This page was updated on July 7, 2020.

Unemployment benefits

  1. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits? (posted 3/23/20)
  2. Are at-will employees eligible for unemployment benefits? (posted 3/20/20)

Federal action on paid leave

  1. I heard Congress passed coronavirus legislation, what’s in it? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20) [Click here for a PDF summary of all three bills related to COVID-19 response and relief.]

Employment compensation/days of performance

  1. Can a district pay employees to remain isolated at home to self-quarantine? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20)
  2. Has TEA said anything about employee pay? (posted 3/20/20)
  3. Can a district continue paying paraprofessionals and other employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20)
  4. Can a school district continue to pay salary and hourly-wage staff who are paid with federal grant funds that are on administrative leave or who are teleworking while the school district is closed due to COVID-19? (posted 3/30/20)
  5. Can a board stop paying instructional employees who are on Chapter 21 contracts? (posted 3/20/20)
  6. Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay? (posted 3/20/20)
  7. If a district chooses to operate school for longer than a 10-month period by starting earlier than planned and/or by ending school later than planned, do the district’s teachers who have already signed contracts with that district for the school year now subject to adjustment have to work the days that exceed a 10-month period and, depending on the terms of the contracts at issue, the minimum 187 days of teacher service? (posted 5/26/20)
  8. If a charter school suspends operations, would the teachers and staff be paid for that time? (posted 5/13/20)
  9. Can a district add days of performance or extend required employee days? (posted 3/20/20)
  10. Depending on the length of school closures for students, must the board adjust the calendar to provide for 187 days of performance for a teacher? (posted 3/20/20)
  11. Can districts use federal grant funds to pay employee salaries for staff who were not previously paid with federal funds, who are now conducting grant responsibilities due to COVID-19? (posted 4/22/30)
  12. How will districts document extra-duty pay for tutors (i.e., teachers outside their normal contracted hours) when student sign-in sheets are not available? (posted 4/22/20)
  13. May federal funds be used for supplemental pay for districts to have additional assistance with administering the LAS Links Assessment for reclassification purposes? (posted 4/22/20)
  14. Can ESSA federal funds pay for paraprofessionals to obtain teacher certification? Is there any additional flexibility in this area? (posted 4/22/20)
  15. I’m in a district that has a merit pay plan based in part on student test scores. How will my district evaluate teachers now that STAAR testing has been canceled? (posted 3/20/20)
  16. What do I do if my district directs me to participate in a graduation ceremony or otherwise return to my school building and my health puts me at risk for contracting COVID-19? (posted 5/6/20; updated 5/19/20)

Certification and Appraisal

  1. Will certification requirements for special education personnel be extended or waived for the 2020-21 school year due to cancelation of certification tests by TEA? (posted 4/8/20)
  2. Is TEA waiving certification renewal requirements right now? (posted 3/25/20)
  3. How will Texas handle educators serving on an emergency permit? (posted 4/29/20; updated 6/11/20)
  4. Will TEA extend the Texas one-year certificate for out-of-state educators who have been unable to obtain a standard certificate because of COVID-19? (posted 4/15/20)
  5. How will Texas handle the review of out-of-state credentials this year, given the effects of COVID-19 and its impact on testing and certification? (posted 5/13/20)
  6. Has educator certification testing been impacted by COVID-19? (posted 4/17/20; updated 5/8/20)
  7. Will there be any consideration given to providing some flexibility for currently certified teachers who are trying to add a certification? (posted 5/8/20)
  8. What about edTPA testing for candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs? (posted 4/29/30)
  9. What about requirements for certification for candidates currently enrolled in educator preparation programs (EPPs)? (posted 4/24/20)
  10. Will requirements for intern certification be extended or waived? (posted 6/11/20)
  11. Who is eligible for the new Waiver Intern (WINT) certificate? (posted 6/11/20)
  12. Are candidates who have not passed their supplemental exam eligible to obtain an intern certificate for the supplemental area? For example, can a candidate who has passed Core Subjects EC-6 but not yet passed the ESL Supplemental be issued a WINT for just the ESL Supplemental? (posted 6/11/20)
  13. Has TEA provided guidance on other requirements for internship, clinical teaching, and practicum? (posted 6/11/20)
  14. What constitutes a virtual school setting? Does this mean that clinical teaching can be completed using simulations? (posted 6/11/20)
  15. What actions should be taken if a teacher who was on the district’s 2019-20 bilingual education exception or ESL waiver is unable to complete the appropriate certification? (posted 7/7/20)
  16. Has the requirement for prekindergarten teachers to have an “additional qualification” for High Quality Pre-K been changed due to COVID-19? (posted 4/24/20)
  17. Will I still receive an appraisal this year? (posted 3/25/20; updated 4/17/20)
  18. Do educator appraisal waivers have to be approved by site-based committees before getting approved by the board? (posted 4/15/20; updated 4/17/20)
  19. Will all districts follow the same T-TESS procedures this year? (posted 4/17/20)
  20. Can superintendents adjust appraisal rules? (posted 4/17/20)
  21. If my district gets a waiver, does that mean I will not have an evaluation this year? (posted 4/17/20)
  22. Are we supposed to be getting our annual summative T-TESS conference right now? (posted 4/17/20)
  23. If I have not received any appraisal information, can my appraiser still hold a summative conference? (posted 4/17/20)
  24. If I got an observation summary in November, can my appraiser use that for my summative appraisal without any walkthroughs or other records? (posted 4/17/20)
  25. I received a walkthrough in October, but no other appraisal records. Can my appraiser use that for my summative? (posted 4/17/20)
  26. Can I have a summative conference online? (posted 4/17/20)
  27. Can I receive my appraisal documentation online? (posted 4/17/20)
  28. If I disagree with an appraisal document, how can I object? (posted 4/17/20)
  29. What happens if the district does not complete my appraisal in whole or in part? (posted 4/17/20)
  30. How will school closures affect appraisal systems that support financial rewards for teachers based on student performance? (posted 4/17/20)
  31. How will school closures affect the student growth component of T-TESS? (posted 4/17/20)

