A hearing was held in Travis County District Court on Wednesday, March 29, in the case of TCTA v. Morath. TCTA filed a lawsuit in April 2016 against Education Commissioner Mike Morath over the appraisal rule that requires locally adopted appraisal systems to use the definition of "performance of teachers' students" used in the appraisal system recommended by the commissioner, which is T-TESS.
School districts have the option of using the appraisal system recommended by the commissioner or appraisal systems developed by local site-based committees and adopted by local school boards. State law requires the commissioner-recommended system to include "the performance of teachers' students." The statute allowing districts to use locally-developed appraisals requires them to include this same element by referring back to the statute requiring the inclusion of student performance in the commissioner-recommended system.
The commissioner asserts that this gives him the legal authority to define "the performance of teachers' students" even in locally-adopted appraisal systems. T-TESS defines this term as growth in student performance at the individual teacher level using student learning objectives, district pre- and post-tests, student portfolios, and/or value-added data based on student state assessment results. By restricting locally-developed appraisal systems to this definition, the rule challenged by TCTA requires districts to include student performance in appraisals at the individual teacher level, rather than including student performance at a group or campus level as was done in PDAS, the previous commissioner-recommended system.
The presiding judge, Lora Livingston, did not rule on the case, and indicated that she may require the other teacher associations that have filed similar cases to file motions to have their cases heard. TCTA General Counsel Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr. asked that the matter be resolved as early as possible, since the rule is scheduled to go into effect in the 2017-18 school year. The judge ordered the other two associations to file motions similar to the one filed by TCTA on the issue of the commissioner’s authority over local appraisal systems and has scheduled a hearing for the end of May.