Evaluations and responses

What you need to know about appraisals and growth plans


All classroom teachers must be appraised on the basis of classroom teaching performance using either the TEA-approved Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)  or a locally developed system.

There are some general requirements that all districts must follow, regardless of the system they use:
  • A teacher shall be appraised at least once each year, with one exception. If a teacher was rated as at least proficient or the equivalent on his most recent appraisal and that appraisal did not identify any area of deficiency, a district may provide the teacher with the option to agree to less frequent appraisals.
    • For districts using T-TESS, this means that the teacher must have been rated at least proficient in all domains on his most recent appraisal to qualify. 
    • The teacher must agree in writing to the less frequent appraisals, and he must still be appraised at least once every five years.
    • Districts providing qualifying teachers with the option for less frequent appraisals may specify additional local requirements and procedures in policy. For example, a district’s policy may include a process for placing a teacher back on a traditional appraisal cycle as a result of documented performance deficiencies. Additionally, a district may establish a procedure for annually reviewing and modifying teacher agreements for less frequent appraisals.
    • The law allows districts to offer qualifying teachers the option of less frequent appraisals, but it does not require districts to do so. Districts may modify appraisal options in board policy.
  • The teacher may be given advanced notice of the date and/or time of appraisal, but such notice is not required.
  • The appraisal’s performance criteria must be based on observable, job-related behavior, including the teacher’s implementation of discipline management procedures and the performance of the teacher’s students.
  • Extracurricular activities cannot be evaluated on the teacher appraisal. However, performance of those duties may be evaluated on a separate document.
  • The appraisal process must include a teacher/appraiser conference that is diagnostic as well as prescriptive regarding teacher professional development and improvement.
  • A written copy of the teacher’s appraisal must be made available to the teacher and maintained in the teacher’s personnel file.
  • A teacher has the right to file a grievance over an appraisal, regardless of the type of appraisal system being used by the district.

Texas has adopted a new state-recommended appraisal system for teachers, called the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The system replaced the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) in the 2016-17 school year. Districts will continue to have the option to evaluate educators using either the state-recommended system or a locally developed system, but many school districts are expected to adopt T-TESS as roughly 85 percent of districts across the state used the PDAS.

T-TESS Overview

The T-TESS has three main components: the teacher and appraiser collaboration on the establishment of a goal setting and professional development plan; the evaluation cycle that consists of a pre-conference, observation(s), and a post-conference; and one or more of the four student growth measure options.

The appraisal is based on four domains and a total of 16 dimensions falling under the four domains, all of which are aligned with the Texas Teacher Standards. The TEA T-TESS information and resource clearinghouse offers a more in-depth understanding of the new system.

What is new for T-TESS

Student Growth Measure

Perhaps the most publicized element of T-TESS is the inclusion of a student growth measure as a component of the evaluation. (The addition of a student growth measure will not be officially implemented until the 2017-18 school year.) Districts have the option to utilize one or more of the following four student growth measures:

  1. Student learning objectives,
  2. Student portfolios,
  3. Pre-and post-test results on district-level assessment results, or
  4. Value-added data based on student state assessment results.

Districts that use the T-TESS will decide locally which type(s) of student growth measures will be selected to apply to the district’s teachers.

Developing and Proficient – What is the new standard?

The T-TESS introduces new performance measures. Each teacher will be given an evaluation rating of: distinguished, accomplished, proficient, developing, or improvement needed. There has been some ambiguity regarding whether a teacher performing a satisfactory job is to be rated “developing”, since nearly all professionals are developing their skills in some way or “proficient” since doing a satisfactory job would reasonably be considered synonymous with being “proficient.” The overall philosophy of the T-TESS being dedicated to professional growth rather than “gotcha” would imply that these distinctions should not be significant. But teachers used to their evaluation’s significance being tied to their job security may face a rocky transition.

