Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles reversed course on the implementation of a controversial portion of the district’s principal evaluation system following nearly three hours of public backlash during the board of manager’s March 21 meeting.

The overview

Prior to the meeting, 117 district principals were notified they were at risk of losing their jobs following the release of mid-year screenings conducted through the principal evaluation system.

The portion of the evaluation system in question revolved around a ranking system that would have automatically resulted in the firing of around 10% of the principals who fell into the lowest category.

While board managers were not scheduled to vote on the matter during the meeting, around 150 community members were on hand to voice their concerns about the results of a midyear screening.

Miles issued the following statement around 2 a.m. March 22 after the board returned from executive session:

"The proficiency screener rating will not be used in the evaluation of principals or other campus administrators in any adverse employment decisions for 2023-24," Miles said. "The superintendent will continue to use instructional data and student achievement data in the exercise of the discretion outlined in board policy.”

A closer look

Board managers approved the principal evaluation system, which will be used to determine their salaries in the 2024-25 school year, in October. According to the system, principals can be categorized into six categories ranging from “Exemplary II” to “Progressing I.”

According to the evaluation system:
  • principals who earned a score of “Proficient I” or better would have remained in campuses
  • principals who earned a score of “Progressing II” would have been able to remain in their position at the discretion of their supervisors
  • principals who earned a score of "Progressing I" would have been removed from their positions
Officials noted the system uses targeted distribution, meaning around 10% of principals would have been categorized as “Progressing I” and around 22% would have been categorized as “Progressing II.”

While the district will no longer use the ranking system to make employment decisions this year, Miles said officials would still use student achievement data derived largely from test scores, instructional data derived from classroom observation and written evaluations to determine principals’ employment status.

During a March 22 news conference, Miles said he was unsure whether the district would still fire 10% of low-performing principals.

What they’re saying

Elliot Delgado, an 11th-grade student at Carnegie Vanguard High School, was on hand to voice his concern over his school’s principal not being ranked as proficient. Carnegie is one of the district’s highest performing schools with an average student GPA of 4.05 in the 2022-23 school, district data shows.

“There is no other school that excels as much as our school, yet over these past few months I've noticed so many measures in place that are put to hinder Carnegie Vanguard High School,” Delgado said. “In his 25 years of teaching, [Principal Ramon] Moss has consistently put Carnegie at one as the number one school ... in the district.”

Community member Eileen Harrell said she believed the administration rushed the implementation of the evaluation system.

“Building effective systems takes time to ensure we are asking the right questions and measuring the right things—time to beta test, time to communicate those expectations clearly” Harrell said. “I understand the urgency of this moment for our students, but my grandma used to say, ‘Haste makes waste.’”

During the March 22 news conference, Miles said the public's feedback was taken into account when making the decision to not use the ranking system in this year's evaluation to determine principals' employment status.

"There's no question that the the amount of feedback we received from the community at the board meeting is one part and a big part of why the board and I took a lot of time last night to really think through what we were hearing," Miles said. "I think it was good to hear some of the concerns and respond to them in a positive way."