Category Archives: appraisal/evaluation

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 5, 2017

Here are education news stories you might have missed this week from ATPE Governmental Relations:

 


ThinkstockPhotos-455285291_gavelA settlement agreement was executed Wednesday between ATPE and three other teacher groups that sued the state over the commissioner’s T-TESS rules for teacher evaluation. Under terms of the settlement, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath will revise the T-TESS rules to eliminate requirements that districts use four specific methods, including controversial Value-Added Measures, to evaluate student growth for purposes of teacher appraisals.

Read more about the settlement here.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-99674144We’ve reached the 117th day of the 85th legislative session with only three full weeks left for lawmakers to pass a state budget. Monday, May 8, is the first of several important session deadlines approaching quickly: the last day for House committees to report out House bills. House bills that don’t make it out of a House committee by then will be considered procedurally dead, although many “dead” bills can still resurface in the form of companion bills or amendments to other bills. Committees, especially on the House side, had a busy week of hearings ahead of the deadlines, and several late nights of floor debate. The House is scheduled to hold a Saturday session tomorrow, too.

Several significant education bills made it through either the House or Senate chamber this week, as reported by ATPE’s lobbyists. In the Senate, a popular bill passed to extend the law allowing the continuation of individual graduation committees for certain high school students unable to pass all required STAAR tests. Sen. Kel Seliger’s (R-Amarillo) SB 463 now heads to the House for consideration. The Senate also approved an amended version of SB 179 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), an anti-bullying measure known as David’s Law. Other bills passing the Senate this week dealt with educator certification, charter schools, and a study on school finance. For more about the Senate’s work this week, check out this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann.

In the lower chamber, House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) saw two more of his most significant bills pass the full House this week. HB 22 improves the state’s “A through F” accountability system for schools by condensing the number of domains from five to three and eliminating the overall summative grade that would have been assigned to schools. An ATPE-supported floor amendment by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) also calls for the Texas Education Agency to supply narrative descriptions of the ratings assigned in an effort to help parents and the public better understand their significance. Another ATPE-supported floor amendment by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) that would have further reduced the emphasis on student test scores in the accountability system was rejected. Huberty’s HB 23 also got a nod of approval from the House; the bill creates a grant program to help public schools, including charter schools, offer specialty services for students with disabilities. An attempted floor amendment by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) that would have funded private school vouchers was withdrawn during the debate. The House also approved Rep. VanDeaver’s HB 515, an ATPE-supported bill that reduces mandatory testing. Also, HB 3976 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), offering changes to try to shore up the TRS-Care health insurance program for retired educators, passed the House on a 140-0 vote yesterday.

Numerous bills made it past the House Public Education Committee this week as reported by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins. For complete details, check out his latest blog posts here, here, and here.

 


 

 

ATPE settles lawsuit over state’s teacher evaluation system

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingATPE and other parties to a lawsuit over the state’s new recommended teacher appraisal system known as T-TESS have reached a settlement agreement.

ATPE and three other teacher associations sued the state in April 2016 alleging that new commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS violated state laws and were against public policy. Through the Office of the Attorney General, which represented the Texas Education Agency in the lawsuit, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has agreed to revise the rules in exchange for the four teacher groups’ suspending their legal challenges.

The terms of the settlement agreement call for removal of language in the commissioner’s rules that require districts to employ four specific student growth measures in evaluating teachers under the T-TESS model. One of those four criteria was “value-added data based on student state assessment results,” often called Value-Added Measurement or Value-Added Modeling (VAM). ATPE has long criticized the use of VAM for high-stakes purposes based on concerns about the validity and fairness of the controversial model.

‘VAM attempts to use complex statistical calculations on students’ standardized test scores in previous years to predict how well a student should perform on future tests; the resulting test performance of an individual student – not accounting for myriad outside factors – is supposed to magically show whether that student’s most recent teacher was effective or not,” said ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday at the time the lawsuits challenging the rules were filed.

ATPE Member Legal Services Director Donna Derryberry described the compromise struck this week as one that “will give districts more local control over their appraisal process” without being required to use VAM. “This is a great victory for all Texas teachers,” added Derryberry, “and ATPE is proud to have been instrumental in this settlement.”

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 29, 2016

It’s been a big news week for ATPE, and here’s a recap of current education stories we’re closely following:


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe are approaching two important elections during the month of May. First, the local uniform election date is May 7, followed by the May 24 election date for primary runoffs.

