ATPE T-TESS Resource Page

Texas has adopted a new state-recommended appraisal system for teachers, called the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The system replaces the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) as the commissioner-approved teacher appraisal instrument and will be implemented in many districts across the state beginning in the 2016-17 school year. Districts will continue to have the option to evaluate educators using either the T-TESS or a locally developed system, but because roughly 85 percent of districts in Texas are currently using PDAS, the majority of school districts are expected to adopt T-TESS. This means the majority of Texas teachers are likely to be evaluated under the new T-TESS system.

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.

ATPE remains concerned with aspects of the T-TESS system and, on multiple occasions, has requested that changes be made to make it a fairer and more transparent system that functions in compliance with state law. On April 25, ATPE filed a petition with Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath in response to his final adoption of the T-TESS appraisal system rules. The petition legally challenges the commissioner’s new appraisal system rules, asserting that they violate state laws and the Texas Constitution. The petition also states that the rules implementing T-TESS are contrary to public policy.

The concerns raised in ATPE's legal appeal include the commissioner’s inclusion of value-added measures (VAM), or using student scores on state standardized tests, as an option to measure student growth, which is required by the new appraisal system; the limitations on a teacher’s right to request a second appraisal; and an element of the new system that contradicts state law allowing for less-than-annual evaluations of some veteran teachers who have not shown job-related deficiencies.

For further details on ATPE's response to T-TESS, click here for our press release or read the latest post about T-TESS on our education advocacy website Teachthevote.org!

16_web_PageGraphic_T-TESS-5779-WEB2.jpg

The graphic is a broad overview of the basic structure of T-TESS, beginning with the three main components of the system:

  1. The teacher and appraiser collaboration on the establishment of a goal setting and professional development plan;
  2. The evaluation cycle that consists of a pre-conference, observation(s), and post-conference; and
  3. One or more of the four student growth measure options.

The T-TESS appraisal is based on four domains made up of 16 dimensions, all of which are aligned with the Texas Teacher Standards. Each teacher will be given an evaluation rating of distinguished, accomplished, proficient, developing, or improvement needed. The T-TESS Rubric offers a more in-depth understanding of the new system.

To read more on the specifics of T-TESS, please read ATPE’s Evaluation and Responses.

Perhaps the most publicized element of T-TESS is the inclusion of a student growth measure. The addition of a student growth measure will be new to the state-recommended system when that portion of the evaluation system is implemented, which is currently scheduled for the 2017-18 school year (implementation of the student growth measure is delayed while the state continues to pilot various options). 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.

Read TEA’s Student Growth Overview to learn more.

The fourth option, value-added measurement (VAM), where students’ scores on state standardized tests are used to measure a teacher’s performance, has been a controversial topic. ATPE remains opposed to the inclusion of VAM as an option because research continues to question the reliability of the measure. Read the ATPE News Summer 2014 feature article Solid Standards, Controversial Metrics, for more information on concerns about VAM, its origins, and how it gained traction as a prominent element in reforms favored by President Obama’s administration.

Among many concerns, several significant factors discourage the use of VAM. Only a relatively small population of teachers can be evaluated through VAM, since only some grades and classes have standardized testing associated. In the cases where VAM is used, research shows that inaccuracies and invalid results exist. In addition, the commissioner has clarified that a district that chooses VAM will be responsible for the costs of setting it up.

In districts that opt to use the new T-TESS appraisal system, school boards and administrators will have decisions to make on how to implement T-TESS locally. For example, the district must choose which type(s) of student growth measures will apply to the district’s teachers. Since districts have choices under the commissioner’s T-TESS rules, ATPE encourages members to become engaged locally as their districts make those determinations. ATPE encourages members to educate themselves and their district leaders on the concerns and hazards of using VAM as a measure of student growth for individual teachers. We also encourage everyone engaged in such a process, as well as those interested in public education, to review a sample of the research cautioning against the use of VAM.

American Statistical Association: Statement on Using VAM for Educational Assessments, April 2014.

Brookings: Evaluating Teachers with Classroom Observations: Lessons Learned in Four Districts, May 2014 

RAND Education: Evaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountability, 2003 

ETS: Using Student Progress To Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models, September 2005 

RAND Education: The Promise and Peril of Using Value-Added Modeling to Measure Teacher Effectiveness, 2004

The state has also adopted a new state-recommended principal evaluation system, the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS), which will be implemented in the 2016-17 school year. The most up-to-date T-PESS resources can be found at the Region 13 webpage.
Under T-TESS, all appraisers are required to complete appraisal training and pass a certification exam. The required training is offered by Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs). A schedule of ESC appraiser trainings and registration details can be found here.

