The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change. The information below is for information purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for advice from an attorney.

Teachers may be appraised annually, through either a locally developed process approved by the district and campus site-based decision-making committees, or the commissioner-recommended appraisal process —T-TESS.

The commissioner-recommended state teacher appraisal system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, went into effect during the 2016-17 school year, although the student growth component of the system did not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year. T-TESS has three major components: student growth, goal-setting and professional development, and observation.

Student Growth

Prompted by a May 3, 2017, settlement of lawsuits filed by TCTA and three other statewide teacher groups over teacher appraisal requirements, TEA agreed to eliminate from its teacher appraisal rules the requirement to use one or more of the specified student growth measures in individual teacher appraisals, for both the state-recommended and locally developed appraisal systems. 

Instead of requiring that teachers be appraised based on one or more specified student growth measures including student learning objectives, student portfolios, pre-and-post test results on district-level assessments, or value-added data based on student state assessment results, the rules simply require that a teacher be appraised based on how the individual teacher’s students progress academically in response to the teacher’s pedagogical practice as measured at the individual teacher level by one or more student growth measures. Additionally, as a result of the lawsuit, TEA clarified that under a locally adopted teacher appraisal system, in addition to considering how the individual teacher’s students progress, the district may also consider how groups of teachers’ students progress.

Although TEA rules require that, if calculating a single overall summative appraisal score for teachers, the performance of teachers’ students shall count for at least 20 percent of a teacher’s summative score, as a result of the lawsuit settlement TEA clarified that under a locally adopted teacher appraisal system, there is no required weighting for each measure. If a district provides a single overall summative rating to teachers (which they are not required to do), they can weight each component, including student growth, at a level determined by the district. 

Additionally, although the student growth component of T-TESS is to be implemented in the 2017-18 school year, the commissioner informed school districts that they could seek a waiver from doing so as long as they submitted their waiver request to TEA prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year and agreed to pilot student growth in some capacity during that school year.

Goal-Setting and Professional Development Plan

Teachers new to a district or in their first year of T-TESS must develop their Goal-Setting and Professional Development Plan, participate in a GSPDP conference with their appraiser, and submit the plan to their appraiser within six weeks of completing the T-TESS orientation. For all other teachers (i.e., teachers in their second year of T-TESS), the rules require that a teacher take the GSPDP from the previous year and revise it as needed based on changes to the context of the teacher’s assignment during the current school year, and submit it to the appraiser within the first six weeks of instruction.

All teachers are required to maintain the GSPDP throughout the course of the school year to track progress toward their goals and participation in the professional development activities included in the plan. They also are required to share their GSPDP with their appraiser prior to their end-of-year conference, and the GSPDP is used by the appraiser to determine the teacher’s ratings for the goal-setting and professional development dimensions of the T-TESS rubric. The GSPD/Self-Assessment informs the scoring of two of the dimensions in Domain 4 of the observation rubric.

Observation

Each teacher will be appraised based on four domains (Planning, Instruction, Learning Environment, and Professional Practices and Responsibilities) consisting of a total of 16 dimensions. The evaluation of each of the dimensions will consider all data generated in the appraisal process. The data for the appraisal of each dimension will be gathered from pre-conferences, observations, post-conferences, end-of-year conferences, the GSPDP process, and other documented sources. Teachers are required to receive at least one classroom observation of a minimum of 45 minutes, but by written, mutual consent of the teacher and the certified appraiser, the required minimum may be conducted in shorter time segments. The time segments must aggregate to at least 45 minutes. 

Frequency of and timelines for observations

Each school district must provide teachers with a calendar for appraisals within three weeks from the first day of instruction. The appraisal period for each teacher must include all of the days of a teacher’s contract. Observations during the appraisal period must be conducted during the required days of instruction for students during one school year, and the appraisal calendar will only exclude observations in the two weeks following the day of completion of the T-TESS orientation in the school years when an orientation is required.