The answers to questions we've compiled do not constitute legal advice. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

Unemployment benefits

1. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

While most school districts have taken measures to ensure staff will be paid during this unprecedented time of school closures, questions still remain regarding unemployment eligibility and unique circumstances such as self-quarantine. The Texas Workforce Commission has provided some basic guidance on these matters. (Click here to read it.TCTA members with questions about a specific situation should contact the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282.

2. Are at-will employees eligible for unemployment benefits?

If the district lays off hourly workers or cuts the expected days of work, affected employees could, depending on the length of the layoff, apply for unemployment benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission maintains a webpage for applying for unemployment benefits. Click here to view it.

Federal action on paid leave

1. I heard Congress passed coronavirus legislation, what’s in it?

President Trump has signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a package addressing many issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. See our summary of the bill and related guidance from the U.S. Department of Education here. THIS MAY RELATE TO YOUR PAY AND LEAVE.

(Click here for a PDF summary of all three bills related to COVID-19 response and relief.)

Employment compensation/days of performance

1. Can a district pay employees to remain isolated at home to self-quarantine?

Employees who are more susceptible to the most severe complications of COVID-19 may be able to use leave as provided in local policy and federal and state law. Some employees may be entitled to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave based on medical certification (see expanded provisions for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the related Q&A from the U.S. Department of Education). Other employees might be able to work with accommodations outlined by a health professional in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A school board could adopt a policy expanding local sick leave for employees who choose to or must remain in isolation. Such a policy could be adopted on an emergency basis to provide a public benefit to the district and to the community and have strict requirements for medical documentation that supports the need for the absence.

As one example, this week, the Lubbock ISD school board adopted a resolution delegating to the superintendent the ability to modify leave policies to provide for additional leave for employees and to modify their terms of employment.

(School boards can work directly with educators and the community to expand leave policies to address absences directly attributable to the spread of COVID-19 or to mitigate workplace and family disruptions attributable to the important effort to flatten the curve of disease transmission.)

The ‘‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act" contains provisions related to leave and compensation for certain employees who have COVID-19, have family members with the disease, quarantine by medical orders, or self-quarantine. For information about the new law, click here. 

2. Has TEA said anything about employee pay?

Yes. The commissioner included the following information in a "Summary Debrief of TEA COVID-19 Superintendents Calls" on March 16, 2020:

School Finance
Districts should not be worried about school finance issues. See this FAQ
TEA will provide additional guidance as it relates to data reporting in the coming days.
Regarding teacher and staff pay, districts should make decisions and policies for their employees on a local basis. But normal school funding will continue to flow. (Emphasis added.)

TEA will update its coronavirus website with resources as they become available

TASB (the Texas Association of School Boards) has provided good guidance in this area. Click here.

Document everything meticulously as it relates to additional costs you are incurring in order to receive any possible future federal reimbursement related to the virus.

3. Can a district continue paying paraprofessionals and other employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act?

Generally speaking, hourly employees are paid only for hours worked (however, see provisions under the Families First Coronavirus Act and related USDE Q&A). The school board could continue to pay hourly employees whose regular duty schedules are subject to COVID-19 disruptions, so long as in doing so the board does not make a gift of public funds to individuals for their private benefit. That kind of payment might violate the state constitution. To avoid the prohibition against a gift of public funds, the board could elect to pay hourly employees if it determines that:

(1) [T]he expenditure's predominant purpose is to accomplish a public purpose of the public entity, not to benefit private parties; (2) the public entity retains sufficient control over the expenditure to ensure that the public purpose is accomplished; and (3) the public entity receives a return benefit.

A board could, for example, determine that paying hourly employees during a COVID-19 disruption serves the district’s public purpose by ensuring that the school district retains a trained, experienced workforce that contributes substantially to the efficient and effective operation of the district, and would be ready to start work as soon as the district reopens. 

