HISD Rethinks Teacher Bonuses

The Houston Independent School District is revamping it's controversial teacher bonus program. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the district is making changes to performance pay based on teacher input.

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Last year HISD unveiled its teacher performance pay plan with much fanfare. But the teachers weren't nearly as excited. In fact, hundreds of teachers complained about the system, calling it unfair.

"Last year I was a very vocal opponant of the HISD's performance pay plan. However, I have since somewhat changed my mind."

Ferryn Martin is a history teacher at Austin High School and did receive a bonus, but felt the plan was unfairly skewed toward certain teachers. She was selected to serve with 19 other teachers on an advisory panel to develop a better plan.

"It makes me uncomfortable that our whole accountability and bonus plan is based on numbers. Qualitative measures are difficult and complicated, but that doesn't mean we should give up. I think we should continue to examine and discuss qualitative measures that have nothing to do with test scores. We should work at improving the plan every year. But I do firmly believe that this plan is an improvement from last year."

The new plan will reward individual teachers, but also takes departmental and team progress into account. HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra says teachers in core subjects like English, math and science could get up to $7,300 in bonuses. But teachers outside those subjects are also eligible because of the increased emphasis on team and campus-wide progress.

"We reward progress. Meaning that every teacher in every classroom in this school district has the opportunity for their classroom to do well. It makes no difference what school you're assigned to, what level of poverty you're assigned to. The fact is we're rewarding growth."

The district board will vote on the plan next week during the regular board meeting. And the Broad Foundation is awarding nearly $3.6 million to the district to fund implementation and assessment of the program. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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