Goal Setting and Professional Development Plan (GSPDP)

Every appraisal will include a teacher-submitted and appraiser approved GSPDP. For teachers new to the district or T-TESS, there must be a GSPDP conference with the appraiser before the teacher develops the GSPDP. The T-TESS guide recommends that a conference be held sometime early in the year every year to review the GSPDP but the rules do not require it. The GSPDP must be:

  • Submitted to the appraiser within the first six weeks from the date of a teacher’s T-TESS orientation or, for teachers after their first year under the T-TESS, drafted in conjunction with the teacher’s end-of-year conference from the previous year, revised as needed and submitted to the appraiser within the first six weeks of instruction.
  • Maintained by the teacher throughout the school year to track progress toward the goals and participation in professional development
  • Shared with the appraiser before the end-of-year conference and used to determine the ratings for goal setting and professional development dimensions of the T-TESS rubric.

Observation Pre-Conference

An observation pre-conference between teacher and appraiser is required, but only for announced observations. The T-TESS allows but does not require announced observations so whether a preconference is required is going to depend on whether observations are announced under local policy or practice. Additionally, Pre-Conferences are not required for any evaluations during the 2016-17 school year.

The Pre-Conference allows the educator an opportunity to show the depth of planning and consideration in class preparations and provides time to alert the appraiser to ongoing issues or concerns about the lesson.

Observations

Like the PDAS, the T-TESS requires a 45-minute observation, which can be broken down into shorter periods by agreement. Also like the PDAS, the appraiser can perform additional formal or informal observations, commonly referred to as “walk-throughs” at the appraiser’s discretion. T-TESS rules state that observations can be announced but can also be unannounced. Unlike the PDAS, there are no “blackout” days for observations, such as the day before a school holiday, except that an observation cannot occur for two weeks after a teacher’s orientation and the observation calendar must end at least 15 working days before the last day of student instruction. Decisions on “blackout” days are now made locally.

Post-Observation Conference

A post observation conference is required after the formal, 45-minute observation but is not required for other observations. The conference must be:

  • Conducted within 10 working days of the observation.
  • Diagnostic and prescriptive in nature.
  • Include a written observation report for each dimension observed that is only presented to the teacher after a discussion of the “areas of refinement or reinforcement” and can, “at the discretion of the appraiser,” allow for a revision to an “area of refinement or reinforcement.”

End of Year Conference

An end-of-year conference with the appraiser is required; which:

  • Must be held no later than 15 working days before the last student instructional day.
  • Must focus on data and evidence gathered throughout the appraisal year, the teacher’s efforts related to Domain IV, the performance of the teacher’s students and potential goals and professional development plans for the next school year. Domain IV will not be scored until this conference.

Summative Evaluation

Like the PDAS, the T-TESS appraisal includes a final performance review document, named a summative report which must be shared with the teacher no more than 10 working days following the end-of year conference and must be shared no later than 15 working days before the last day of student instruction.

Appraisal Documentation

As noted, like the PDAS, the T-TESS includes two required written documents: the Observation Report, based on the 45-minute observation and the Summative Annual Report, based on an evaluation of the Observation Report and any other data from the school year.

In addition to these two required reports, the appraiser is required to document informal “walk-through” observations if the information could affect the appraisal. Documentation, if created, must be shared with the teacher within 10 working days of the “walk-though” informal observation.

The appraiser can also consider any other “cumulative data” documentation such as reprimands, write-ups, reminders, or other documents that touch on performance. Like the PDAS, the appraiser is required to “verify and document” any information that comes from third parties, such as students, parents, other teachers or administrators.

Less-Than Annual Appraisals Like the PDAS, a teacher may receive a full appraisal less than annually with a written agreement and where the teacher’s most recent full appraisal had at least nine of sixteen dimensions rated as “proficient” and did not include any ratings of “improvement needed” or its equivalent.

  • A teacher must have a full appraisal at least every 5 years.
  • In a year that a teacher does not have a full appraisal, the teacher still must:
    • Participate in the Goal Setting and Professional Development Plan (GSPDP) process o Monitor student performance as provided for in local policy
    • Participate in a modified end-of-year conference that addresses the current GSPDP, the performance of the teacher’s students and the next year’s GSPDP


Teacher Response Options

A Written Response

A teacher may submit a written response or rebuttal to document their disagreement with the scores, descriptions or comments contained in any document relating to their performance within 10 working days:
 

  • After receiving a written Observation Report or any written documentation relating to Domains I, II or III.
  • After receiving a written Summative Annual Appraisal Report that contains information relating to Domain IV or the performance of the teacher’s students.

