HFT Sues Over ‘Illegal’ Teacher Evaluation System, Wins Temporary Restraining Order

On Wednesday, the Houston Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against state-installed Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles and the appointed board of managers for illegally developing and implementing a new teacher evaluation system, which determines teachers’ employment situation and their compensation. 

The following day, a Harris County judge granted the local union’s request for a temporary restraining order and scheduled a temporary injunction hearing for Sept. 11. In the interim, the district cannot implement the new evaluation system. 

HFT’s lawsuit argues the district violated the Texas Education Code by failing to gather input from teachers and other stakeholders when developing the new evaluation criteria.  

“Superintendent Miles has grossly and illegally expanded both his power and that of the appointed school board,” said HFT President Jackie Anderson. “This is autocratic, not democratic or even legal. We will not stand by and allow him to run roughshod over this district and destroy all the progress this community has made without a fight.”  

Texas AFT Zeph Capo said Miles’ actions add to the long list of actions showing intent to dismantle the Houston school system.  

“Starve, shame and shutter. That’s the playbook. Texas state leaders took over HISD to consolidate power, installing their own hand-picked board of managers and overhauling district policy with no community input. This was not about poor-performing schools; in fact, it wasn’t about the students at all,” Capo said. “This is about the state’s long-term plot to dismantle our democracy in Harris County. They have attacked our elections, attacked our elected leaders and seem intent on dismantling the parts of our school system that are the very reasons our students want to come to school.”

According to the suit, Miles proposed, and the board of managers approved, a new local appraisal system, known as Policy DNA. Through its adoption, they scrapped the T-TESS appraisal system, along with its established processes and criteria for measuring teacher performance. The Texas Education Code requires input from district-and campus-level committees, but there was no such engagement in developing the new appraisal system. 

State law also requires that any appraisal system list performance measurement criteria based on observable, job-related behavior. According to the lawsuit, “the hollowed-out version of DNA approved by the board of managers does not contain any performance criteria, and it is unknown what the criteria will be for evaluating a teacher’s performance.”  

Last week, after HFT and the American Federation of Teachers threatened Miles with a federal lawsuit over his order prohibiting educators from posting on social media or other communications platforms anything he considers critical of the district, he backed down and reverted to current policy. 

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