Early voting began this week and runs through May 3 for the first local election date. Many local school board races are on the May 7 ballot around the state, along with special elections in House Districts 120 and 139.

The next election will be the runoff election for party primaries in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote on March 1. Early voting for that May 24 runoff election will begin on May 16. Use our 2016 Races search page to find and view candidates’ profiles. New information has been added recently to several runoff candidates’ profiles. How do you know if there’s a runoff in which you can vote next month? Don’t miss our recent blog post on runoffs with lists of all the runoff candidates and tips on who is eligible to vote in a primary runoff election.


ThinkstockPhotos-455285291_gavelATPE filed a petition against the commissioner of education on Monday challenging his newly adopted rules to implement T-TESS as the state’s new recommended appraisal system. As we’ve been reporting here on Teach the Vote, the new rules were published last week in the Texas Register and are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016, unless legal challenges by ATPE and other groups delay the roll-out of the new system.

Read our T-TESS blog post from Monday, which includes background information on ATPE’s legal challenge and why we take issue with aspects of the T-TESS rules. Also, be sure to check out our new T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org, where you’ll find details on the T-TESS design, history of the changes, links to news articles, and additional resources.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) held a public hearing earlier this week on proposed rules implementing the state’s new law providing for Districts of Innovation. Part of 2015′s House Bill 1842, we’ve been reporting on how the law allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and claim exemptions from numerous state laws found in the Texas Education Code (TEC). School districts that claim the waivers could operate in virtually the same manner as a charter school.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified at Monday’s public hearing, raising concerns about unintended consequences in school districts that seek blanket waivers from all the statutes that are exemptible under the new law. He also pointed out districts could likely try to exempt themselves from aspects of the state’s school finance system, which would create “chaos” in how public schools are funded. Monty urged the commissioner to place additional safeguards into the rules to ensure that districts adopting innovation plans make their intentions clear to stakeholders who will be affected by them, including students, educators, and parents. Read more about the hearing in Monty’s blog post from Tuesday, and also check out ATPE’s quick video interview with him about innovation districts.

TEA is also accepting public written comments on the proposed rules. Submit your input by Monday, May 2, using the TEA website where you can view the commissioner’s proposed rules.


Next week, the House Public Education Committee will hold an interim hearing. The committee will meet on Tuesday in a joint hearing with the House Committee on Economic & Small Business Development. The committees will discuss partnerships between institutions of higher education, public schools, and the workforce that promote college and career readiness. The committee will hear both invited and public testimony. ATPE will be at the hearing and will report on any developments. The hearing begins at 10:00AM and can be watched live here.

ATPE files T-TESS legal challenge, asserts that new evaluation rules violate state law

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingThe state’s largest educator association is filing a petition today with the Texas Commissioner of Education legally challenging his recent adoption of rules creating a new state-recommended teacher appraisal system. The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) asserts that Commissioner Mike Morath’s rules for the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) violate state laws and the Texas Constitution and are contrary to public policy.

View a copy of ATPE’s press release here. Below is additional background information about the legal challenge.

State laws call for the commissioner to recommend a system for annual teacher appraisals with certain criteria, but school districts are allowed to adopt their own appraisal systems instead and are also permitted to evaluate some experienced teachers less frequently. In challenging the new T-TESS rules, ATPE contends that the commissioner has mandated certain actions that exceed what state law requires for teacher evaluations and has improperly limited the local discretion school districts are afforded under the Texas Education Code. The new rules also restrict teachers’ ability to request a second appraisal, which is a right ATPE says teachers are entitled to by law.

The commissioner’s rules require that all teachers participate in certain elements of the appraisal process every year, despite exemptions that are carved out in state law allowing less-than-annual evaluations for some veteran teachers who have not shown job-related deficiencies. The evaluation components in the new rules that are required every year also include a controversial new student growth measure. Commissioner Morath is requiring all teachers to be evaluated based on student growth, and recommending value-added measures (VAM) as one of four such evaluation components in the new rules. ATPE believes VAM amounts to “junk science,” as its attorneys contend in the petition filed today.

JC

Jennifer Canaday

‘VAM attempts to use complex statistical calculations on students’ standardized test scores in previous years to predict how well a student should perform on future tests; the resulting test performance of an individual student – not accounting for myriad outside factors – is supposed to magically show whether that student’s most recent teacher was effective or not,” said ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday. “At best, VAM is an estimate or projection of a possible outcome. We are very disappointed that the commissioner is endorsing this complicated, extremely limited, assessment-based guesswork as a reliable and definitive formula for measuring a teacher’s value.”