Annual appraisals are required for all teachers, except that a teacher may receive a full appraisal less frequently if the teacher agrees in writing and the teacher’s most recent full appraisal resulted in summative ratings of at least proficient on nine of the 16 dimensions, and did not identify any area of deficiency, defined as a rating of “improvement needed” or its equivalent, on any of the 16 dimensions or the performance of teachers’ students. (A full appraisal must still be conducted at least once every five years under state law, though district policy could stipulate a lesser number of years.) For those teachers not receiving an appraisal in a given year, the teachers shall participate in the GSPDP process. A modified end-of-year conference will address their progress on the GSPDP, the performance of their students and the following year’s GSPDP.

Conferences/written summaries

After a teacher’s first year of appraisal under T-TESS in the district, an observation pre-conference must be conducted prior to announced observations. A post-observation conference must occur within 10 working days after an observation and must include a written report of the rating of each dimension observed that is presented to the teacher only after a discussion of the areas for reinforcement and areas for refinement. At the post-observation conference, an appraiser can allow for a revision to an area for reinforcement or refinement based on the post-conference discussion with the teacher.

Although additional observations and walk-throughs do not require a post-observation conference, they do require a written summary within 10 days if the data gathered during the additional observation or walk-through will impact the teacher’s summative appraisal ratings. Texas Education Code Sec. 21.352 allows districts to “require that appropriate components of the appraisal process, such as classroom observations and walk-throughs, occur more frequently as necessary to ensure that a teacher receives adequate evaluation and guidance. A school district shall give priority to conducting appropriate components more frequently for inexperienced teachers or experienced teachers with identified areas of deficiency.”

End-of-year conference

An end-of-year conference between the teacher and appraiser must occur no later than 15 working days before the last day of instruction for students. A teacher’s written summative annual appraisal report must be provided to the teacher within 10 working days of the conclusion of the end-of-year conference and no later than 15 working days before the last instructional day. The end-of-year conference must include a review of the appraisal data collected throughout the current school year and previous school years, if available; an examination and discussion of the evidence related to the teacher’s performance on the four dimensions of Domain 4 of the T-TESS rubric, as well as of evidence related to the performance of teachers’ students, when available; and an identification of potential goals and professional development activities for the teacher for the next school year.

Responding to a negative appraisal

A teacher can provide a written response/rebuttal to a written observation summary, written summative annual appraisal report, or any other written documentation associated with his/her appraisal, as long as the teacher submits the response/rebuttal within 10 working days of receiving the documentation. However, a teacher is prohibited from submitting a written response to a written summative annual appraisal report for the ratings in Domains 1, 2, and 3, if those ratings are based entirely on observation summaries or written documentation already received by the teacher earlier in the appraisal year. Additionally, a teacher can only respond to Domain 4, and
the student growth component, after receiving the written summative annual appraisal report. 

Teachers who disagree with their appraisal can also request a second appraiser, if they do so within 10 working days of receiving a written observation summary or a written summative annual appraisal report. However, a teacher is prohibited from requesting a second appraiser in response to a written summative annual appraisal report for the ratings of dimensions in Domains 1, 2, and 3, if those ratings are based entirely on observation summaries or written documentation already received by the teacher earlier in the appraisal year.

Finally, teachers can file a timely grievance per local district policy.

Ratings

There are five performance levels under T-TESS: distinguished, accomplished, proficient, developing and improvement needed. 

Appraiser qualifications

Appraisers must be either a campus administrator or “supervisory staff whose job description includes the appraisal of teachers and who is not a classroom teacher,” who have received training and are certified as an appraiser. Classroom teachers can serve as certified appraisers on the same school campus at which they teach if they are the chair of a department or grade level whose job description includes classroom observation responsibilities.

More information

For more information on T-TESS, including a look at the observation instrument, click here.

TCTA members with appraisal or T-TESS questions can call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282. The Teach for Texas website is also a good resource for T-TESS materials and tips.

See also: Teacher Evaluation/Assessment