The Houston Federation of Teachers has taken legal action against Houston Independent School District (HISD) Superintendent Mike Miles and the appointed Board of Managers. The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges that Miles’ recently introduced teacher evaluation system is in violation of state laws stipulating that appraisals must be collaboratively developed with school committees.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of these evaluations. These evaluations are intended to play a role in Miles’ pay-for-performance initiative, though he has indicated that teachers’ salaries for the upcoming year will remain unaffected. However, the results of annual assessments will determine teachers’ compensation beginning in the 2025-2026 academic year.
The legal claim argues that both Miles and the Board of Managers contravened the Texas Education Code by creating the evaluation model independently. The Code asserts that teacher appraisals should be “developed by the district- and campus-level committees,” among other provisions.
According to Chris Tritico, an attorney representing the Houston teachers union, the district’s Shared Decision Making Committees (SDMCs) were not consulted in the process. Tritico stated, “Their policy has now eliminated all those steps, enabling Mike Miles to formulate a system on his own, in secrecy, which constitutes a breach of state law.”
In response to these allegations, Miles countered with evidence from a survey conducted online during the summer and presented during an August 10 Board of Managers meeting. The survey’s findings indicated that a majority of the over 500 participants, including SDMC members, educators, and administrators, endorsed the idea of providing higher pay for effective teachers and agreed with the overall framework of the evaluation.
Miles emphasized, “We engaged community members, educators, administrators, and SDMC representatives for their input, which, to me, constitutes valuable feedback.”
However, records reveal that the evaluation structure had been in place at least since June 14, coinciding with the publication of Miles’ “Destination 2035” draft. This 223-page document delineates Miles’ educational vision for the district and includes a comprehensive breakdown of the evaluation process for teachers.
The primary element of the evaluation pertains to “teacher performance,” gauged through classroom observations conducted by principals, constituting 40% of the evaluation. Student performance, wherein 10% is linked to STAAR results, contributes 35% to the appraisal. Additionally, the school’s action plan, representing a “group performance metric based on the school’s accomplishment of specific and measurable goals,” accounts for 15%. The final 10% draws from student surveys for teachers instructing third grade and higher.
The assessments will be distributed intentionally, resulting in 40% of teachers receiving a “Proficient I” rating, the median classification within the model. Only 20% will achieve the three highest ratings, earning them the designation of “distinguished teachers” and making them eligible for the district’s most competitive salaries. The remaining 40% will be assigned the three lowest ratings, corresponding to lower compensation.
The lawsuit from the union underscores the language in a policy adopted by the board during a closed session earlier in the same month. The policy mandates that teacher evaluations be grounded in a system “established by the Superintendent and his/her team,” according to court documents.
Jackie Anderson, President of the HFT, highlighted the ambiguity surrounding the evaluation criteria for teachers. Anderson asserted that the district should have followed proper channels to execute these evaluations before using them as a basis for employment and compensation decisions. Anderson pointed out that HISD had spent two years acquainting teachers with the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), the prevailing standard across the rest of the state.
The lawsuit is currently pending before Harris County Civil Court Judge Lauren Reeder. A court date has been scheduled for Thursday, as indicated by court records.