BUT (New for T-TESS):

A teacher may not submit a written response or rebuttal to a written summative Annual Appraisal Report if the ratings or information are the same as that provided to the teacher earlier in and Observation Report or other documentation and the teacher did not submit a response or rebuttal at that time.

This is a new restriction that did not exist with the PDAS. What this means is that a teacher is not going to be able to safely “wait and see” if scores improve on the Summative Report. By doing so, a teacher may lose the right to respond at all.

A Request for a Second Appraisal

A teacher may submit a written request for a second appraisal by a different certified appraiser within 10 working days:

  • After receiving a written Observation Report relating to Domains I, II or III.
  • After receiving a written Summative Annual Appraisal Report that contains information relating to Domain IV or the performance of the teacher’s students.

BUT (New for T-TESS):

Like the restriction placed on the written rebuttal, a teacher may not submit a request for a second appraisal after receiving a written Summative Annual Appraisal Report if the ratings or information are the same as that provided to the teacher earlier in an Observation Report and the teacher did not submit a request for a second appraisal by a different appraiser at that time.

Again, this is a new restriction that did not exist with the PDAS and means that a teacher is not going to be able to safely “wait and see” if scores improve on the Summative Report.

Each district is required to adopt written policies and procedures locally determining how second appraisers are selected.

The second appraiser must “make observations and walk-throughs as necessary to evaluate the dimensions in Domains I-III. The rules do not specifically state that a second 45-minute observation is required. The second appraiser must also review the Goal Setting and Professional Development Plan and may also review any other relevant cumulative data in completing the second appraisal.

The T-TESS rules do not define how the first and second appraisal relate to one another, for instance whether they are treated equally, one is weighted differently or if they are combined.

A Grievance

A teacher may file a grievance regarding an unsatisfactory appraisal result under the local grievance policy. The grievance option is best exercised if:

  1. The appraisal result is very poor;
  2. Irrelevant information or bias results in a negative appraisal; and/or
  3. Written rules and/or procedures have not been followed.

Specific rules, timelines and procedures will be found in written district policy.

Instead of the T-TESS, some districts use locally approved appraisal instruments and processes developed by their district- and campus-level planning and decision-making committees. Any modification to the TEA-recommended appraisal process the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)  will create a local appraisal system.

Local appraisal systems must:
  • Be developed by district- and campus-level committees.
  • Contain criteria related to discipline management and student performance.
  • Provide for a teacher/appraiser conference.
  • Be adopted by the local school board.
The locally developed system must provide the teacher with the following options upon receipt of a written copy of an appraisal with which she disagrees:
  1. The right to request a second appraisal by a different appraiser
  2. The right to submit a written response/rebuttal for attachment to the appraisal
  3. The right to file a grievance over the appraisal
Specific rules and timelines for a local appraisal process will be found in the district’s local appraisal policy. Procedures and timelines for filing a grievance will be found in the district’s local grievance policy. 
Districts employing counselors must establish a school counselor job description that complies with state law and an evaluation system based on the duties of a school counselor as specified in Section 33.006 of the Texas Education Code. The commissioner of education is charged with developing a job description and evaluation form for districts to use in evaluating school counselors.  The commissioner-recommended job description/evaluation form can be found on the TEA website.

The recommended evaluation includes the following domains:
  • Domain I: Program Management
  • Domain II: Guidance
  • Domain III: Counseling
  • Domain IV: Consultation
  • Domain V: Coordination
  • Domain VI: Student Assessment
  • Domain VII: Professional Behavior
  • Domain VIII: Professional Standards
The ratings used on the recommended form include: clearly outstanding, exceeds standard, meets standard, below expectation, unsatisfactory or not applicable.

The recommended evaluation also provides that if the counselor disagrees with the evaluation, he may submit a letter explaining the reasons for disagreement.

