Houston ISD School Board Should Make New Superintendent Contract Public

Our school board is meeting today and again tomorrow in an accelerated effort to hire a new superintendent.

There are many things we cannot know about a new superintendent.

Our school board trustees have spent countless hours surveying their constituents to understand what kind of superintendent they should hire. Our trustees will spend a great deal of time interviewing candidates to determine which person will most likely fit that desired profile. But no matter how many public input sessions are held, no matter how many reference calls are made and no matter how many interviews are attended, no trustee and no voter can know for sure how a new person will perform when they become superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, a one-of-a-kind organization that is the largest school district in the State of Texas.

There is much we cannot predict about an incoming superintendent.

But no matter who is ultimately selected, there is one thing trustees can absolutely guarantee when they hire a new superintendent: 

They can guarantee how that person will be paid.

  • What will that person’s base salary be? Dr. Terry Grier’s base salary was $300,000. (see Grier’s 2009 contract)
  • What fringe benefits will that person be given?  Dr. Terry Grier received among other items: $1,200/month for a car$400/month for a phone30 days a year of vacation (which could be traded in for more pay), 5 personal days and 30 sick days a year (which could be traded in for more pay)
  • What bonuses will she or he be paid and on what criteria will he or she be judged? Dr. Terry Grier received received up to $80,000 more each yearbased on his performance judged by trustees rating him on a scale of 1 to 3 for which a rating of 2 or 3 would be high enough to receive the bonuses.

We can expect that the high pay levels associated with HISD superintendents and the goals and objectives tied to that pay will be directly related to the priorities, activities and decisions the new superintendent will set. No one is against high pay for high qualifications and high responsibilities, but we need a contract that will align the next head of the largest school district in Texas with the values of openness, respect, community and children-first. Anchoring a large part of the superintendent’s compensation to shallow goals and showering the superintendent with perks that drive up the cost of firing her or him is not what this district needs, and it is not the standard we should set for the State of Texas.

The day the school board votes to approve and the board president signs the new superintendent’s contract, all of these things will be known. This makes the superintendent’s contract more important and more predictive than any “leader profile” or past experiences at other school districts.

Traditionally, this contract is private until after it is signed.

But the public deserves more transparency. I have written before about the potential conflict of interest between the lawyers advising trustees on superintendent contracts and how those same lawyers can benefit from millions of dollars in business controlled by that same superintendent. The students, the parents, the teachers, the career educators, the taxpayers and all the stakeholders in our public education system deserve more transparency on what might be the most important decision this board makes for years to come.

If there is any legal right or tradition that offers privacy to a candidate on a contract such as this, that prospective superintendent should waive that right. Doing so would be a sign of openness and trust and a great first step at leading Houston ISD into a new season of transparency and community-based decision making.

I hope the Houston ISD School Board will make the next superintendent’s contract, once negotiated, available to the public for a minimum of two weeks and that it schedules a special session of the Board of Education to hear citizen testimony before trustees take a final vote of approval on this most important decision.

I have started a petition that dozens have already signed, and I hope the Houston ISD Board of Education will show leadership and new direction by listening.

Should a teacher stay or should a teacher go? Help HISD decide how to answer this question.

Getting little attention this week but certainly one of the most important decisions up for a vote by the Houston ISD School Board is the matter of how to evaluate every teacher in the district. Very few parents know much about this system. At best, a preceptive parent will know the significant stress their teachers have about STAAR scores, but I’ll explain why all of us should care about the details.

This Thursday, after just recently voting to cut funding to classrooms by millions, the HISD School Board will vote to renew a contract worth close to $700,000 for a 3rd party to evaluate teachers (Agenda Page 76). A contract to a company who is the only bidder. A contract in which bids weren’t even taken — pretty bold for a district that has been rife with procurement scandals.

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All in the name of accountability.

