Houston: Keep trying until you get it right

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A new grant from the Gates Foundation may help the Houston Independent School District get its beleaguered performance pay initiative on track. After numerous well-documented missteps, Houston is spending considerable dollars to bring in outside expertise.

The new plan maximizes the dual use of value-added data in measuring individual student progress and individual teacher contributions. Rather than just crunch a bunch of data and issue some teachers bonus checks, HISD has hired Battelle for Kids to train teachers to analyze the value-added student data and use it to improve student outcomes. Now there's a novel idea.

Controversy will surely continue in Houston -- the district is paying William Sanders almost a half million dollars to run the numbers, and there are already complaints that the new model is too complicated and confusing. But actively using the data to improve student performance, while also measuring teacher performance, is a big step forward.