4. Can a school district continue to pay salary and hourly-wage staff who are paid with federal grant funds that are on administrative leave or who are teleworking while the school district is closed due to COVID-19? 

Per federal regulations, as long as the district has a documented funding neutral local compensation leave plan/policy that is applied consistently to local, state, and federal activities, the costs are allowable. Based on this plan or policy, the district may continue to pay federally funded staff with federal grant funds consistent with how they are paying state or locally funded staff. Staff should follow the same time and effort documentation procedures as normal.

5. Can a board stop paying instructional employees who are on Chapter 21 contracts?

A board must comply with contract provisions and the agreed salary. Most district contracts allow school boards to amend their calendars to provide for different days of performance.

6. Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay?

The law allows districts to furlough workers for up to six days by board action.1 

A furlough would have to apply equally to any administrators under contract and to the superintendent. Since the commissioner has said that districts should not be worrying about school foundation funds, the legal basis for a furlough does not exist at this time.

7. If a district chooses to operate school for longer than a 10-month period by starting earlier than planned and/or by ending school later than planned, do the district’s teachers who have already signed contracts with that district for the school year now subject to adjustment have to work the days that exceed a 10-month period and, depending on the terms of the contracts at issue, the minimum 187 days of teacher service?

According to TEA’s 2020-21 Calendar Guidance and FAQs (updated (5/21/20), districts should consult with their legal counsel to address these matters and associated contract specific issues. As per TEA, the answer depends on the terms of the teacher contracts, but, in most cases, a district can require its teachers to work the extra days if the district: 1) provides additional compensation under existing contracts that permit extended calendar/number of days worked flexibility to the teachers for the extra time required to complete the adjusted school year; and 2) extends by agreement the existing teacher contracts to address the extra time and any associated compensation.

In instances where the existing contracts cannot be amended by agreement, a district can enter into short-term contracts with additional teachers not currently under contract to address the extra time and any associated compensation.

When addressing adjustments to school calendars and consequent teacher contract issues, districts should take into consideration Commissioner precedent that teachers cannot be paid less than they were paid in a prior year without being permitted to withdraw from their contracts. See Kelley v. N. E. Indep. Sch. Dist., Docket No. 026-R10-1101 (Comm’r Educ. 2006); N. E. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kelley, 2010 Tex. App. LEXIS 9792 (Tex. App.--Austin, 2010, pet. denied).

8. If a charter school suspends operations, would the teachers and staff be paid for that time?

Payment of staff is largely a local charter operator decision. Note that from April through August 2020, Foundation School Program (FSP) payments will not be impacted. State funding will continue to pay on the attendance that the March FSP payment was based on. TEA will take the average daily attendance (ADA) as calculated through the end of the fourth six-weeks, and then adjust the resulting ADA to account for historical differences in rates of attendance from the first four six-week periods and the last two six-week periods. There will be no interruption in cash flow during the school year. Settle-up in September may impact the overall funding. Please note that the Fair Labor Standards Act still applies.

9. Can a district add days of performance or extend required employee days?

Possibly. Probationary and term contracts generally give districts the power to amend their calendars. However, whether a district could extend the days of performance depends in part on the terms of a contract, the information/calendars provided to educators with their contracts, the terms of local policy, and whether a board can lawfully modify a contract without an educator's agreement.

The TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) document provides:

Contract employees are also protected by the work schedule described in their contracts and any related documents. For example, the Commissioner of Education has held that a teacher cannot be required to work after the last duty day specified in the work schedule distributed before the penalty-free resignation date. Thus, the district must first determine what schedule the teacher agreed to work.

10. Depending on the length of school closures for students, must the board adjust the calendar to provide for 187 days of performance for a teacher? 

A district can seek a waiver from the commissioner for lost instructional days and that waiver can apply to required teacher days.2 

If a school district does not provide 180 days of instruction this school year, the district can reduce the number of days of performance for educators without reducing their salaries.

11. Can districts use federal grant funds to pay employee salaries for staff, who were not previously paid with federal funds, who are now conducting grant responsibilities due to COVID-19?

According to TEA’s April 21 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ, if the staff are now serving students under various federal grant programs and conducting allowable federal grant activities, then yes, the staff may now be paid with federal grant funds. However, those employees job descriptions must be revised (date the revision) to reflect the allowable grant activities.

12. How will districts document extra-duty pay for tutors, i.e., teachers outside their normal contracted hours, when student sign-in sheets are not available?

According to TEA’s April 21 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ, to the extent possible the employee will maintain the same documentation as before. Since sign-in sheets will not be available the district may substitute other methods of documenting who was in attendance. According to TEA it will be flexible in compliance reviews if the circumstances are documented and efforts are made to try to meet the intent of the law as best possible at the time.

13. May federal funds be used for supplemental pay for districts to have additional assistance with administering the LAS Links Assessment for reclassification purposes?

