What HISD Wants

view of downtown Houston in Texas

Houston, TX (image available under a Creative Commons License from seoulpolaris at http://www.flickr.com/photos/escapevelocity/3097220979/)

At the recent Texas A&M Chancellor’s Summit on Teacher Education, Dr. Terry Grier, Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, said that he was in the market to buy a car. He has very specific requirements. If you aren’t selling what he needs, he isn’t buying.

The sellers in this metaphor are universities, particularly Schools and Colleges of Education. The cars are college graduates looking for a job.

What kind of “car” do you need to be to work in HISD?

  • Be able to teach standards-based curricula in Texas and understand the subtle distinctions in the action verbs in the different objectives
  • Be able to use technology effectively
  • Align lesson plans with STAAR / TEKS objectives
  • Know appropriate pedagogical strategies, especially differentiated instruction
  • Understand increased accountability for teachers, including how your students perform on standardized tests (“value-added” assessment)
  • Be able to manage a classroom
  • Have respect for diversity and bring it out in the classroom
  • Be prepared and excited to teach children living in poverty
  • Believe that ALL children can learn at high levels
  • Be able to teach reading and literacy

Dr. Grier said this last bullet was his top need at all levels of education, K-12. Teachers have to be able to help students who come to school with a 2000-word vocabulary and no phonemic awareness.

Since the audience was mainly professors in teacher education programs, he also encouraged universities to take a hard look at their entrance requirements. SAT scores do predict future teacher quality, he said.

Finally, he mentioned a new program that HISD is working on to create the kinds of principals he wants in Houston. He wants them to take a lot of hours in an MBA program, since administrators need the conflict-resolution skills and marketing savvy that business professors teach.

Dr. Grier’s bottom line? “A quality teacher in every classroom; a quality principal in every school.”

What do you think about all of this? Are you ready to teach reading to kids that are three grade levels behind? Do you understand the research theory on educating children living in poverty? What if the College of Education raised its minimum GPA requirements or asked for certain SAT scores or went back to old THEA Reading score of 260 or better before you could be admitted to Teacher Education?

A lot of you plan to move into administration some day. Do you think some graduate business courses would make you a better school leader?

Here’s the link to the HISD teacher selection process for 2011; last year, less than 18% of applicants received employment!


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