Prior to 2011 in HISD, teachers were evaluated in a traditional manner — through occasional observations by their principals. In 2011, in an effort to improve upon the system and doing so at a time when Terry Grier’s HISD was looking to be more “data-driven,” the district decided to adopt a completely new evaluation system. The new system would utilize STAAR scores as 50% of a teacher’s evaluation (later changed to 30%) for all teachers in STAAR grades and subjects (majority). The rest of the evaluation came from a complex rubric with inputs from principals or other administrators. However, since 50% of principal evaluations are based STAAR scores and the annual superintendent bonuses were determined by metrics 100% derived from STAAR scores, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand what mattered most. STAAR.

And it gets worse.

Houston ISD doesn’t merely track scores and rank its teachers. To counter concerns about the fairness of judging different teachers with different kids by a single standard, HISD outsources the process to data analytics giant SAS. While being cash-strapped and cutting millions from classroom budgets, HISD has paid millions of dollars for a proprietary formula from SAS — a secret formula — parts of which have been determined invalid by statistical experts.

Underlying it all though is the flawed STAAR assessment itself. There are ALL kinds of reasons why a child might perform poorly on this single assessment given on a single day of the year. Those reasons include anxiety, depression, domestic issues, not eating breakfast, presence of a disability, language barriers, among others, and many of which are correlated to poverty.  Research has been conducted that demonstrates that these tests are correlated with socioeconomic status and are NOT sensitive to instruction. Let that sink in. The tests are NOT sensitive to instruction

Now, I ask you:

Is poverty the teacher’s fault? No. Poverty isn’t the teacher’s fault.

Can we hold teachers accountable based on a measure that doesn’t measure a teacher’s effectiveness? No. We cannot.

The results of this policy are disastrous. Teachers say they teach the same way every year yet one year they get high ratings on their evaluation and the next year they’re placed on a growth plan. Additionally, because this model is ineffective, our very best teachers don’t put up with being evaluated by it and leave. And the good teachers that do stay are incented to move out of schools with high concentrations of poverty.

Each year, rather than finding and rewarding great teachers for doing hard work and staying in the district, HISD pays large recruiting bonuses to bring teachers to tough schools or pays Teach for America significant finders fees to fill its roster with novice teachers direct from being students themselves.

Another terrible side effect is that your child feels the stress.

Some teachers, under extraordinary pressure, end up conveying to their students that their job depends on student STAAR performance. An easy thing to communicate when teachers are already telling their students being promoted at the end of the year is determined by passing STAAR as well. Teachers and students in the same high stakes boat. A boat they get into starting in 3rd grade.

Over the years since this change in HISD, we’ve arrived a place where the majority of teachers in HISD have less than 5 years experience and STAAR scores directly determine a teacher’s livelihood. When opt-out parents say they’re protesting “high stakes” assessments, this is at the top of the list. Because why should a questionable assessment given on a single day of the year determine the outcome of whether a teacher stays or whether a teacher goes?

So this is where you come in. Our school board has a weak stomach. They don’t like to be the center of controversy. They like their pictures in the paper handing out awards and being admired by their communities. They do not like being blamed for unhappy teachers or unhappy parents. And they certainly don’t like the appearance they are wasting “hard earned tax dollars.”

We must speak up.

Call or email the board, but calling is a lot harder to ignore.

Dial HISD Board Services at 713.556.6121 and leave a message for all trustees to “Vote No on EVAAS Contract Extension.”

If we ring the phone off of the hook for two days straight ahead of this board meeting, we might just win this one back. We are likely 4 votes for, 4 votes against with 1 undecided. A large amount of calls and emails might just push us over the top and reverse this 5 year disaster of teacher management and culture.

We Will Not Perpetuate Injustice: A response to questions of opt out harm.

This morning I read a response to a friend’s editorial that was recently published by the Houston Chronicle: Why my daughter won’t take STAAR exams this year. The response’s intent was to give parents pause about following suit because our actions might unintentionally hurt our schools. We hear these concerns over and over, so I thought I’d answer them on my blog. Here are some quotes/points from the post and my responses…

If his daughter is well prepared and sure to do well on the test, yet chooses to opt out, that could negatively impact the school’s test scores. If that were to happen, important school programs (such as a Montessori magnet) could lose funding or the program itself. 