Numerous academicians and researchers have questioned the reliability and validity of VAM, especially for use in high-stakes decisions, including the American Statistical Association, which warned that VAM has several significant limitations. ATPE has long questioned the fairness and efficacy of using VAM for teacher evaluations, particularly when the vast majority of teachers teach subjects or grade levels that have no state standardized tests and most policymakers have expressed a desire to place less emphasis on standardized tests.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has even acknowledged some of the drawbacks of VAM and maintains that it should be used to provide feedback to teachers within a formative appraisal process. In its “TEA Student Growth Overview — January 2016,” the agency wrote that VAM scores don’t account for teacher behaviors, since they are derived solely from test scores, and they provide feedback that is “less insightful at the instructional level.” ATPE points out that while VAM might potentially provide some limited feedback to a small group of teachers about how well their students are performing on tests, the difficulty with incorporating VAM into teacher appraisals lies in how schools are actually using those appraisals.

“If T-TESS were merely a formative tool to help teachers grow, we’d be having a different discussion,” notes Canaday. “However, schools are using T-TESS and similar appraisal systems to make high-stakes decisions about teacher compensation and employment. When teachers’ paychecks and contracts are dependent on the outcome of these appraisals, the validity and integrity of the appraisal process matters greatly.”

Canaday explains that to avoid having two discrete evaluation systems in use at the same time, most school districts employ only one appraisal system, and the majority of districts will opt to use the state-recommended model rather than developing their own. The problem with incorporating elements that TEA might expect districts to use as formative tools, such as VAM, is that the same evaluation instrument is being used for summative scoring of teachers and then making high-stakes employment-related decisions based on those evaluations scores.

“There’s a big difference,” Canaday says, “between districts saying, ‘This is an instrument that might provide slightly beneficial feedback to you as a teacher of a tested subject,’ and telling teachers, ‘This is the instrument that will be used to determine whether you still have a job next year.’”

TEA began developing T-TESS in conjunction with its request for a waiver of federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In 2013, the Obama administration offered Texas its requested flexibility in exchange for a promise to adopt a new teacher evaluation system that places more emphasis on student growth measures. T-TESS was designed to fit the parameters of the NCLB waiver and has been piloted in several school districts around the state ahead of its full implementation during the next two school years. In December, Congress repealed NCLB and replaced it with new federal law, making the conditions attached to the state’s old NCLB waiver no longer a concern. ATPE and individual educators involved in the development of T-TESS urged the commissioner to reconsider the design of the system in light of the recent changes in federal law, but Morath has moved forward with rolling out the new T-TESS rules as previously planned. The final rules were adopted this month and are scheduled to take effect in July, although the student growth elements of T-TESS are not required to be used until the 2017-18 school year.

“At a time when the federal government has taken important steps to decrease the focus on testing, there are widespread reports of flaws in the testing system, and parents are increasingly opting their children out of taking the tests, it makes no sense that Texas policymakers keep looking to test scores to determine if students, teachers, and schools are making the grade,” says Canaday.

ATPE_At_the_Capitol_VerticalThe Texas Education Code provides a mechanism for appeals of agency actions to the commissioner, who has primary jurisdiction under state law, after which point a lawsuit may be brought in district court if necessary. ATPE hopes that Commissioner Morath will take necessary steps to revise the T-TESS rules to comply with state laws, ensure that all teachers are evaluated fairly, and recommend a transparent and easily understood appraisal process that truly helps teachers improve their skills in the classroom.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 22, 2016

Here’s a summary of this week’s education news highlights:

 


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733As we’ve been reporting for a few months now, there are two big elections happening during the month of May. First, the local uniform election date is May 7, followed by the May 24 election date for primary runoffs.

Early voting begins next week for the May 7 local elections, which are different from the primary runoffs. Many local political subdivisions conduct their elections on this date, including some school board positions. There are also two special elections taking place on May 7 in legislative districts with vacancies. House District 120 and House District 139 are both open seats due to resignations of Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon (D) and Sylvester Turner (D) respectively. The winners of those two special elections will serve out the remainder of the representatives’ terms for this year, but may not necessarily be the same candidates who will take those seats for the next full term beginning in January 2017. Visit  our 2016 Races page to view the candidates in these races with indications of whether they are running in the special election, the regular 2016 election, or both.

