TCTA and the three other major Texas teacher groups settled lawsuits with Education Commissioner Mike Morath through a joint settlement agreement filed May 3.

In a major victory for Texas teachers, the settlement will give school districts much greater flexibility in how to measure and weight student performance data in teacher appraisals as well as removing any reference to “value-added data” in both the commissioner-recommended appraisal system (T-TESS) and in locally-adopted appraisal systems. The four groups negotiated a settlement with the commissioner through the assistant attorneys general who were representing the commissioner in the four separate lawsuits filed against the teacher appraisal rules adopted by the commissioner last year.

The current rules require districts to use one or more of four measures of student performance as measured at the individual teacher level, one of which is “value-added data based on student state assessment results.” The commissioner has agreed to change this rule by eliminating any reference to the four measures, including the reference to value-added data. When the rule is changed, the definition of “performance of teachers’ students,” which is a required component of state law, will be “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.” This definition will apply to both the T-TESS and locally-adopted appraisals.

While TCTA’s lawsuit challenged the authority of the commissioner to adopt any rules restricting locally-adopted appraisals, the settlement addresses most of our concerns by eliminating the state endorsement of “value-added data based on student state assessment results,” which TCTA and the other groups believe not to be a valid measure of job-related teacher performance. While the rules will not prohibit districts from adopting value-added data based on student standardized tests as a measure of student performance, such measures could be challenged on a case-by-case basis.

The agreement also provides greater flexibility for locally-adopted appraisals. While such appraisals will have to include some component of student performance at the individual teacher level, it will be totally up to local districts to determine how much weight to assign to this component. For example, a locally-adopted appraisal system could weight student performance growth as low as one percent of the appraisal. Districts would also be free to incorporate the performance of students in teacher appraisals at a group or campus level as was done in the previous commissioner-recommended appraisal system, the PDAS. The settlement agreement provides that districts will be advised of this flexibility through a statement in the Texas Register when the rules are adopted.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available here.