According to TEA’s April 21 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ, districts can pay extra duty pay for teachers administering the LAS Links assessment (to be used for reclassification only for the 2019-20 school year) using their local funds, Bilingual Education Allotment (BEA) funds. Also, it would be an allowable expense to use Title III, Part A-ELA funds only for the 2019-20 school year. Please note: teachers administering the LAS Link assessments should be appropriately trained.

14. Can ESSA federal funds pay for paraprofessionals to obtain teacher certification? Is there any additional flexibility in this area?

According to TEA’s April 21 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ, a portion of Title I, Part A funds may be reserved at the district-level for district activities. Supporting paraprofessionals to become teachers could potentially be an allowable use of funds when all the programmatic requirements are met. However, Title I, Part A is a campus-based program to meet the identified needs of students so this type of LEA reservation would be limited. A better potential funding source would be Title II, Part A.

15. I’m in a district that has a merit pay plan based in part on student test scores. How will my district evaluate teachers now that STAAR testing has been canceled?

This is yet another reason that merit pay based on test scores is not a good idea. Your district will have to determine locally how to handle additional pay, as TEA does not govern the terms and conditions of local merit pay policies. TCTA members with concerns about their district’s plans can call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282.

To see what superintendents and school boards are using for legal guidance, you can access the Texas Association of School Board’s “Personnel Issues During Epidemics and School Closings” document.

16. What do I do if my district directs me to participate in a graduation ceremony or otherwise return to my school building and my health puts me at risk for contracting COVID-19?

The first step would be to contact your health care provider for advice regarding whether you should stay home due to a vulnerability to COVID-19. If such advice is received, you should contact your human resources department and let them know you are taking leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Note there are other restrictions on the return to schools in Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order, TEA's Minimum Standard Health Protocols for School Employees in School Building During Campus Closures (updated5/18/20) and Graduation and End-of-Year Promotion Ceremonies Guidance (updated 5/18/20). After June 1, school employees, students and parents must comply with TEA’s Summer Instruction, Activities and School Visits Guidance. Members should call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282 if you have any questions or concerns about a directive.

Under the FFCRA, school districts must provide up to two weeks of paid leave at 100 percent of pay (up to $511 per day and $5,110 total) for the reasons listed in the rule to employees who have been employed at least 30 days prior to the leave request. This paid leave is in addition to any accrued sick or personal leave the employee may have available. The district may not make you use your accrued sick or personal leave. Leave is available if:

(i) A health care provider advises the Employee to self-quarantine based on a belief that—

(A) The Employee has COVID-19;
(B) The Employee may have COVID-19; or
(C) The Employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19; and

(ii) Following the advice of a health care provider to self-quarantine prevents the Employee from being able to work, either at the Employee's normal workplace or by Telework.

The following documentation of the need for leave is required:

  1. Employee's name;
  2. Date(s) for which leave is requested;
  3. Qualifying reason for the leave; and
  4. Oral or written statement that the Employee is unable to work because of the qualified reason for leave.

. . .

an Employee must additionally provide the Employer with . . .

(2) The name of the health care provider who advised the individual being cared for to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

Click here for more information.

The poster from the Department of Labor about paid sick leave and available child care benefits is available here.

Certification and Appraisal

1. Will certification requirements for special education personnel be extended or waived for the 2020-21 school year due to cancelation of certification tests by TEA?

According to TEA’s April 7 COVID-19 Special Education Q&A, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires staff delivering instructional, ancillary or related services to be appropriately certified. Neither TEA nor the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has the legal authority to waive this requirement. If a school district is not able to comply, the school district should communicate with the student’s family and document all reasonable efforts to comply with applicable certification requirements.

2. Is TEA waiving certification renewal requirements right now?

No, according to TEA guidance, educators who have a catastrophic illness or injury, or are caring for an immediate family member with a catastrophic illness or injury, may be eligible for a hardship exemption. Other educators will have to complete their certification renewal, which is a paperless process through the Educator Certification Online System. Don’t forget you can renew your certificate up to 6 months prior to its expiration.

3. How will Texas handle educators serving on an emergency permit?

According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (updated on 5/7/20), districts designated as districts of innovation with an exemption from certification requirements may use their local flexibility to support these educators in their assignments as they successfully complete testing requirements to qualify for the standard certificate. Districts also have the option to pursue a general certification waiver that must be reviewed and approved by the commissioner if a current educator, already certified and serving on an emergency permit is unable to test to qualify for the standard certificate by the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (updated 6/9/20), SBEC rules specific to emergency permit renewal are suspended. This will allow the employing districts to submit an online application and $57 fee to re-issue the emergency permit valid for one additional year during the 2020-21 school year. This is not an automatic renewal of the emergency permit. Employing districts must initiate this process by submitting the emergency permit application for those certified educators that served on a permit during the 2019-20 school year, that they intend to employ in the same assignment for the 2020-21 school year.

4. Will TEA extend the Texas one-year certificate for out-of-state educators who have been unable to obtain a standard certificate because of COVID-19?

