Can a school district constitutionally terminate teachers for ineffective performance based on a secret value-added algorithm?

No. The Houston Federation of Teachers brought an action against the Houston Independent School District based on the claim that a teacher evaluation system based, at least partly on student exam scores, violated disciplined teachers’ procedural due process rights under the 14th Amendment.

Student exam scores were subjected to a “secret” algorithm to determine whether students’ performance was increased. This algorithm was the proprietary property of a private computer firm. Affected teachers had no right to view or test the computer code making review of their scores nearly impossible.

While the plaintiff challenged the evaluation system on both procedural and substantive due process claims the Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas held that the refusal to permit teachers to fully review their scores might deprive them of a property right in violation of their procedural due process rights and denied the District’s motion for summary judgment.

The Court held, “On this summary judgment record, HISD teachers have no meaningful way to ensure correct calculation of their EV AAS scores, and as a result are unfairly subject to mistaken deprivation of constitutionally protected property interests in their jobs. HISD is not entitled to summary judgment on this procedural due process claim.”

Houston Federation of Teachers, Local 2415, et al., Plaintiffs v. Houston Independent School District, Defendant, United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Civil Action H-14-1189 (May 4, 2017)

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