No program in Texas or anywhere else in the nation has lost funding due to parents opting out. When this was threatened very publicly last year in New York, parents redoubled their efforts and over 200k students opted out. What happened? The governor changed his stance and Congress enacted ESSA with new options for states to handle parents opting out.

Underprivileged children are, sadly, counting on the test scores of their more societally empowered classmates. This could unintentionally hurt the very students those who are concerned with the system surrounding the STAAR wish to advocate for. 

What about the underprivileged children at schools that are 100% underprivileged? Scores at other campuses from these “empowered classmates” as you describe them are being used to justify keeping kids out of art and music, keeping them in school on Saturdays and during Spring Break, keeping them from entering magnet programs, putting them in summer school or holding them back a grade. These “empowered classmates” scores are used to close neighborhood schools, fire teachers and justify the outsourcing of public education to charter and private schools. All of this, if you admit that the tests are “unjust, inhumane, and racist” are doing damage to entire people groups.

Protecting a small number in a group is not a justification to harm those groups as a whole.

But this article fails to address the negative impact “opting out” could have on the student’s school (and her less privileged classmates)

The article cannot fail to mention all the things that “could” happen. Lots of things “could” happen well beyond the ones you state.

The article does focus on all the things that ARE happening right now like first graders doing test prep, kids asking parents to stay in the second grade (happening at my campus too), kids being told by teachers that summer school is required if they fail (which is false and also happening at my campus), homework consisting only of test prep (also happening at my campus), and over-stressing teachers, parents and students (for which you concur).

Look, even if there is a small percentage chance that there are any negative consequences to opting out, you have to realize THERE IS A 100% CERTAINTY that the current negative environment will persist if we do nothing.

I fully agree that standardized testing is inherently corrupt and unnecessary. Please, fight it! Change it! But as it stands, sending your child to a public school comes with standardized tests that are tied directly to program funding and teacher reviews, and the vast majority of students have no other option but public school.

We are fighting it. We are changing it.

But no, just because a law or system is required by the state does not mean we must acquiesce and submit. Furthermore, if you know a system is unjust and you participate, you are as culpable as those that enact it.

Thomas Jefferson said, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” In this respect, history gives us many lessons from which to learn.

Yes, the system is total crap. Yes, it’s unfair, it’s racist, classist, stressful (to teachers, parents, and students alike).

We agree. All of these things alone are enough of a justification to not participate.

If we had a racist bus system; would you argue, “As it stands this is a public transportation system, the vast majority of riders don’t have any other option but public transportation, and they might lose the right to that transportation if they break its rules?”

No, you wouldn’t. And we won’t either.

We refuse to participate. And for those of us who recognize our own systemic privileges, we will not let the school district or the state use the threat of losing those unearned privileges to coerce us into being a part of the problem.

We opt out to protect our children. We opt out to protest the injustices against all children. We opt out to reclaim our schools.

We are reclaiming our schools for the professional and dedicated teachers that are best equipped to nurture our students to their greatest potential. We are reclaiming our schools for our children that need to learn not only reading, math and science but character, critical thinking, music, art, exercise and even some citizenship.

When we opt out, we are doing what’s best for our children and what’s best for our society.

My PTO Opposes Opt Out & My Response

My daughter’s (and next year son’s) school’s Parent Teacher Organization decided they needed to stay something about standardized testing (see below).

