HOUSTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon on the Houston School Board's action tonight, in closed session, to hire the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm to represent the Houston Independent School District. The district hired the firm to defend it in a lawsuit filed by the AFT, the HFT and seven Houston teachers challenging the use of value-added evaluations. The board also approved the acceptance of a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to pay for the district's litigation costs.
"Hiring a powerful law firm and accepting a grant from one of the country's most conservative and well-endowed foundations shows the Houston school system will spend as much money as it can to defend what we believe are unjust and unfair actions, rather than act in the best interests of the district's students and teachers. No amount of money changes the fact that value-added measures are a faulty and downright unfair way to measure teacher effectiveness. Value-added measures have been discredited by the American Statistical Association, the RAND Corp. and the National Academy of Sciences, among others. That is why we believe their use in Houston is unconstitutional.
"The ramifications are terrible for children. About 2,000 teachers voluntarily fled HISD classrooms last year on their own—not because they were asked to leave but because of their deep distrust and disgust over value-added evaluations and other disrespectful working conditions. Houston should stop pursuing efforts that are antithetical to what is needed to improve teaching and learning and to what will help recruit and retain great teachers.
"Sadly, by hiring the same law firm that litigated the Vergara v. California suit by pitting students against their teachers, the Houston school board has opted for the same divisive strategy."