Early voting for the May 7 election ends Tuesday, May 3.

Monday, April 25, is your last day to register if you intend to vote in the May 24 primary runoff elections. Visit VoteTexas.gov to find out how to register to vote. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are eligible to vote in a particular party’s runoff election, please read our blog post on runoff voting to learn more about voter eligibility.

Early voting for the May 24 primary runoffs will begin on May 16. If you happen to live in a runoff district (mostly in the central and eastern parts of the state), now is the time to study up on the candidates who are running in your area. Use our 2016 Races search page to find and view candidates’ profiles. Several runoff candidates just recently participated in our ATPE candidate survey, so be sure to check out what they have to say about major education issues including testing, teacher evaluations, vouchers, and educators’ healthcare benefits.


We reported last week that the State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) was meeting on Friday, April 15. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann attended the meeting and wrote a summary for Teach the Vote on actions taken by the certification board. Read Kate’s blog post from Tuesday to learn more about changes to certification exam rules and future comprehensive revisions that are planned for the regulations that apply to educator preparation programs.

Also this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided an update on the conclusion of negotiated rulemaking for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington, D.C. Learn more about how the new federal law is being implemented in Kate’s blog post from yesterday.

On Tuesday, April 19, the House Appropriations Committee held an interim hearing to discuss revenue and factors that have an impact on the state’s economy and budget. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended the meeting and reported on it as follows: The House Appropriations Committee heard from the Comptroller and Legislative Budget Board regarding the Texas economy and the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. While more jobs are still being created in Texas than lost, ripple effects from the price of oil and natural gas being depressed have resulted in lower state revenue collections than what was previously projected. Going into the 2015 legislative session, the state had roughly $8 billion in excess revenue available to be included in the two-year budget. Going into 2017, the excess revenue will be approximately $4 billion, with only $600 million being General Revenue that is unrestricted. The remaining $3.4 billion is dedicated to specific purposes. Several pressing issues will be present in the legislature in 2017, including a looming school finance decision from the Supreme Court, a nearly $1.8 billion deficit in TRS-Care, approximately $700 million in Medicaid underfunding, and the potential to redesign active employee health insurance through TRS Activecare, among other needs. The budget is the only piece of legislation that is constitutionally required to pass, and based on the revenue projections, the 2017 budget has the potential to be eerily similar to that of 2003 and 2011 when massive cuts were chosen over increased funding. The choices of our elected officials will directly affect the 5.2 million students and nearly 700,000 employees of Texas’s public schools.


Final commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS as the state’s new recommended appraisal system were published today in the Texas Register. The rules are intended to take effect on July 1, 2016. However, ATPE and other educator groups are currently pursuing legal options that might have an impact ultimately on implementation of the new rules. We’ll keep you posted on those developments in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, there is a good deal of misinformation regarding T-TESS being reported in the media, but ATPE has developed a resource page to help educators learn more about the new T-TESS system and how it’s designed. Check out our T-TESS resources at atpe.org/T-TESS.


We’ve also been reporting lately on some school districts’ efforts to become Districts of Innovation using a new law that passed in 2015. Passed as an eleventh-hour addition to House Bill 1842, the law on innovation districts allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and claim exemptions from numerous state laws found in the Texas Education Code (TEC). School districts that claim the waivers would operate in virtually the same manner as a charter school. ATPE has raised serious concerns about the plans in districts that are considering becoming innovation districts, since blanket waivers could cause teachers to lose many of the statutory rights they currently enjoy, such as contracts and minimum salaries; cause parents to lose access to certain information about their children’s education; and possibly even affect immunity provisions that protect school districts and individual employees of those districts from being sued.

The commissioner has proposed rules for innovation districts and will conduct a public hearing at the request of ATPE and other entities on on Monday, April 25. Stay tuned for updates next week. If you’d like to submit your own public comments on the commissioner’s proposed rules, you have until May 2 to submit those to TEA.

 


On Wednesday of this week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported on the meeting as follows:

The commission heard from Dr. James Pellegrino, Distinguished Professor of Education Liberal Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor Co-Director, Learning Sciences Research Institute University of Illinois at Chicago. Among other things, Dr. Pellegrino walked the commission through the differences in formative, interim, and summative testing, explaining what the purposes, benefits, and limitations were of each.

