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 Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) 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 PDAS, 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.
Most school districts in Texas use the PDAS for teacher appraisals.

PDAS requirements

In addition to the general requirements mentioned above, the PDAS rules contain more specific requirements, including:
  • Mandatory teacher orientation/appraisal training.
  • Specific qualifications for appraisers. [19 TAC §150.1006]
    • A teacher shall be appraised by a campus administrator who is a certified PDAS appraiser, has satisfactorily completed the required training and has been approved by the school board.
    • If a district lacks sufficient qualified personnel to complete appraisals in a timely manner, an individual other than a campus administrator may conduct appraisals if she has been certified and has completed the required training. An appraiser who is also a teacher may not conduct appraisals of other teachers at her own campus, unless the appraiser is also a department or grade level chair whose job responsibilities include observations.
  • A Teacher Self-Report Form that includes:
  1. Documentation by the teacher of the teaching or reinforcement of TEKS objectives, as well as other contributions to the improvement of student academic performance;
  2. An annual description of professional development activities; and
  3. Discussion of targeted areas for professional growth.
  • At least one 45-minute observation. If the teacher and appraiser both agree, that time may instead be divided up into shorter segments, as long as the time totals to at least 45 minutes.
  • Additional walkthroughs and observations conducted at the appraiser’s discretion.
  • Cumulative data from additional written documentation. [19 TAC §150.1003(f)]
    • If the appraiser wishes to include information received from a third party in the cumulative data, the appraiser must verify and document that information. The appraiser must share with the teacher any documentation that could affect the teacher’s summative within 10 working days of when the appraiser became aware of matter.
  • Pre- and/or post-observation conferences held at the request of the teacher or appraiser. 
  • An annual written summative appraisal report and conference. [19 TAC §150.1003(h)(i)]
Appraisals should be based on performance in teaching assignments for which the teacher is certified whenever possible.

PDAS domains and ratings

Teacher performance on a PDAS appraisal is rated as exceeds expectations, proficient, below expectations or unsatisfactory in the following domains:
  • Domain I: Active, successful student participation in the learning process
  • Domain II: Learner-centered instruction
  • Domain III: Evaluation and feedback on student progress
  • Domain IV: Management of student discipline, instructional strategies, time and materials
  • Domain V: Professional communication
  • Domain VI: Professional development
  • Domain VII: Compliance with policies, operating procedures and requirements
  • Domain VIII: Improvement of academic performance of all students on the campus (based on indicators included in the Academic Excellence Indicator System)

PDAS scheduling

A school district must establish a calendar for teacher appraisals, and a teacher’s appraisal period shall include all contractual days.

The PDAS observation

  • Observations must be conducted during the required days of instruction for students.
  • Observation blackout days:
  1. The three weeks following completion of PDAS orientation (when orientation is required) or the first three weeks of instruction (when PDAS orientation is not required)
  2. The last day of instruction before any official school holiday
  3. Any other day deemed inappropriate by the local school board
  • A written observation report must be given to the teacher within 10 working days of an observation.

The PDAS year-end summative

  • A written summative report must be shared with the teacher at least five working days before the summative conference and no later than 15 working days before the last day of instruction.
  • The district’s appraisal calendar must indicate a period for summative conferences that ends no later than 15 working days prior to the last day of student instruction. A summative conference must be held within the timeframe specified by that calendar and no later than 15 working days before the last day of instruction. This timeline may be waived in writing by the teacher.
  • Additional cumulative data collected during the contract term but after the summative conference may be considered for appraisal purposes. However, if the additional data affects any domain on the appraisal, an additional summative report must be created and another conference must be held. [19 TAC §150.1003(k)]
  • The written summative report shall be placed in the teacher’s personnel file by the end of the appraisal period.

PDAS response and appeal options

  1. Written response
A teacher may submit a written response/rebuttal after receiving:
  1. A written observation report;
  2. A written summative annual appraisal report; and/or
  3. Any other documentation associated with the appraisal.
  • The response must be submitted within 10 working days of receiving a written appraisal document (timeline may be extended to 15 working days at the discretion of the appraiser).
  • Tips for an effective response/rebuttal:
    • Be objective.
    • Use a professional tone.
    • Only include information that is relevant to the appraisal process and/or its result.
    • Attach supporting documentation if necessary.
    • Specifically address only those concerns the appraiser put in writing.
    • Request a specific remedy if appropriate. For example, ask the appraiser to award previously denied credit.
  1. Second appraisal by a different appraiser
A teacher may request a second appraisal by a different appraiser after receiving:
  1. A written observation report with which the teacher disagrees; and/or
  2. A written summative annual appraisal report with which the teacher disagrees.
  • The second appraisal must be requested within 10 working days of receiving a written observation report or a written summative annual appraisal report (timeline may be extended to 15 working days at the discretion of the appraiser).
  • The teacher may be given advanced notice of the date/time for the second appraisal, but such notice is not required.
  • The district selects the second appraiser (unless the local district policy allows for teacher input).
  • The district must adopt and provide each teacher with the written procedures for determining the selection of second appraisers.
  • In evaluating Domains I-V, the second appraiser shall conduct observations and walkthroughs as necessary. Cumulative data may also be used.  The second appraiser shall use the Teacher Self-Report and cumulative data to evaluate Domains VI-VIII.
  • The second appraisal may replace the first, the two scores may be averaged, or the second appraisal may simply be added to the teacher’s appraisal file as an additional document. How the second appraisal will be treated in relation to the first is a decision left to local district discretion, so it is important to check your district’s appraisal policy for that information.
  • If the teacher also disagrees with the second appraisal, he/she would again have the same response/appeal options as with the first appraisal.
  1. Grievance
A grievance is the formal process available to district employees for complaints about conditions of employment. A district must adopt and provide teachers with written procedures for presenting grievances. The grievance option is best exercised in relation to an appraisal 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 for filing a grievance can be found in the district’s local policy. 
Instead of the PDAS, 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 (PDAS) 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

A professional growth plan (PGP) or improvement plan 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 (known as a TINA and discussed below) required when a teacher receives certain scores on a PDAS evaluation. However, this rule that requires TINA in some cases 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.

TINA (Intervention plan for a “Teacher in Need of Assistance”)

PDAS rules require that a specific type of growth plan be developed if at least two domains are scored as "below expectations" or at least one domain is scored as "unsatisfactory" on a teacher’s PDAS appraisal. This type of growth plan is named in the PDAS rules as Intervention Plan for a Teacher in Need of Assistance, hence, the acronym TINA. When required, the appraiser and the campus principal or designee shall develop the plan in consultation with the teacher. The plan shall include the following:
  1. Domain(s) that designate the teacher as a teacher in need of assistance;
  2. Directives or recommendations for professional improvement activities;
  3. Evidence that will be used to determine successful completion of improvement activities;
  4. Directives for changes in the teacher’s behavior;
  5. Evidence that will be used to determine if the teacher’s behavior has changed; and
  6. Specific timeline for successful completion.
In addition, the PDAS rules provide that an intervention plan may be developed for a teacher at the discretion of the appraiser anytime the appraiser has documentation that could result in a rating of “below expectations” or “unsatisfactory” on an appraisal.




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