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Here is my response:

A few corrections…

  • HISD has not eliminated mandatory benchmark tests. Our campus is taking 4 snapshot and a full practice STAAR this year and many schools are doing many more.
  • HISD eliminated only one assessment and that was the Iowa — the only quality, norm-referenced test given in the district.
  • HISD changes in promotion requirements are temporary for this year and only due to delayed test results by the state; this change did not reduce the amount of standardized testing.
  • HISD reduced the weight of tests in teacher evaluations only after a lawsuit was filed; this change did not reduce the the amount of standardized testing.
  • None of these changes were made as a result of “dialogue” or “advocacy” on the part of this PTO or any other organization.

A few questions regarding the record of growth and achievement…

  • Are there more or less hours of standardized tests today at our school than 5 years ago? Answer: More.
  • Are there more or less Montessori schools in HISD than 5 years ago? Answer: Less.
  • Has our school increased or decreased in state standardized testing pass rates in Reading over the last 5 years? Answer: Decreased.

Relating to “Implement state-mandated assessments in such a way that the character of the Montessori program is not compromised.”

Here are some things teachers have said in lower and upper elementary classrooms at GOMM this past year:

  • ”Come on, people, it’s almost test season. After the break, it’s going to be real tests.” 
  • ”You are going to need to know this for the STAAR. It will be on the test. I suggest you listen.” 
  • ”You guys, you have to get 60% or better on these STAAR tests or else you’ll go to summer school or repeat [your] grade.”

Does this sound like a minimal or passive administration of a required assessment? No.

Our school is not immune to the pressures of high-stakes testing in our district. Our trustees are not interested in changing this culture. Our teachers and administrators are being unfairly stressed by these flawed and culturally-biased tests and our students feel the impact. Opting out is a way for parents to reclaim our classrooms for the good of our students and on behalf of the talented and dedicated professionals our Montessori campus is blessed to have.

The role of a PTO is to bring parents together and engage them with the school—to make the school the best it can be. Over 20 schools last year had students opting out, but GOMM’s PTO has the only Executive Board that feels compelled to take a “position” on opting out. Why? Isn’t there room for all parents to advocate for their children in the way they feel is best for them? I think so.

Maria Montessori said that “Before elaborating any system of education, we must therefore create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles.”

 

Teachers forced to time student bathroom breaks during STAAR

POST UPDATE:

In response to this post, many have responded that the rationale behind the required test time tracking is from the new law passed last session by the Texas Legislature, HB 743, which does a number of things to limit the amount of standardized testing our children receive. Here is an excerpt of that new law and an explanation of why the criticism still stands.

(a-12) An assessment instrument adopted or developed under Subsection (a) must be designed so that:

(1) if administered to students in grades three through five, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the assessment instrument within 120 minutes; and

(2) if administered to students in grades six through eight, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the assessment instrument within 180 minutes.

It doesn’t take a legal scholar to determine the intent of this law. The TEA knows that the testing window for these exams is far longer than the law allows, and whether a student has completed the assessment or not, the student is required to sit at his/her desk for the entire administration.

Furthermore, the TEA’s assertion that it needs this new data to determine how much to shorten the tests is not only circumventing the intention of the law, it is also dishonest. The TEA collected this data via sampling of tens of thousands of test takers last year and knows exactly how long students are spending on these assessments. See the graphic below made available by a public information request by Scott Placek.

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Collecting additional behavioral data of the test taker without explanation or consent (much less legal authority to do so) is unethical and makes the case for opting out that much stronger.

Another aspect of HB 743 that TEA is choosing to ignore…

(a-11) Before an assessment instrument adopted or developed under Subsection (a) may be administered under that subsection, the assessment instrument must, on the basis of empirical evidence, be determined to be valid and reliable by an entity that is independent of the agency and of any other entity that developed the assessment instrument.

I think our state’s education agency not following the law while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing is a reasonable thing about which to “gripe” (as some critics have described). As do tens of thousands of other parents around the state and hundreds of thousands around the country that are opting out. If you do, join the movement and OPT OUT NOW.

>>> Original Post >>>

While Ben and I have been advocating against the use of high stakes testing in Houston ISD for the last year or so, we have spoken with many parents who truly do not grasp how big this monster has become.