The commission also entertained a “discussion” on the A-F grading and rating system for schools. They brought in Christy Hovanetz, Senior Policy Fellow, Accountability, Foundation for Excellence in Education. Unfortunately, it was more of a sales pitch than a discussion, since the Foundation for Excellence in Education is the organization that former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R) created to sell the idea of A-F and other Florida reforms to policymakers around the country.

Lastly, the commission had a discussion with Lori Taylor, Associate Professor and Director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy, The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, FAST (Financial Allocation Study for Texas) and Paul Haeberlen, President and Chief Operating Officer, Education Resource Group. The talks focused on incorporating elements of FAST, which is the comptroller’s school efficiency matrix, into the academic accountability system. The conversation highlighted policy questions around the differences between rewards and sanctions and focusing on absolute performance versus either productivity or efficiency.

Video archives of all the Commission meetings can be found here.


ThinkstockPhotos-173786481_bluebonnetsHappy Earth Day!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 4, 2016

As we wind down Texas Public Schools Week, we’re also reflecting on Tuesday’s big elections. Check out our top news stories this week:

 


ThinkstockPhotos-523002181_IVotedOn Tuesday, March 1, we finally starting seeing the results of many months of campaigning for important offices in Texas. Turnout in the Republican and Democratic primaries was impressive, and we believe educators made the difference in many races by getting out the vote in great numbers and being informed voters in support of public education. Many races produced big wins for pro-public education candidates.

Read our blog post from Wednesday to learn more the outcomes in the state’s most critical races and which candidates are facing runoffs.

Now, we turn our attention to several runoffs that will be decided on May 24. If you live in a runoff district, please use our resources here on Teach the Vote to learn about the runoff candidates’ views on public education. Click on the 2016 Races button to view candidates’ voting records, their responses to the ATPE candidate survey, lists of their major endorsements, and more.

 


A key race for a seat on the State Board of Education has triggered a high-profile runoff. In SBOE District 9, where incumbent Thomas Ratliff (R) is not seeking re-election, two candidates will be battling it out on May 24 in a runoff that is of great interest to those in and outside the education community.

The front-runner in the Republican primary, Mary Lou Bruner, almost garnered enough votes to avoid a runoff, but now she faces a two-person race for the Republican nomination against second-place finisher Keven Ellis. The race has captured national media attention thanks to controversial statements made by Bruner. Many in the education community fear this runoff election that is already making headlines will put the board back into the position of being the center of unfavorable national attention and bogged down by ideological conflicts. The 15-member SBOE has authority to enact regulations pertaining to curriculum standards, the content of textbooks, student testing, graduation requirements, how the Permanent School Fund is invested and used, and more.

Read more about what’s at issue in the SBOE District 9 runoff in this piece from our friends at The Texas Tribune, which has been republished here on Teach the Vote.

 


We’ve been reporting for some time on the evolution of teacher evaluations in Texas. As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has reported for Teach the Vote, proposed commissioner’s rules to implement the new T-TESS system for teacher evaluations remain pending. Now, the Texas Education Agency has released its similar plan for implementing new principal evaluations through the system called T-PESS. Proposed commissioner’s rules for T-PESS are being published today, and a public comment period will run through April 4. Learn more about the proposed rules here on the TEA website.

In other news, TEA has also shared information this week with principals about the upcoming survey window for evaluating how well their new teachers were prepared to take on their roles. The annual survey is required to be completed by principals as part of the state’s accountability system for educator preparation programs (EPPs). Read TEA’s correspondence with survey details here.

 


Happy Texas Public Schools Week!

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Will Texas join states reconsidering evaluation in light of relaxed federal requirements?

Several state legislatures are taking steps to change their teacher evaluation systems in light of new flexibility available to them under federal law. The issue of how to evaluate or appraise teachers has been a topic of great interest for Texas lawmakers in every recent legislative session. Now that the Texas Education Agency is in the middle of developing and piloting a new state-recommended evaluation model, many are watching to see how a newly-appointed commissioner of education will react and how the current primary election could alter the composition of the 85th Texas legislature that will have power to intervene.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December came a reduced emphasis on student growth measures tied to teacher evaluations. Prior to ESSA becoming law, however, many states were tied to requirements pushed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) under Secretary Arne Duncan’s waiver process. Those waivers specifically required that states seeking waivers, which included Texas, tie teacher evaluation systems to student standardized test scores. States did so in exchange for flexibility from the onerous and outdated policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the nation’s previous law governing education that was, at the time, long overdue for a rewrite.

