07/27/2016

Union ready to collaborate with new Houston superintendent

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The Houston Federation of Teachers is expressing cautious optimism for a new era in public education with the announcement of Richard Carranza as the new superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.

Carranza has been the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. "Houston is different from San Francisco in some ways, and there will be a learning curve to understanding our community, but Carranza's track record of social justice will provide an important foundation on which to bring equity to our public schools," says HFT President Zeph Capo, who is a newly elected AFT vice president.

Capo says Houston educators are anxious for a new administration that wants to pursue a collaborative culture with educators and other community members. "The Houston public education system must become a partnership between the superintendent, educators, students, parents and other community members who have a stake in kids' futures. When everyone has a voice in how our kids are educated, the best, most inspirational ideas will rise to the surface."

AFT President Randi Weingarten, who has been highly critical of Houston's test-driven evaluation system that used value-added measures, says she is hopeful that a new superintendent will turn the page in Houston by focusing on how to support, not test, kids, and by listening to, not sanctioning, them. "Students can't wait any longer for what they need to succeed and excel. Instead of testing and sanctions, the emphasis must be on robust and engaging curriculum, addressing students' well-being with wraparound services and other resources, and providing supports for students and educators," Weingarten says.

A hopeful sign, Capo and Weingarten says, is that in San Francisco, Carranza signed a written agreement with the United Educators of San Francisco to not use test scores as a criteria for teacher evaluations. "We would advocate for a similar agreement so Houston's educators are evaluated and given appropriate support based on multiple measures of performance," Capo says.

"As we head back to school, let's get to work, forge a culture of collaboration instead of conflict, and create conditions where the best practices rise to the top to help all our kids succeed," he says.

[AFT press release]