According to TEA’s April 14 Guidance on Educator and Staff Issues and Educator Evaluations and Non-renewal, TEA will automatically extend the validity period of one-year certificates that expire between March 1 and Aug. 31, 2020, for one year. No further action is needed by districts or one-year certificate holders in this situation.

5. How will Texas handle the review of out-of-state credentials this year, given the effects of COVID-19 and its impact on testing and certification?

According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (updated 5/12/20), the agency joins other state departments of education in working to facilitate the transfer of credentials from one state to another. COVID-19 has impacted the completion of certification and testing requirements across the country.

While photocopies of certificates issued in other states and online certificate records from state department of education websites remain acceptable options for verification of licensure that can be uploaded into the educator’s certification file, TEA will also accept certificates issued by state departments of education that confirm testing is the only requirement lacking to qualify for standard certification in the other state. It is expected that the name of the credential will likely vary across states (e.g., temporary, probationary), but the common requirement for Texas to accept that credential issued in response to COVID-19 is that the completion of required tests is the only thing lacking to obtain standard certification. Official letters from state departments of education remain an acceptable form of documentation that a certification candidate has met all requirements except testing for issuance of standard certification in the other state.

6. Has educator certification testing been impacted by COVID-19?

Yes. TEA has provided details in its Educator Certification Testing Notice (4/16/20).

According to TEA’s April 28 Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ, Pearson will reopen the Texas-based Pearson VUE-owned test centers (PPCs) for Texas Educator Certification Examination Program testing on May 1, 2020, where local guidance permits. As PPCs reopen, Pearson asks that candidates coming to test centers comply with the health and safety guidelines outlined on Pearson's COVID-19 webpage, including, but not limited to:

  • acknowledging that you have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, have not had any flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days, and have not been under 14 days quarantine or centralized observation;
  • participating in social distancing;
  • wearing a face mask in locations where required; and,
  • in some locations, permitting a temperature check upon arrival.

Pearson is outfitting test centers with hand sanitizer, increasing cleaning and disinfecting regimens between testing appointments, permitting the use of disposable gloves and, in locations where they are not required, permitting the optional use of face masks. .

Candidates should check their email for updates as well as Pearson's COVID-19 webpage.

If your exam was canceled due to COVID-19 and your exam registration expired before you could reschedule, Pearson will provide you with a free exam code to allow you to register again. If your exam was canceled due to COVID-19 and you are unable to find an appointment before your exam registration is set to expire, please contact Pearson for assistance. If your exam registration will expire within two weeks’ time, Pearson will instruct you to withdraw your registration for a full refund (minus the tx.gov fee).

More information may be found in TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (updated 5/7/20).

ETS has extended the deadline for the PASL assessment. Based on the changes to the submission dates, score reporting deadlines will also be impacted. Additional information may be found here.

7. Will there be any consideration given to providing some flexibility for currently certified teachers who are trying to add a certification?

No. According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (updated 5/7/20), as test centers re-open across the state, TEA encourages current educators seeking to add additional certification areas to look for opportunities to test via additional certification by examination.

8. What about edTPA testing for candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs?

The requirement that an internship or clinical teaching experience take place in an “actual school setting” rather than a virtual school setting has been waived for candidates completing clinical teaching during spring 2020 and interns engaging in internships during spring 2020. As a result, many teacher candidates may have opportunities to teach students in non-traditional settings, including virtual learning environments, as part of their internship or clinical teaching experience. To this end, SCALE and Pearson have developed guidance for candidates that may be teaching in a virtual learning environment when completing edTPA. Click here for access to the Guidance for edTPA in An Alternative Arrangement: Virtual Learning Environment and Request for edTPA Alternative Arrangements: Virtual Learning Environment forms.

9. What about requirements for certification for candidates currently enrolled in educator preparation programs (EPPs)?

On April 24, TEA provided Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance. To manage the impact of the public health crisis on educator certification candidates, Gov. Abbott has issued waivers to allow certain candidates who have completed EPP requirements to qualify for a one-year probationary certificate so that they may be certified for the 2020-21 school year without meeting testing requirements, paid internship requirements, and other pre-employment requirements. The waiver applies to individuals who meet one of the following conditions:

  • Teacher candidates who completed clinical teaching during Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020 and are designated as having completed all preparation requirements by their educator preparation program;
  • Teacher candidates who completed an internship during Spring 2020 and are designated as having completed all preparation requirements by their educator preparation program; or
  • Non-teacher candidates who completed a practicum during Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020 and are designated as completing all requirements of their educator preparation program.

According to TEA’s April 28 Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ, the waiver applies to candidates who are seeking bilingual or special education certification.

While State Board for Educator Certification rules allow for a probationary certificate for certain candidates enrolled in alternative certification programs, the flexibility provided by Gov. Abbott’s waiver creates the possibility for additional candidates to receive the one-year probationary certificate and seek (or maintain) employment as a certified educator. For more information about eligibility and flexibility that may be available, click here.

