The Classroom Teacher, summer 2014

In exchange for a waiver from federal AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and other requirements under the NCLB/ESEA, in fall 2013, the Texas commissioner of education committed to instituting statewide teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that include student growth on state standardized tests as a significant factor (at least 20 percent) in determining a teacher’s or principal’s summative evaluation rating. Read "A closer look at the proposed teacher evaluation system." What's next for the proposed teacher evaluation program as the 2014-15 school year kicks off?

  • TEA will begin piloting the proposed teacher evaluation system in 2014-15. Participating districts were to be trained in summer 2014, will implement the evaluation systems in fall 2014 and will provide TEA with continuous feedback on system components so that appropriate revisions can be made to relevant training, instruments and guidelines.
  • The next legislative session starts in January 2015, and TCTA fully expects there to be a push to make the changes in state law necessary to honor the teacher evaluation commitments included in the NCLB waiver, or Texas risks losing the NCLB waiver.
  • Given that many other states in this situation have received requested extensions from the U.S. Department of Education on their timelines to implement federal teacher evaluation requirements, TCTA plans to actively resist such changes in state law and continue to advocate for other options, such as seeking further extensions of timelines as needed.  
  • TCTA also plans to push for the commissioner to negotiate for more flexibility in the waiver regarding teacher evaluation requirements, as numerous other states have done. Kansas, for example, negotiated an NCLB waiver agreement for which the state leaves it up to local districts to define the percentage that student growth will count in teachers’ evaluations. New Hampshire’s waiver agreement allows local districts to decide whether to assign individual or shared attribution of student growth to teachers. And Kentucky’s agreement allows districts to determine how much to weight all the components of teacher evaluation using a decision matrix.
  • Despite claims that Texas risks losing its federal Title I funds if the waiver is revoked, there is now some evidence that is not the case. Washington was the first, and so far the only, state to have its NCLB waiver revoked. In that case, the consequence was not the loss of the state’s entire Title I funding, but rather the loss of local districts’ ability to use 20 percent of their Title I funds on services other than supplemental educational services (i.e. tutoring). However, the consequences of failing to meet AYP requirements remain to be seen.
  • Those in charge of enforcing the waiver requirements at the U.S. Department of Education are part of the current administration, which will change with the 2016 presidential election — a situation that impacts their enforcement ability. (And in Texas, the commissioner could also be replaced by a new governor following the fall 2014 elections.) In what some experts view as an illustration of the U.S. Department of Education’s waning enforcement ability, the Department recently announced it would grant states NCLB waiver extensions on timelines for implementing teacher evaluation systems without risking the waivers, if the states find they need to make targeted adjustments to their systems during the implementation process. This could apply to Texas given the insufficient time available under the current timelines to change the system once pilot data is in. Another sign that the Department is facing pushback on its initial push for hasty implementation of test-based teacher evaluation systems is that Bill Gates, traditionally a major backer and funder of U.S. Department of Education reform initiatives, called for a delay in linking new Common Core standardized tests with teacher evaluations.