Houston ISD board managers approved a new principal evaluation system for the 2023-24 school year that places more emphasis on special education compliance and achievement than previous years.

The overview

Board managers unanimously approved the new evaluation system during the board’s Oct. 12 meeting. Officials said the evaluations will be used to determine principals' salaries for the 2024-25 school year. According to district documents, principal evaluations will include:
  • 20% for special education compliance and achievement,
  • 35% for student achievement,
  • 30% for quality of instruction, and
  • 15% for compliance of a campus’ action plan.
While HISD Superintendent Mike Miles has previously stressed the importance of improving the district’s special education department, officials said the special education metrics included in this year’s system will not be given the same weight in future assessments.

How we got here

During the board’s Oct. 5 workshop, Miles presented an overview of the district’s plan to improve its special education program following a 2020 report from the Texas Education Agency that found "significant, systemic and widespread" shortcomings in its handling of special education.

According to the report, investigators found a 10-year pattern of HISD officials failing to properly identify students for special education services and failing to provide specialized services for those with disabilities.

In March, TEA officials listed their concerns on the district’s special education department as a factor in the state’s eventual takeover of the district, which included the appointment of Miles and the board of managers.

A closer look

Officials noted the special education portion of the evaluations will be split into two components, including:
  • 10% based on end-of-year academic assessments of the school’s students with special needs, and
  • 10% based on the school’s ability to identify students for special education services within the district’s timeline, the quality of individualized education plans for students, and quarterly progress monitoring of those plans.
According to district documents, the evaluations will use the following criteria to assess student achievement:
  • middle-of-year and end-of-year student assessments,
  • the campus’ overall TEA accountability rating, and
  • the campus’ “closing the gap” score included in the accountability ratings.
Quality of instruction will be assessed primarily based on the results of four unannounced visits at each campus that will include a minimum of 10 spot observations per visit, district documents show.

Officials said school action plans, which are created by each campus’ principal at the beginning of the school year, will be measured based on the achievement of goals outlined in the plan.

Depending on how they perform on their assessments, officials said elementary school principals’ base salary will fall between $110,000-$160,000 for the 2024-25 school year, middle school principals’ base salary will fall between $115,000-$180,000, and high school principals’ base salary will fall between $130,000-$195,000.

What they’re saying

Several community members spoke out in opposition of the new evaluation system during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Daniel Santos, vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, questioned the method in which the system was devised.

“Not one page of this publication cites a single empirical study substantiating this monstrosity," Santos said. "Not one of the school action plans that factor into the system were ratified by campus ... decision making committees.”

Educational researcher Maria Benzon said she was opposed to the effect the evaluation system will have on salaries.

“Happy principal appreciation month to the effective ones who will get paid more if they’re better than their colleagues,” Benzon said. “We should be working together and not against each other.”