The Houston school district has settled a lawsuit with its teachers union by agreeing to pay $237,000 in legal fees and to stop using a teacher evaluation system that the union said was deeply flawed.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the suit was brought in 2014 by the Houston Federation of Teachers and seven teachers; at issue was the district's use of a secret algorithm that it was using to determine which teachers were evaluated, fired and given bonuses.
The system, called the Educational Value Added Assessment System, or EVAAS, is no longer used by the district.
"The school district uses this deeply flawed methodology for decisions about teacher evaluation, bonuses and termination, yet it is a 'black box' system in which the methodology is considered proprietary and confidential," the union argued when it filed the suit.
A federal judge agreed with the teachers' main argument in May and allowed the lawsuit to continue until the school district agreed this month to settle the case.
EVAAS was developed by a private company, which refused to give the district and employees a copy of the algorithm it was using to evaluate teachers by classifying it as a trade secret. Without knowing how they were being scored, teachers said, they were denied the right to challenge their terminations or evaluations.
"I hope this ends the era of test and punish ideology that had ruled Houston ISD for too long," says 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."
Daniel Santos, one of the plaintiffs and an award-winning sixth-grade teacher at Navarro Middle School who was rated ineffective by the EVAAS method, says he is pleased with the settlement.
“I have always been devoted to my students and proud of my teaching skills," Santos says. "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."