‘Change is painful,’ Superintendent Terry Grier told a crowd of 2,000 teachers, administrators and corporate sponsors gathered today at the Hilton Americas Hotel. ‘Sort of like a root canal’, he added. But with communication and support, Grier says that HISD is poised for some big changes:
“Rather than incremental results from piecemeal reforms, we must undertake a transformation of our education culture, literally a sea change in the way we operate, our openness, our transparency, and accountability measures.”
Grier mentioned a few new initiatives such as credit recovery for drop outs, optional extended year, and a more rigorous curriculum. He’s also created a department of innovation and research to identify the most effective programs.
But his main focus was clear: human capital. Grier wants to use more selective recruitment, professional development and dismissal to make sure the best teachers are in front of students. He also plans to study “value-added” scores-or how much a teacher adds to a student’s projected growth-to find the qualities of great teachers.
“I want to know. The teachers with the highest value added scores-where did they graduate from college? And is there a correlation between how well they’re doing and the teacher preparation institute that they graduated from.”
Grier emphasized that teachers must be respected and supported. But if they consistently under-perform despite being given training and time to improve, he believes they must exit the system:
“Frankly, if they cannot or will not meet the needs of our children, they cannot remain members of team HISD.”
Grier also highlighted a new program at Rice University which offers an MBA along with principal certification. He said that school leaders must manage effectively as well as market themselves to the community.
The new superintendent praised past HISD successes such as a record number of exemplary and recognized schools. But he also noted weaknesses, like a drop out rate that’s “too high” and more than 70,000 students that do not read on grade level. Still, Grier is confident that with a bold new roadmap, HISD can make great strides:
“There’s no question in my mind it is possible…and that’s to become the nation’s premier school district. Not the nation’s best urban school district— the best school district in America is where we ought to be, and that’s where we’re going.”
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez.