This page was last updated on Jan. 12, 2021.

Click here to see answers to some of the most-asked questions our staff attorneys field from members regarding COVID-19.

Personnel and Employment Issues

  1. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits? (8/27/20)
  2. Are at-will employees eligible for unemployment benefits? (8/27/20)
  3. I heard Congress passed coronavirus legislation, what’s in it? (8/27/20)
  4. Can a district pay employees to remain isolated at home to self-quarantine? (8/27/20)
  5. Can a district continue paying paraprofessionals and other employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act? (8/27/20) 
  6. 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? (8/27/20)
  7. Can a board stop paying instructional employees who are on Chapter 21 contracts? (8/27/20)
  8. Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay? (8/27/20)
  9. 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? (8/27/20)
  10. Can a district add days of performance or extend required employee days? (8/27/20)
  11. How should districts account for teachers’ minimum salary schedule if days are added to the calendar? (8/27/20)
  12. Can a school district require an eligible educator to receive the vaccine? (1/12/21)
  13. Do student/teacher ratio rules still apply during additional calendar days? (8/27/20)
  14. 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? (8/27/20)
  15. 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? (8/27/20)
  16. 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? (8/27/20)
  17. Can ESSA federal funds pay for paraprofessionals to obtain teacher certification? Is there any additional flexibility in this area? (8/27/20)
  18. What do I do if my district directs me to return to my school building and my health puts me at risk for contracting COVID-19? (8/27/20)
  19. Can my district require me to share my cellphone or home phone number with students and parents while we work from home? (8/27/20)
  20. Is there reimbursement for AP/IB teacher training during 2019-20? (9/22/20)

Certification and Appraisal Issues

  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? (8/27/20)
  2. Is there any flexibility for educators serving on emergency permits? (9/16/20)
  3. 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? (8/27/20)
  4. 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? (8/27/20)
  5. How are educator certification testing vendors providing for tests that were canceled due to COVID-19? (8/27/20)
  6. Will there be any consideration given to providing some flexibility for currently certified teachers who are trying to add a certification? (8/27/20)
  7. What about edTPA testing for candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs? (8/27/20)
  8. What about requirements for certification for candidates currently enrolled in educator preparation programs (EPPs)? (8/27/20)
  9. Will requirements for intern certification be extended or waived? (9/16/20)
  10. Who is eligible for the new Waiver Intern (WINT) certificate? (9/16/20)
  11. Are candidates who have not passed their supplemental exam eligible to obtain an intern certificate for the supplemental area? (9/16/20)
  12. Has TEA provided guidance on other requirements for internship, clinical teaching, and practicum? (9/16/20)
  13. What constitutes a virtual school setting? Does this mean that clinical teaching can be completed using simulations? (9/16/20) 
  14. Does the field supervisor need to be physically present with the candidate when the observation occurs? (9/16/20)
  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? (8/27/20)
  16. Has the requirement for prekindergarten teachers to have an “additional qualification” for High Quality Pre-K been changed due to COVID-19? (8/27/20)
  17. Will I still receive an appraisal this year? (updated 12/11/20)
  18. Do educator appraisal waivers have to be approved by site-based committees before getting approved by the board? 
  19. Will all districts follow the same T-TESS procedures this year? (8/27/20) 
  20. Can superintendents adjust appraisal rules? (8/27/20)
  21. If my district gets a waiver, does that mean I will not have an evaluation this year? (8/27/20)
  22. How will school closures affect appraisal systems that support financial rewards for teachers based on student performance? (8/27/20)
  23. How will school closures affect the student growth component of T-TESS? (8/27/20)
  24. Will the agency waive the G/T professional development requirements for the 2020-21 school year? (9/2/20)

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.

Can an employee who is immune-compromised or is otherwise at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 decline to report to work? 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). Other employees might be able to work with accommodations outlined by a health professional in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 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.

Click here for more answers to common COVID-19 questions.

For more COVID-19 FAQs about 2020-21, click here

Personnel and Employment Issues

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.

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.

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.)

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. (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

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. 

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.

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.

Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay?

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

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.

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).

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.

How should districts account for teachers’ minimum salary schedule if days are added to the calendar?

Districts adding days to teacher contracts must ensure that the days added meet the minimum salary schedule requirements per TEC, §21.402. If you are offering additional pay, TEA encourages you to verify requirements with your legal counsel.

Can a school district require an eligible educator to receive the vaccine?

The current COVID-19 vaccination process is voluntary, allowing each individual to decide whether to get the vaccine. The current COVID-19 vaccines were authorized under the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization; therefore vaccination cannot be required by employers. Once a vaccine is formally approved by the FDA, employers may choose to require employees to obtain that vaccine.

Do student/teacher ratio rules still apply during additional calendar days?

Per TEA’s Additional Days School Year guidance (updated 7/9/20), the answer is yes. All aspects of the Texas Education Code apply during additional days, except for compulsory attendance.

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. 

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.

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 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (8/20/20), 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.

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 Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (8/20/20), 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.

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

According to TEA’s Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (8/20/20), 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.

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.

What do I do if my district directs me to 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 and TEA's Minimum Standard Health Protocols for School Employees in School Building During Campus Closures (updated 5/18/20). 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.

Can my district require me to share my cellphone or home phone number with students and parents while we work from home?

A district cannot require a person to disclose their personal phone number. A law that the governor signed following the last legislative session included a TCTA-initiated provision allowing teachers not to disclose their private phone numbers to students. Most cellphones, in their settings or control functions allow the user to block their number to the person being called. (Information on how to enable this feature on your phone can be found online.)

Is there reimbursement for AP/IB teacher training during 2019-20?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 College Prep Assessments: SAT, SAT, TSIA, AP/IB (8/13/20), the guidelines for teacher training reimbursement are posted on the TEA website, and include approval for in-person or online endorsed training that occurred between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020. The application for reimbursement must be submitted by a campus or district AP/IB coordinator by Oct. 23.

Certification and Appraisal

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.

Is there any flexibility for educators serving on emergency permits?

According to TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), for individuals with emergency permits that were effective for the 2019-20 school year, the requirements prohibiting the renewal of the one-year emergency permit have been suspended for the 2020-21 school year.

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.

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 Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (8/10/20), 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.

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 (8/10/20), 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.

Regarding certificates, 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, 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. 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.

Regarding transcripts, since the effects of COVID-19 have caused some institutions to stop issuing paper transcripts and many have moved to online issuance only, universities may deliver transcripts to TEA via eScrip-Safe, or by direct email to OSC75@tea.texas.gov. TEA will also accept photocopies of official transcripts from Texas school districts via their secure Educator Certification Online System (ECOS) access for entities. The upload of transcripts through ECOS for Entities should only be utilized by districts intending to employ individuals certified in other states that have applied for the Texas review of out of-state credentials.

Once TEA has received all required documents and completed the Texas review of out-of-state credentials, individuals can apply for the Texas one-year certificate. A separate application and related fees for the certificate and fingerprinting are required for issuance of the temporary state credential. Individuals who did not take and pass required tests in other states may teach for a year under the one-year certificate but must take and pass the required Texas examinations to qualify for issuance of the standard certificate in Texas.

How are educator certification testing vendors providing for tests that were canceled due to COVID-19?

According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (8/10/20), Pearson asks that candidates coming to test centers comply with the health and safety guidelines outlined on Pearson's COVID-19 webpage.

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.

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.

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 (8/10/20), 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.

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

According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (8/10/20), 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.

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

According to TEA’s Educator Certification and Preparation Guidance FAQ (8/10/20), 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 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.

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

Will requirements for intern certification be extended or waived?

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), 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.

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 (9/10/20).

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?

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), 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.

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

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), 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 adopted rules, subject to State Board of Education review, providing that, for purposes of educator preparation training during the 2020-21 academic year, actual school settings and authentic school settings may include campuses with a traditional, in-person setting that are temporarily functioning in a virtual setting, and face-to-face settings for observations may include synchronous virtual settings.

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

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), 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.

Does the field supervisor need to be physically present with the candidate when the observation occurs?

Per TEA’s Intern and Emergency Certification Waiver FAQ (9/10/20), observations can be conducted with the field supervisor present virtually. EPPs, candidates, field supervisors, and districts may need to collaborate to obtain the necessary access for field supervisors.

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?

According to TEA’s, SY 20-21 English Learner Guidance (8/6/20), 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.

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.

Will I still receive an appraisal this year?

Possibly. According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Guidance on Educator Evaluation and Non-Renewal (updated 12/10/20), TEA will review and approve waivers, pursuant to the commissioner’s general waiver authority under Texas Education Code §7.056 for school districts and charter schools that, due to circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, are unable to conduct accurate and relevant teacher appraisals based on requirements captured in TEC, §21.351, §21.352, the applicable rules in Title 19, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 150, and/or are unable to capture accurate and relevant student growth data for the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System based on the requirements found in Title 19, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 150.1022. Waivers need Board of Trustees approval.

District appraisal policies that are local in nature, not required by Texas Education Code or Texas Administrative Code, and that are unable to be met due to COVID-19 related circumstances, could be revisited by a district’s board of trustees. A district should consult with its legal counsel or seek support from TASB when considering such policy revisions.

In addition, for those schools that incorporate STAAR results into teacher evaluations, TEA is providing flexibility to allow them to remove that component in the 2020-21 school year.  

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.

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

According to TEA’s Guidance for Current Educators and Staff – Educator Evaluations and Non-Renewal (5/7/20), 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. 

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.  

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.  

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.  

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.  

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. 

Will the agency waive the G/T professional development requirements for the 2020-21 school year?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 GT Guidance (8/24/20), TEA is not considering a waiver of G/T professional development requirements at this time.