School districts may get a reprieve from adding a student growth component to teacher appraisals in the coming school year.

In a message dated Jan. 24, 2017, TEA asked Regional Service Center directors to remind local school districts of their ability to apply for a waiver from the student growth component requirements of teacher appraisal systems, including T-TESS, in the 2017-18 school year. TEA said Education Commissioner Mike Morath would look favorably upon such waiver requests provided that applying districts agreed to pilot student growth in some capacity during the 2017-18 school year. The TEA message included a waiver request template school districts can use in crafting and submitting a request to the commissioner. The template does not specify any requirements regarding the type of student growth piloted nor the number of teachers/campuses that must be included in a pilot program.

TEA rules require that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, districts using the state-recommended teacher appraisal system (T-TESS) or locally developed/adopted teacher appraisal systems must include the academic progress of individual teacher’s students as measured by one or more of the following student growth measures:

(A) student learning objectives;
(B) student portfolios;
(C) pre- and post-test results on district-level assessments; or
(D) value-added data based on student state assessment results.

TCTA, which filed a lawsuit in response to the rules, is heartened by TEA’s willingness to give school districts a reprieve from the student growth component of teacher appraisal, including the value-added measure of student performance on state tests, which is widely viewed as a controversial and invalid measure of teacher performance, and encourages our members to work with their school districts to ensure that they consider the pursuit of a TEA waiver.

Lawsuit hearing expected in March

TCTA’s lawsuit would free up districts using locally adopted teacher appraisal systems to use any measure of student performance as determined by local boards of trustees and site-based decision-making committees, including the use of student performance at the campus level as was done in the previous state-recommended appraisal system (PDAS). TCTA filed a motion for summary judgement in the lawsuit on Feb. 10, which asks the court to rule in favor of TCTA as a matter of law. A hearing on the motion is expected to be held in a Travis County district court the last week of March.

For more information on T-TESS, click here.