A common question we hear is: “We took tests when we were kids—what’s the big deal?”

For answers to that question, see here, here and here.

bathroombreak3However, the Texas Education Agency created yet another example of testing mania this year by establishing new requirements for “Additional Student Data Collection” for administrators of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). You can download STAAR administration procedures for Grades 3-5 here, for Grades 6-8 here, and for high school here.

 

For parents who are unaware, this manual is given to all teachers and other school personnel who are administering the STAAR test to your children. Parents should read it-it is a glimpse into the enormous pressure under which are educators are placed as it details all the various ways an educator can put their teaching certificate in jeopardy related to the STAAR test. Oh, and the one for administering the test to 3rd-5th graders? It’s 108 pages. 108 pages to explain to teachers how to administer this test!bathroombreak2
If you are a parent, I think you would be especially interested to know Appendix D of this year’s 3rd-5th grade manual (page 12 of manual for grades 6-8) explains to educators new requirements this year: recording a student’s Total Testing Time and Total Break Time.
The first requirement, making a record of how long it takes the student to complete the test doesn’t get me too fired up. I DO think these tests are WAY longer than is developmentally appropriate, and longer than some tests adults take for professional licensure, so maybe (?) this data collection can go to support this. Although I don’t really believe TEA needs to know these things on an individual student level.

bathroombreak1Anyway, it’s the second requirement that makes me very upset as a parent. The second requirement mandates that teachers keep track of all breaks a student takes and then records the total amount of break time your child took during the test. This means that every time your child goes to the bathroom, or takes a movement break, or in some schools puts their head down on a desk, the teacher is watching and tracking. Initially, this may sound innocuous, but think about the intrusiveness of this data collection–the state of Texas now demands to know when your daughter goes to the bathroom during the STAAR test?!?

As a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology I give all kinds of assessments to children, and I would never be allowed to collect that level of data on a student without parental consent. This is highly sensitive data. TEA has not offered the public any explanation of its use. Will it be used to identify cheating (seems impossible given the method they are using) or to extrapolate who might have test anxiety? The truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know why TEA would collect this kind of data on OUR children. In my opinion, this is a HUGE govermental overreach into our children’s privacy and being done so without explanation or consent.

So, when people ask me what’s the big deal with the test? How is it different than what we took when we were kids? This is the difference. No one was tracking how much time you were spending in the bathroom or with your head down on the desk. Your teachers weren’t threatened with losing their teaching certificate if they spoke about the content of the test. Hell, they weren’t threatened with losing their jobs if your test scores were low. All of those things are differences and examples of the nightmare this testing mania has become.

We have to ask ourselves why has this happened? It has happened because we have put SO much emphasis on the test. It is the SINGLE measure whereby we judge students, teachers, principals, schools and school districts. No wonder we are doing crazy things like timing bathroom breaks. By putting this kind of pressure on one day of the school year, we have lost sight of true education.

If you find it it as appalling as I do that the Texas Education Agency wants to track when your child takes each bathroom break during a week of testing, there is an easy solution. Withdraw your consent. Withdraw your consent from timed bathroom breaks. From teachers monitoring lunch table conversation for cheating. From corporations monitoring your child’s twitter account for discussion of the test. From students, teachers and principals being punished for low test scores that have little to do with what takes place in the classroom. OPT OUT of the system. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s use it.

 

HISD Intimidation or Incompetence?

STAAR season is upon us and the fact that Houston ISD is the most aggressive testing district in the state is in full view.

The Opt Out for Justice movement is growing in Houston. Two years ago there was one HISD parent who successfully opted their child out of STAAR, and last year that number grew to 80 students districtwide. Today, weeks ahead of this year’s first STAAR testing dates, we have hundreds of parents planning (with thousands considering) to use opt out to help win back our classrooms for teachers and students.

But Houston ISD officials are not interested in helping—not interested in respecting parental rights and now, as it appears, not even respecting their own school board’s policies and directives.

