Friday, December 12, 2008

Identifying what matters

I attended a Houston Independent School District (HISD) board meeting last night to hear if they had decided to build a new facility for my son's school. However, all of this debate over buildings just drives home the fact that facilities do not enhance learning. The chart shown on the right illustrates the importance of different variables in determining student achievement. This graph is from Dr. John Hattie's analysis of the New Zealand school system (see shows that a student’s own ability (for example as measured by an IQ test) is the factor that correlates strongest to high student achievement – not a very surprising result. However, the next important factor is the teacher, not school, principal, home, or peers. Teachers make the critical difference in student learning, therefore we need to ensure that all children are taught by effective teachers. We need to invest in high quality teacher professional development and create a system where teaching is a well paid, highly honored profession.

The highest paid jobs in HISD are not in the classroom, but rather in administration. The HISD superintendent’s salary as of July 2008, was $442,556. An article in the Houston Chronicle just announced that the new head of HISD’s human resources (named Department of Human Talent) will receive a salary of $145,000 (she was a teacher for 4 years). The highest pay grade in HISD is for a 12 month teacher with a PhD and 27+ years of experience is $86,000 It is not clear how many, if any, of the 12,000 teachers in HISD have a 12 month appointment and that level of experience.

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