding to my letter. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to respond to me regardless of whether they agree or not. Perhaps we can move closer to agreement.
    Regarding “value-added” testing, I was simply defining what it was. Clearly, since in HISD different tests are being used at the beginning (end of 9th grade) and ending (end of 10th grade) of the evaluation period, they are not implementing value-added evaluation. I hope they would use true value-added testing in the future.
    Regarding teachers unions (and all public employee unions), I will agree that Texas is a right-to-work state, there are several teachers unions, and public workers cannot strike. But there is one power play that all public worker unions can engage in that private worker unions cannot. I call it “firing your boss.”
    The managers of private companies are hired by the owners and private unions have no control over that. However, the “managers” of government agencies are elected at the polls and public workers unions have a lot of control over that. If their man wins at the polls, then “collective bargaining” is unnecessary because they control both sides of the bargaining table!
    Also, private companies can lose money and go into bankruptcy, but not so for government agencies. Public workers unions can cry for more money and pressure legislators to raise taxes.
    But I would refer you to the movie, “Waiting for ‘Superman'”. It does a much better job of explaining with concrete examples the evils of teacher unions.
    If you are a union organizer, I welcome you to the war. The unions are Goliath. My friends and I are David. But I will not give up. The future of the next generation of Texans is too important to give up the fight.
    Bob Schoolfield

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