Remember that Houston ISD Board of Trustees specifically passed two policies this past year related to STAAR. The first was in November when the school board voted 7:1 to amend its local testing policy to include and entire section titled “Opt Out Implications.”

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The second was in December when the school board unanimously approved suspending the use of STAAR as a promotion standard for any grade other than 5th and 8th—the only two grades state law requires.

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But, just this week alone, our network of Opt Out for Justice parents saw no fewer than three communications from elementary principals communicating incorrect information about STAAR including two emails to parents explicitly intimidating them with the threat of illegal summer school.

The first example is HISD’s web page on Student Requirements and Promotion Standards indicating that passing STAAR is required in the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th grades

which is FALSE.

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The second example is HISD’s “STAAR FAQs” sheet that is often sent to parents in printed form and is also on the district website. Again, this document states, “Passing STAAR is one of the HISD promotion requirements for students in grades 3 through 8”

— which is FALSE.

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The third example is a page on HISD’s website with more STAAR FAQs where under the question “Can I ‘opt-out’ of STAAR assessments?”, The district’s answer completely ignores the new board policy that created a process for a parent to communicate intent to opt out as well as directed that no negative consequences to students result from that parental decision.

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How can there be no way to opt out while the district has a policy explaining to parents how and what will happen if they do?

Finally, when misinformation is pervasive in an organization and when it’s combined with the high pressure that comes with keeping your job or getting your bonus based on just one test, this happens…

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This example is just one of the examples received from this principal—others were more egregious but I have yet to receive permission to share.

Although this principal is unaware of the correct promotion standards for his/her students (this message went to an elementary parent of a student in a grade lower than 5th), amazingly s/he is aware of when STAAR results are expected back from the state late. With that knowledge s/he has taken it upon him/herself to tell all parents in that grade they should plan to have their children attend summer school until scores are returned at which time they may leave summer school if they passed or would have to stay if they did not. The number of errors in this statement are astonishing.

  1. STAAR isn’t a promotion standard for the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th grades.
  2. If someone is being retained, a Grade Placement Committee (GPC) must be formed to determine whether summer school or some other intervention is required.
  3. Finally, since STAAR isn’t a promotion standard in these grades, no child failing the STAAR would be required to be retained, required to have a GPC or required to attend summer school much less be forced to stay after being sent there illegally in the first place.

Most principals are trying to do what is right for their students and usually go out of their way to collaborate with their campus parents. However, HISD is putting them in a poor position by

  1. not communicating the latest official policies and
  2. providing them incorrect support documents to share with parents. This leaves everyone confused.

Worse yet, in the hands of less supportive principals—those that are themselves intimidated by STAAR pressures—parents can be left scared and angry with valuable relationships key to student success destroyed.

SO I ASK:

Are three different district documents combined with principals “confused” about promotion standards and summer school policies a pattern that show intent to intimidate parents?

Or if not—if this is merely a mistake—does it show broad incompetence in district communications and the leadership over principals?

“The Office of the Chief Communications Officer exists to inform and engage stakeholders; support schools and departments; and build partnerships to increase transparency, support, and confidence in HISD.”

For this purpose the Communications Department has an annual budget of $2,241,716. One would think for that kind of money—which is not going into the classroom—stakeholders should expect web pages and parent flyers to be updated faster than four months after policy changes.

The Schools Office which is made up the management layers between principals and the superintendent—School Support Officers (SSOs) and Chief School Officers (CSOs) as they’re known—is focused on the accountability system and making sure that principals and teachers are data-driven. This office’s annual budget (made up almost exclusively of salaries) is $8,559,791. 

Again, for these kind of management dollars spent outside the classroom, we should expect that policies as important as board testing rules (which are effectively law) are communicated quickly and effectively to the principals and teachers that make up the front lines of communication to parents and the execution of education in our schools.

In conclusion, I hope our trustees take note of these issues. We elect them to set these policies and to hire a superintendent that can execute them effectively. They should demand that this happen.

