New Houston superintendent wastes no time

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New Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier has hit the ground running, pushing through several controversial initiatives designed to improve human capital, both of which would have been unlikely to have seen the light of day in Grier's previous tumultuous one-year gig in San Diego.

For starters, Grier has persuaded Houston to take another shot at getting performance pay right (after repeated failed attempts), with plans to dole out roughly $40 million in bonuses this year.

While nine out of ten teachers are expected to receive these bonuses, the range of awards will vary substantially and the methods used are ground-breaking. At the start of each year, the district will compute the gains that teachers should make, using statistical predictions, given the students each has been assigned.

Bonuses--subject to shifting budget and leadership priorities--may not be the best way to attract and retain exceptional teachers, but short of a complete overhaul of the salary schedule, Grier's plan is a good stop-gap measure.

Another Grier initiative aims to do something about the very worst teachers. The district will use its value-added data to identify and target under-performing teachers. Though this policy will focus mainly on newer teachers still on probationary contracts and be limited to teachers in tested grades, the district estimates that roughly 3 percent (400) teachers are at risk of being fired, based on what they know about current teacher performance.