Educator preparation programs will be able to recommend eligible candidates for a defined window tentatively scheduled for May 15-June 15. For a certificate to issue, candidates must submit a complete application, including the background check. For more information about fingerprinting requirements or to submit a fingerprinting Help Desk ticket, visit the TEA fingerprinting website.

Additionally, please visit the DPS Clearinghouse website for information about the fingerprinting vendor’s operations and guidelines for reducing exposure to COVID-19 during the fingerprinting process.

See TEA's April 24 Candidate Instructions for Applying for Probationary Certification to find out how to apply. After June 15, candidates must meet all requirements for standard certification, including testing requirements. The probationary certificate will be valid for one year and candidates must complete all testing requirements to receive the standard certificate before the probationary certificate expires.

Gov. Abbott also has waived the requirements for principals and teachers to complete the EPPs surveys.

10. Will requirements for intern certification be extended or waived?

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (updated 6/9/20), the requirement that a candidate must pass the appropriate content pedagogy exam(s) for the issuance of an Intern certificate has been suspended for Intern certificates issued prior to Oct. 1, 2020. The 150 hours of training and 30 hours of Field-Based Experiences is still required. The only requirement for the Intern certificate that was waived was the testing requirement. All other requirements and provisions remain in place.

An intern certificate is valid for one year.

11. Who is eligible for the new Waiver Intern (WINT) certificate?

Candidates who meet all other requirements for Intern certification in TAC 230.36, other than the content pedagogy testing requirement are eligible for the new Waiver Intern (WINT) certificate. This includes holding a bachelor’s degree, being admitted to an EPP, and actively completing an internship.

WINT is also available for non-teacher candidates who are completing an internship and meet all other requirements to be eligible for the intern certificate.

For more information, see TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (updated 6/9/20).

12. Are candidates who have not passed their supplemental exam eligible to obtain an intern certificate for the supplemental area? For example, can a candidate who has passed Core Subjects EC-6 but not yet passed the ESL Supplemental be issued a WINT for just the ESL Supplemental?

Candidates who will be completing an internship toward certification that requires a supplemental exam are eligible for the WINT. Candidates should apply for and EPPs should recommend the certificate using the WINT procedure.

13. Has TEA provided guidance on other requirements for internship, clinical teaching, and practicum?

In its Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (updated (6/9/20), TEA outlines the following requirements that are suspended:

  • internships and clinical teaching experiences must occur in actual school settings rather than virtual school settings
  • observations of teacher candidates must occur in a face-to-face setting
  • only 15 of the 30 required hours may occur in a virtual school setting

The requirement of 30 hours of field-based experiences remains. The waiver allows for all hours to be conducted in a virtual setting.

SBEC is considering rulemaking on an accelerated timeline to adjust the Texas Administrative Code to allow for clinical teaching, internships, and practicums to occur in virtual settings for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year.

14. What constitutes a virtual school setting? Does this mean that clinical teaching can be completed using simulations?

School settings require actual teachers and students. Clinical teaching requirements include working with a cooperating teacher and demonstrating proficiency in each of the educator standards for the assignment.

Observations can be conducted with the field supervisor present virtually in the virtual space. EPPs, candidates, field supervisors, and districts may need to collaborate to obtain the necessary access for field supervisors.

15. What actions should be taken if a teacher who was on the district’s 2019-20 bilingual education exception or ESL waiver is unable to complete the appropriate certification?

Teachers who were placed on the district’s 2019-20 bilingual education exception or ESL waiver submitted to the state by Nov. 1, 2019, have until the 2020-21 bilingual education/ESL waiver deadline (11/1/20) to complete the necessary certification requirements. If a teacher has any unforeseen circumstances that prevent them from completing certification requirements in the appropriate timeframe (i.e. testing center closures due to COVID-19, personal or family medical circumstances, multiple failed assessment attempts, etc.), the district can

  • document the reasons for which the teacher was unable to complete certification requirements during the given timeframe,
  • establish and document a plan for expedited completion, and
  • add the teacher to the 2020-21 bilingual education exception/ESL waiver as necessary.

It is up to the district to determine the validity of the teacher’s efforts to obtain the appropriate certification within the expected timeline. Bilingual education exceptions and ESL waivers should only be submitted based on state certification requirements for bilingual education programs and ESL programs. A district may establish expectations that exceed these requirements.

Reminder: Teachers who hold the necessary bilingual education or ESL probationary or intern certificate or for whom an emergency permit has been obtained by the district are appropriately certified and should NOT be added to the respective bilingual education exception or ESL waiver. This includes teachers who have received an intern or probationary certificate under the conditions of the governor’s waivers related to the declaration of emergency (WINT or WPRO) and those for whom the emergency permit has been renewed for the 2020-21 school year. For more information, click here.

16. Has the requirement for prekindergarten teachers to have an “additional qualification” for High Quality Pre-K been changed due to COVID-19?

