Sunday, June 20, 2010

HISD Hiring Teachers With New “Tough” Standards

I live within shouting distance of Houston but have never even considered for a moment wanting to teach there let alone apply to teach there. Mainly because I am afraid that Houston ISD is more prone to acquiescing to the “flavor of the day” more than most.

Case in point: today’s article in The Chron about HISD’s new “tough” standards by which they hope to hire 1000+ new teachers for the 2010-2011 school year.

HISD typically has a 1000 teacher per year turnover. It’s the largest district in the state, you see, and so 1000 teachers, while that seems like an enormous number of teachers to have to replace every year, represents only a 7.8% turnover – albeit that this number is spread over the entire district.

But since they also fired 162 teachers from nine of their campuses, and 80 more left for their own reasons, the number is a little higher this year: over 1200.

But apparently there is a “scramble” to fill the vacancies this year because of new “tough standards.” They have raised the bar for teachers.

Raising the bar, for instance, by insisting that teachers submit videos of themselves teaching a lesson.

Raising the bar, for instance, by insisting that elementary and middle school teachers take and pass a 5th grade math test. According to their statistics, 30% of their applicants can’t pass a 5th grade math test.

Raising the bar, for instance, by insisting that applicants take a multiple choice questionnaire that rates a teacher's “core values.” The questionnaire is the brainchild of Martin Haberman a now-emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota, Milwaukee and is called the Haberman Star Teacher Questionnaire.

The Haberman questionnaire is purported to identify teachers who are most likely to stay in the teaching profession. That is, teachers who are least likely to run screaming out of the school building in mid-term.

These and other tests have helped HISD narrow a field of 5,000 applicants to 600.

Making up the difference is HISD’s participation in Teach For America, a program that recruits teachers who sign on to teach for 2 years in “some of America’s neediest schools.” It’s a pre-screening program, in other words, much like the Haberman questionnaire.

Except this program costs something like $20,000 per teacher in HISD’s case, where they have used the program to identify 50 math and science teachers. That’s right, a cool $1 million spent to find good math/science teachers.

Now I haven’t bothered to delve into results in the Teach For America program, although I’d like some stock in that company. But the Habermann questionnaire has already been questioned by the very school board that HISD consulted when considering its use, the Guilford County, NC School Board.

Its report can be found here, but here is the operative sentence lifted from the PDF document:

“Although simple means comparison showed group of stayed teachers has higher Habermanscore than group of left teachers, further study using multiple discriminant classification method did not show high Habermanscore significantly contribute to teacher retention.”

That is, using 5th grade math, yes the Haberman questionnaire shows a greater number of “stayed teachers.” But look any deeper and you see no trend at all.


Teachers know these questionnaires. I have taken them. The key to a perfect score on this and any of these kinds of questionnaires is to place each answer choice behind the following phrase:
“All students can learn if/because/when…”

If you can’t pass a Haberman questionnaire, or any of their ilk, you really and truly are clueless on what administration expects of you as a teacher.


Anonymous said...

But aren't teachers smart enough to see this?

Are do they need someone the brain the size of yours figure it out for them? As thaey are struggling with that 5th grade math test?

Hal said...

One would not think so. But some of these (most?) teachers don't have teaching credentials.

Clay Boggess said...

So Houston ISD is actually getting tough. Requiring teachers to take and pass a 5th grade math test. What happens to those teachers who have to teach 6th graders? I'm glad to see that the standard is now higher?!?

NG said...

I know that it sounds crazy associating a 5th grade math test with stringent standards but think about it in the sense that there is even a tough TV show based on 5th grade education. Have you watched the show? I am one of the HISD candidates who are very effected by these new guidelines. I was exempt from the test because I hold a BS in physics but I looked over the questions and I couldn't answer at least 50% right off the bat! Without looking it up, can you define cardinal and ordinal numbers??? I hold a minor in math and I couldn't answer that question. The application and certification process even for a college graduate in physics has been extremely tough!!!

Hal said...

As part of the "research" into writing this piece I found an online 5th grade math TAKS test and took it. Passed it. I misread 2 questions, and completely punted on 3 for those reasons you state - content specific questions on information that one doesn't carry through life. I've been teaching for awhile so the jargon wasn't as unfamiliar to me as it may have been to someone coming at this cold.

What bothers me here is that a more age-appropriate math test,like the now defunct TASP test, is not used. I would want a prospective math or science teacher to be able to interpret what the Y intercept of a graphed equation would be rather than knowing the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers.

Anonymous said...

teach for america isn't a company you could "buy stock in"- it's under the americorps umbrella of the u.s. gov't., a cousin program to the peace corps.

Hal said...

Would that I could. At 20 large per teacher this group could single-handedly take care of the deficit.