In 2012, states and local school districts faced harsh accountability consequences under provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was overdue for a rewrite. With Congress deadlocked on the issue, the Department of Education offered states relief from the federal accountability sanctions and funding restrictions in the form of NCLB waivers. Those waivers were granted in exchange for the states’ enacting certain reform provisions favored by the administration. One of these favored provisions was the direct inclusion of student growth measures in teachers’ evaluations.

In 2013, then Commissioner of Education Michael Williams began the process of seeking an NCLB waiver for the state of Texas. Then U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan granted Texas a limited NCLB waiver, but conditioned it on the commissioner’s promise to change the way teachers are evaluated in Texas. Specifically, the federal government insisted that Texas incorporate measures of student growth into teacher and principal evaluations and also pressured the state to try to force all school districts in Texas to use the same evaluation system. In an effort to keep its waiver and avoid sanctions, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) developed its plan for a teacher evaluation and support system and submitted it to the federal government for review the following year.

Concurrently, TEA appointed a steering committee of educators to provide input on the development of new teacher standards and evaluations. Twenty-seven members served on the committee, including seven ATPE members. The committee first assisted in the development of a new set of Texas teacher standards and Texas principal standards. ATPE submitted comments on the rules as they were proposed, and those standards were adopted in May 2014. The committee then undertook developing an appraisal system that incorporated the new teacher and principal standards.

Five of the seven ATPE members appointed to serve on TEA's Teacher Standards and Evaluation System Steering Committee shared their input on the state's proposed new standards and evaluation system. The interview can be found on TeachtheVote.org.

Following the development of the new evaluation system, numerous individual districts agreed to pilot the T-TESS during the 2014-15 school year. The pilot was extended through the 2015-16 school year, and the student growth measure aspect of the new system will continue to be piloted during the 2016-17 school year. The results of the pilot have not been shared publicly.

TEA began the process of rewriting the commissioner’s teacher appraisal rules in 2015 to reflect the change from PDAS to T-TESS. The proposed rules were released late that year, and ATPE provided input on the rules as proposed. ATPE members who served on the steering committee also submitted a letter to the commissioner in response to the proposed rules. The letter encouraged the commissioner to delay implementation of T-TESS in order to reconsider inclusion of value-added data as a means to measure student growth. The authors of the letter argued that it was no longer required by the NCLB waiver and is an invalid measure of student growth.

The final commissioner’s rules for T-TESS were adopted in April 2016, just ahead of the start of the 2016-17 school year in which the T-TESS system is expected to be fully implemented. The effective date of the rules is July 1, 2016.

On practical advice on how to navigate T-TESS please click on our blog posts below:

Navigating the T-TESS, Part 1

Navigating the T-TESS, Part 2

Navigating the T-TESS, Part 3
 

The Texas Education Agency’s TeachforTexas.org
The site serves as a clearinghouse of T-TESS information and resources.

TEA’s Educator Evaluation and Support System website
The site provides information and resources related to the state-recommended evaluation systems for teachers and principals.

Texas Comprehensive Center's Website for Texas' Evaluation Reforms
The Texas Comprehensive Center is a project of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) and was involved in the development of and provides support for T-TESS.

Education Service Center (ESC) Points of Contact
The document provides a point of contact for each Texas ESC.

T-TESS Rules
19 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 150 outlines the commissioner’s rules concerning educator appraisals. This includes the rules governing T-TESS.

Statutes governing teacher appraisals
Links to state laws passed by the Texas Legislature that prescribe when and how teachers are to be appraised.

Below are links to articles about the T-TESS and ATPE’s recently filed legal challenge.

We will continue to update this page as new articles are posted by the media. If you see an article that you think should be included, please let us know. Send an email to government@atpe.org.

Please note, some of the news sources may have their articles behind a paywall. You may need a subscription or day pass to view them.

Educator Associations speak out against new teacher evaluation system
(News4SanAntonio.com © 04/25/2016)

Another group of Texas educators lines up to fight new evaluations
(The Dallas Morning News © 04/25/2016)

More Texas teachers challenge new educator appraisal plan
(Education Week © 04/25/2016)