According to TEA's April 23 Early Childhood Education Guidance, prekindergarten teachers have several options to meet the “additional qualification” requirement. The only option that might be affected is requiring that the teacher be appropriately certified to teach prekindergarten and complete 30 hours of ECE-specific professional development annually with 15 of the 30 hours being in a mentoring/coaching relationship until 150 hours are documented. The following is required:

  • The prekindergarten teacher would be expected/required to be appropriately certified to teach prekindergarten and complete 10 hours of ECE-specific professional development and 10 hours of mentoring/coaching (approximately 70% of the requirement).
  • However, if a district’s prekindergarten teachers are unable to complete their required professional development and mentoring/coaching due to COVID-19 (for example, the teacher planned to complete a large percentage of the required training near the end of the year but is unable to because of the COVID-19 pandemic), this would be taken into consideration by agency staff when reviewing data and providing support.

17. Will I still receive an appraisal this year?

Possibly. TEA guidance (April 16 School Board FAQ) states that the commissioner will review and approve waivers from the statutory appraisal requirements for educators, and the corresponding rules in the Administrative Code. It will be up to the district requesting the waiver to identify which portions of the appraisal process they will be unable to complete. The district then could give an educator an appraisal or appraisal rating based upon the data gathered from the portions of the appraisal process the district completed. The educator would still have the ability to respond to, appeal, or grieve an appraisal or appraisal rating they receive. A district with a waiver also could opt not to appraise some or all of its teachers, principals or administrators.

Note: The guidance from TEA has been revised at least twice and may be subject to further revision. Note that the guidance from TEA is not legally binding, and our staff attorneys may disagree with its application in specific cases. TCTA members who have personal appraisal questions can call our legal department at 888-879-8282. TEA’s guidance may be amended after the publication of these FAQs. 

18. Do educator appraisal waivers have to be approved by site-based committees before getting approved by the board?

According to TEA’s Guidance on Educator and Staff issues and Educator Evaluation and Non-Renewal, the appraisal waiver request process does require comments from TEC, Sec. 11.251 planning and decision-making committees. School districts should document and maintain those comments locally. If the district has specifically exempted itself from the relevant statutes applying to appraisals in its District of Innovation plan, this requirement and the requirement for the waiver to be approved by the school board may not apply. For districts with locally adopted appraisal systems, assuming no exemption in the District of Innovation plan, a revision of the appraisal system would probably require inclusion of the campus and district level committees in the revision. The commissioner does not have authority to grant waivers to provisions of locally adopted appraisal systems. 

19. Will all districts follow the same T-TESS procedures this year? 

Some districts may get waivers from the commissioner that he has already indicated he will grant.  

20. Can superintendents adjust appraisal rules? 

Some school boards have granted superintendents emergency powers to implement, amend, or suspend the implementation of district policies, and employment policies, specifically. Those actions were intended, in part, to allow superintendents the flexibility to adopt or amend leave and compensation policies to protect employees from the devastating effects of the pandemic. Whether those delegations of emergency power remain in effect and what authority they provide over local appraisal rules would be determined by the terms of specific board action and whether the delegation does not conflict with existing law or contractual provisions. 

Those delegations of local authority would not grant a superintendent the ability to amend state appraisal rules and laws.  

21. If my district gets a waiver, does that mean I will not have an evaluation this year? 

That is not necessarily what a waiver means. It could mean that a district can choose to halt the evaluation process altogether because of the stark differences among employee evaluations. However, according to the commissioner:  

Even with a waiver, the school district may still evaluate a teacher and determine an appraisal and appraisal rating for a teacher based on completed aspects of the appraisal process.  

22. Are we supposed to be getting our annual summative T-TESS conference right now? 

Absent a waiver of the commissioner’s T-TESS rules, T-TESS timelines remain in effect. A teacher should receive a summative conference no later than 15 business days before the last day of student instruction. A teacher should receive a summative observation no later than 10 business days after the summative conference and no fewer than 15 business days before the last day of student instruction. 

To date, the TCTA Legal Department has not heard of any districts changing their instructional calendars. 

Appraisal calendars adopted by individual school districts may set different dates for summative conferences and summative appraisals, but may not move the deadlines set out in the appraisal rules closer to the last day of instruction without a waiver from TEA. (Note: A waiver request must be reviewed for comment by the district’s district-level SBDM committee.) 

23. If I have not received any appraisal information, can my appraiser still hold a summative conference? 

Your appraiser can still hold a summative conference to review a goal-setting and professional development plan, but probably cannot give you a summative appraisal if you have not at least one formal observation. 

24. If I got an observation summary in November, can my appraiser use that for my summative appraisal without any walkthroughs or other records?  

T-TESS laws and rules do not require anything more than a single 45-minute observation. Arguably, your appraiser could use that November observation to perform your summative appraisal. If your appraiser scheduled it, you should have had a pre-observation conference, unless you were a first-year teacher. You should have had a post-observation conference within 10 business days of the date of the observation and have received the observation summary within 10 workings days of the date of the observation. 

