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The Paperwork Reduction Act

Recognizing that burdensome paperwork was interfering with your ability to teach, the Legislature passed a law in 2003 that limits the volume of paperwork districts may require classroom teachers to complete. Although the Paperwork Reduction Act has applied since the 2003-04 school year began, many educators question its effectiveness and are unclear as to how it affects their duties.

What the law says
Section 11.164 of the Texas Education Code reads:

Restricting Written Information

  1. The board of trustees of each school district shall limit redundant requests for information and the number and length of written reports that a classroom teacher is required to prepare. A classroom teacher may not be required to prepare any written information other than:
    (1) Any report concerning the health, safety or welfare of a student;
    (2) A report of a student’s grade on an assignment or examination;
    (3) A report of a student’s academic progress in a class or course;
    (4) A report of a student’s grades at the end of each grade reporting period;
    (5) A textbook report;
    (6) A unit or weekly lesson plan that outlines, in a brief and general manner, the information to be presented during each period at the secondary level or in each subject or topic at the elementary level;
    (7) An attendance report;
    (8) Any report required for accreditation;
    (9) Any information required by a school district that relates to a complaint, grievance, or actual or potential litigation and that requires the classroom teacher’s involvement; or
    (10) Any information specifically required by law, rule or regulation.

  2. The board of trustees shall review paperwork requirements imposed on classroom teachers and shall transfer to existing noninstructional staff a reporting task that can reasonably be accomplished by that staff.

  3. This section does not preclude a school district from collecting essential information, in addition to the information specified under subsection (a), from a classroom teacher on agreement between the classroom teacher and the district.

What the law means
This list might seem straightforward to outsiders, but educators have many questions about how this law plays out in real-life situations. Here’s how the law applies to types of paperwork teachers are often asked to complete.

Student progress reports and parent notices: A district may require that a teacher prepare reports, either for the district or for a parent, explaining how a student is progressing in the teacher’s class. The teacher should not be required to complete any part of the report that can be completed by non-instructional staff.

Lesson plans: Many classroom teachers have been directed to prepare extensive lesson plans. Some are asked not only to describe the lesson but also to identify specific TEKS objectives and explain how the lesson applies to those objectives or meets other district criteria. The law states that a district may only require a lesson plan to “outline, in a brief and general manner” the information presented, so the law would appear to relieve teachers of an obligation to detail objectives or other related information. TEA has communicated its intention to provide district administrators a great deal of discretion even when substantial detail is required. Teachers of students with disabilities may also still be required to note any requisite modifications provided to those students or to document other information in some circumstances.

Intervention plans or growth plans: Many teachers receive written directives from supervisors for changes in professional behavior or performance. These directives commonly require teachers to prepare reports on books read, classes observed or seminars attended. In the past, these assignments could be mandatory, but it is unlikely these could be required now because they do not fit the criteria for required reports. Teachers should note, however, that the law does allow a teacher and a district to mutually agree that the teacher will provide information not otherwise required. The law also does not prohibit requiring an oral report.

District investigations: Teachers are still required to give statements as part of investigations into matters such as employment disputes or possible child abuse if they are thought to have relevant knowledge.

Questions about this law
Because the law is relatively new, there is little interpretive guidance from the education commissioner or the courts that relates to specific real-life situations. If you are unsure whether your district can require a report, call the ATPE Member Legal Services Department at (800) 777-ATPE to discuss the matter with an attorney. 

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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 system, MLSIS.
 

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