Counselors should check their districts’ local appraisal policies for specific information about the format and procedures used by their district and their response options.

If a counselor disagrees with an appraisal, he may also file a grievance in accordance with their district’s local grievance policy.
Administrators must be appraised annually, under either the commissioner-recommended process or a locally developed and adopted process. A school district is prohibited from paying an administrator who has not been appraised in the preceding 15 months.

The commissioner-recommended administrator appraisal contains information about domains a district may use when evaluating administrators. Those domains include:
  • Instructional management
  • School or organization morale
  • School or organization improvement
  • Personnel management
  • Management of administrative, fiscal, and facilities functions
  • Student management
  • School or community relations
  • Professional growth and development
  • Academic excellence indicators and campus performance objectives
  • School board relations (for superintendents only)
A district shall establish an annual calendar providing for appraisal activities that involve both the administrator and his appraiser. Those activities include:
  • Procedures for setting goals that define expectations and set priorities for the administrator;
  • A formative conference; and
  • A summative conference.
Districts should use local job descriptions in developing administrator appraisal instruments, and a student performance domain shall be included in the appraisals of principals and superintendents. If a district uses the commissioner-recommended student performance domain for principals, the results on that domain shall be a primary consideration in determining a principal in need of assistance. If the results in that domain fall below the commissioner’s established standards, the principal shall be placed on an intervention plan.

Administrators should check their districts’ local appraisal policies for specific information about the format and procedures used by their district for administrator appraisals and their response/appeal options. In addition to any options provided by local policy, an administrator has the right to file a grievance over an appraisal with which she disagrees. 
Local school districts may also adopt policies and forms for the evaluation of other district personnel, including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Coaches
  • Band directors
  • Athletic directors/coordinators
  • Nonathletic UIL activity "sponsors"
  • Nurses
  • Cafeteria/maintenance workers
  • Teacher aides    
  • Secretaries           
Specific procedures for appraising these employees and their response/appeal options will vary from district to district, so it is important to check the local district appraisal policy for additional information.

A district employee has the right to file a grievance over an appraisal, regardless of the employee’s position or the type of appraisal system being used by the district. 
A document evaluating a teacher or administrator employed by a school district or open-enrollment charter school is confidential, except that:
  1. Appropriate personnel at the employee’s current school/district with proper authority and a legitimate professional purpose may view the document;
  2. A teacher’s current school district may provide a copy of the teacher’s evaluation and any rebuttal document to another school district at which the teacher has applied for employment, upon request of that district; and
  3. An open-enrollment charter school may give a document evaluating the performance of a teacher or administrator to a school district or charter school at which the teacher or administrator has applied for employment, upon request of that school or district.

General

There is no precise definition of a professional growth plan (PGP) or improvement plan. For the purposes of this section, we mean any document that includes specific directives for future conduct, such as a directive to read a book on classroom management or a future goal, like observed improvements in students’ behavior in the classroom. With such a broad definition, a PGP could be a part of a reprimand or be a more formal, “stand-alone” document. A PGP can be issued to an employee any time the supervisor believes there is a need for improvement.

There is a specific type of growth plan, the Goal Setting and Professional Development Plan (GSPDP) required as a part of the new T-TESS teacher evaluation system. Additional information about the GSPDP can be found in the T-TESS section above. However, the GSPDP does not prohibit the issuance of a general growth plan for other reasons, at the supervisor’s discretion.

A supervisor generally has the option of placing an employee on a growth plan even in the absence of a poor evaluation score or any other prior warnings. Of course, it is “best practice” for a supervisor to discuss the need for improvement with an employee prior to issuing a growth plan. However, the law does not require this; it is just a matter of good management skills.

Keep in mind that a growth plan is not, in and of itself, evidence of wrongdoing or poor job performance. On the other hand, failure to comply with a growth plan could be a problem and could constitute grounds for nonrenewal or termination since it could be alleged that the failure to comply with the directives was insubordination. For that reason it is important to not simply ignore directives that are included in a PGP.





The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online contact form