25. I received a walkthrough in October, but no other appraisal records. Can my appraiser use that for my summative?  

A walkthrough constitutes cumulative data that can affect a summative appraisal, but it does not constitute a summative appraisal. To constitute valid cumulative data, you should have received a copy of the walkthrough report no later than 10 working days from the date of the walkthrough. Walkthrough forms may include comments or checkmarks regarding specific dimensions, which would limit the use of the walkthrough results to those dimensions only, with appropriate evidence, and preclude the use of that walkthrough to score other dimensions. 

A summative appraisal form may violate the cumulative data rule if it includes ratings for dimensions for which no written documentation (walkthroughs, memos, or reprimands) exists to support the ratings. 

26. Can I have a summative conference online?  

Neither the laws nor the rules require a face-to-face meeting. When conducting a summative conference, an appraiser should comply with applicable social distancing guidelines. TEA has noted that with a waiver “districts unable to conduct end-of-year conferences could skip those conferences entirely.” 

27. Can I receive my appraisal documentation online?  

Again, neither the law nor the rules require that you receive documents in person, but one law requires that electronic transmission of information remain confidential. State law makes appraisal documents confidential. 

(a)  A document evaluating the performance of a teacher or administrator is confidential and is not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code. 
(b)  Subsection (a) applies to a teacher or administrator employed by an open-enrollment charter school regardless of whether the teacher or administrator is certified under Subchapter B. 

28. If I disagree with an appraisal document, how can I object? 

According to the appraisal rules, a teacher who disagrees with an appraisal document or with a document that may affect an appraisal has 10 working days in which to submit a written rebuttal.  

A teacher who disagrees with an observation summary or a summative appraisal has 10 working days in which to request a second appraisal. TEA has addressed the issue of second observations if a district has received an appraisal waiver in its FAQ as follows: 

With a waiver, does a district have to grant a teacher’s timely request for a second observation or second appraisal? 

Due to the circumstances related to COVID-19, a district would not be able to grant a request for a second observation, and its inability to do so would be covered under a waiver. A request for a second appraisal that is based purely on existing data, however, would be possible and thus should be granted.  

School district policies give teachers the right to file grievances over conditions of work, which can include appraisal documentation and a district’s failure to comply with appraisal rules. Most districts provide 10-15 days in which to file a grievance and may deny relief, regardless of the merits of the grievance if it was not timely filed.  

29. What happens if the district does not complete my appraisal in whole or in part? 

State laws do not describe the consequences of incomplete appraisals absent an appraisal waiver. The commissioner stated: 

The lack of completed steps in the appraisal process would not deprive the teacher of the teacher's right to respond to and otherwise appeal an appraisal or appraisal rating under 19 TAC §150.1004. The use of a waiver does not prohibit a teacher from filing a challenge in accordance with a district's local policy. 

30. How will school closures affect appraisal systems that support financial rewards for teachers based on student performance? 

Districts that use appraisal systems that incorporate a student performance component to determine how much to pay teachers will have to address the fact that systems that attempt to measure student performance at the level of an individual teacher’s skills have been substantially disrupted. Any attempt to differentiate compensation based upon incomplete data due to the disruption may be the basis for legal challenges.  

31. How will school closures affect the student growth component of T-TESS? 

If a district does not secure an appraisal waiver, the T-TESS rules require that districts include a student growth component in teacher appraisals as follows: 

The performance of teachers' students is 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. 

Many districts have failed to develop this student growth component. Note that the rule specifically refers to growth measures, so raw benchmark scores or even STAAR results are not a measure of student growth. Additionally, student growth does not have to be (and in many cased cannot be) measure using standardized tests. Additionally, STAAR has been waived for 2019-20. Teachers who receive any negative rating based on student test scores or a faulty student growth measure can object through a rebuttal or through a grievance. TCTA members should promptly call our legal department at 888-879-8282 if there are any questions due to the short timelines for taking such actions. 

Click here to return to the main COVID-19 FAQ page.


Footnotes
1. Texas Education Code § 21.4021(a) states:

[T]he board of trustees of a school district may, in accordance with district policy, implement a furlough program and reduce the number of days of service otherwise required under Section 21.401 by not more than six days of service during a school year if the commissioner certifies in accordance with Section 48.010 that the district will be provided with less state and local funding for that year than was provided to the district for the 2010-2011 school year.

2. Texas Education Code § 21.401, related to minimum service for educators, states:

(a)  A contract between a school district and an educator must be for a minimum of 10 months' service.
(b)  Except as provided by Subsection (c-1), an educator employed under a 10-month contract must provide a minimum of 187 days of service.
(c)  The commissioner, as provided by Section 25.081(b), may reduce the number of days of service required by this section. A reduction by the commissioner does not reduce an educator's salary. (Emphasis added.)

3. Section 21.401(c-1) of the Education Code states:

(c-1) If a school district anticipates providing less than 180 days of instruction for students during a school year, as indicated by the district's academic calendar, the district may reduce the number of days of service required by this section proportionately. A reduction by the district does not reduce an educator's salary.