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Houston ISD: A “look-in-the-mirror” school district

2012 February 17
by HISD Communications

This week, Houston is playing host to the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education over at the George R. Brown Convention Center. I was honored this morning to address my colleagues and tell them about the work the Houston Independent School District is doing to ensure that every child in our city, regardless of where they live, is taught by a highly effective teacher. We know without question that there is nothing we can do to accelerate learning that matters more than placing an effective teacher in every classroom.

Research reveals a proven method for erasing the achievement gap separating our children of color from the performance of white students. When students are assigned for four consecutive years to the classrooms of teachers who have demonstrated an ability to get the most out of their students, those gaps in achievement disappear.

In Houston, our philosophy is that great teachers are the ones who focus on the things we can control instead of using our students’ circumstances as an excuse for failure. There is an elementary school principal in Washington D.C. named Adelaide Flamer, who I think puts this concept best. Ms. Flamer said: “When asked what can be done to solve the achievement problem, some adults just point out the schoolhouse window. But we’re not look-out-the-window educators here. We’re look-in-the-mirror folks.”

Houston is a look-in-the-mirror city. I spent some time telling other school leaders the story of how Houston’s strong Board of Education led the drive toward creating a new teacher appraisal and development system that holds adults accountable for our students’ academic progress. We created this system last year with the help of thousands of teachers, principals, parents, and the community. Working in partnership with The New Teacher Project, HISD’s Effective Teachers Initiative is producing promising results. Teachers are now receiving the regular data-based feedback they need and desire to help them do their best work. Principals, assistant principals, and deans are spending more strategic time than ever working shoulder-to-shoulder with the teachers they supervise.

Our children only get one chance at an education. We have a moral obligation to ensure that the quality of teachers in our city is consistently high in every school, not just inside a few select campuses. With HISD’s Effective Teachers Initiative, I feel certain we are well on our way to doing just that.

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