Furthermore, when parents and principals are told that the state is taking more of our district’s money (recapture) and that we must rob our principals of their campus and classroom budgets (PUA), let’s remember that in just two departments at the central office there is over $10,000,000 being spent outside the classroom—on PR and middle management. And as it relates to STAAR—the end all be all metric of success for this district, those dollars are either being completely wasted—or used for objectives not intended by the board.

WE DESERVE BETTER.

Let’s take back our schools and return them to great teachers and principals—the professionals who know and love our kids and are highly trained and skilled to educate our society’s future.

If we don’t have enough of them, let’s use our money to get more of them.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Until the district changes its priorities, you can rob them of the data they so desperately want in order to teacher-proof our classrooms. Rob them of the data that they use to justify closing neighborhood schools and giving more money to special students in special places. Rob them of participating in a discriminatory test for which the state pays billions to for-profit companies to administer with no evidence that they help improve schools.

We aren’t opting out because we’re against something—we’re opting out because we’re FOR justice in our education system. 

Learn more about Opt Out for Justice here, here and here. Then come to a house meeting to learn more and band together with like-minded advocates.

Let’s get going.

Why My Houston School Board Trustee is Voting for Discrimination

In a meeting with constituents and district staff yesterday, my District I trustee, Anna Eastman, admitted suspensions in Houston ISD were discriminatory.

During a review of tonight’s board meeting agenda and what her position on major votes would be, Ms. Eastman communicated her intention to support the new discipline policy as it was amended by Harvin Moore (without the suspension ban). You can read more about the original policy, why suspensions are negative regardless of discrimination, and the out of touch reversal that occurred during its first reading last month here.

In response, I asked Ms. Eastman two questions regarding her support, and I thought it would be important for those in the community that don’t have the opportunity to come to such meetings to be afforded her thoughts on the issue.

I asked…

Well, right off the bat Ms. Eastman replied, “It is discriminatory!”

She went on to state, “Having a policy that says we discourage suspensions but where it is still allowed, in and of itself, won’t change things.”

So I asked, why vote for it then?

Ms. Eastman answered, “Coming along with that is repurposing 2.5 million dollars of the budget to provide schools with resources they need around how to better manage in crisis and not use suspension as a reactionary tool and educate teachers and staff and repurpose our psychological services to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Continuing, she said, “Never is policy alone going to change behavior.”

I couldn’t believe what I had heard.

I couldn’t believe that my trustee, recognizing that a particular punishment in her district is used in a discriminatory manner, would let it continue even one day more. Is this the kind of system we want? A school system that tolerates racial discrimination because it doesn’t have anything better?

Or worse yet, my trustee believes that if she were to be a part of a board that passed a ban on a particular punishment, that it wouldn’t matter—that board policy is not enough to gain adoption by faculty and staff. What’s wrong with this picture? Does the board not have control of its superintendent or does the superintendent not have control of his principals? I think neither—I think its a convenient excuse for inaction. Effectively saying “It’s not me.”

Finally, Ms. Eastman’s only concrete reason for supporting the policy without the ban is that the policy changes come with a reallocation of dollars for needed services. To this I’d say two things:

  • As Ms. Eastman knows and has stated, policy doesn’t create or manage funding. If the board thought the movement of that funding was important, they could do this at any time. This leads me to…
  • Where was this funding during budget season? More over, where is the money coming from? We constantly hear how strapped the district is for resources, where did they find 2.5 million dollars all of a sudden? And, while we’re add it, what is her response to the professionals that have testified that said funding is not nearly enough to accomplish its goals of supporting these children and their teachers.

But, wait. They haven’t found the money. They’re actually just saying they will find it next year—while not having to actually pass it today.

I think that’s called passing the buck.

I’m so sad to be a constituent and a parent of a school district led by thinking and actions such as these. A bit mad. But mostly sad.

Sad, indeed.