However, the passage of ESSA made the flexibility from NCLB unnecessary and reduced the pressure for states such as Texas to meet federal expectations of educator evaluation systems. In fact, the new law puts no requirements on states’ teacher evaluation systems. It also allows states to use funding to create educator evaluation systems but does not require that states create such a system. This has allowed several states to rethink the teacher evaluation policies previously enacted because of requirements tied to the waivers and NCLB, which was more specific with regard to creating educator evaluation systems.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is an organization focused on enhancing public education within its 16-member region that includes Texas. According to the SREB, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all have bills moving through their respective legislatures that would significantly alter their educator evaluations systems. The SREB said that while state lawmakers are primarily looking to provide flexibility to districts, more specifically, some of the states are looking to reduce the amount that student test scores weigh in an educators evaluation. The SREB offers a bill tracker that highlights all relevant bills filed in the board’s member states on this and other topics. Georgia, for instance, has a bill filed that would reduce the use of standardized test scores to no more than 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Last month, ATPE encouraged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to consider delaying the adoption of TEA rules that would solidify the state’s new teacher evaluation system, T-TESS. Particularly, ATPE asked Morath to reconsider a requirement that at least 20 percent of each teacher’s appraisal be based on student growth measures, such as value-added modeling (VAM) using student test scores. The state has yet to say how it plans to proceed, although the rules could be adopted any day.

As you go to the polls during this primary election, remember that the candidates you elect will have the ability to make big decisions about criteria that should be a part of the new teacher evaluation system for Texas going forward. The future of education will be determined by this election in several ways; this is just one. Visit our 2016 Races search page here on Teach the Vote to find out where your candidates stand on major issues such as evaluating teachers and what role standardized tests should play. When you go to the polls, vote for the candidates who support your classroom, students, and profession.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 15, 2016

Here’s what made the news for Texas public education this week:


On Monday, ATPE submitted formal written comments expressing concerns about proposed Commissioner’s Rules to implement a new teacher evaluation system called T-TESS. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided details on ATPE’s input in a blog post for Teach the Vote earlier this week.

ATPE has asked the Commissioner Mike Morath to consider delaying the adoption of the rules to allow time for reconsideration of some aspects of the new system – particularly, a requirement that at least 20 percent of each teacher’s appraisal be based on student growth measures, such as value-added modeling (VAM) using student test scores. With Congress’s recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Texas no longer faces the same pressure from the federal government to emphasize student growth measures in teacher evaluations.

Several ATPE members who served on stakeholder committees making recommendations for the creation of the T-TESS system and the rules to implement it have also shared their input with the commissioner. In a letter to Morath, educators Richard Wiggins, Ginger Franks, Jeremy Wagner, Stephanie Stoebe, Libbie Payne, and Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr. echoed the concerns about moving forward with an evaluation model that includes the use of VAM and is heavily linked to students’ standardized test scores. “We are proud that the inappropriate use of standardized tests in the public education system has been recognized and change is underway,” the educators wrote to Morath. “Please help us continue that effort for the betterment of the 5 million schoolchildren across Texas.”

Former Commissioner of Education Michael Williams proposed the draft rules late last year for replacing the PDAS evaluation system with T-TESS. If adopted now by Commissioner Morath, the new rules and the T-TESS model would take effect as of July 1, 2016.

Libbie Payne

Libbie Payne

Stephanie Stoebe

Stephanie Stoebe

Related content: ATPE members Stephanie Stoebe and Libbie Payne, both of whom were involved in the efforts to develop a new teacher appraisal system, shared their thoughts on the proposed T-TESS rules in media interviews this week. Watch videos here of Stoebe appearing on KXAN-TV in Austin and Payne appearing on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi.

 


An inaugural meeting will take place next week for the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. No testimony will be taken during the Jan. 20 meeting. We also reported this week on a new member being appointed to the commission and on Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to appoint Andrew Kim as the commission’s chair. Kim replaces the governor’s original choice to lead the commission, Mike Morath, who can no longer serve in that role since being named as the commissioner of education. The State Board of Education is also hosting a series of community conversations around the state to gather input for the commission. Its next scheduled event is in Austin. Read more about the SBOE events here and check your ATPE member newsletter for links to register.


Have you noticed any changes to Teach the Vote lately? Our 2016 candidate profiles are now featured on the site along with voting records for incumbent legislators. Search for legislative and State Board of Education candidates by clicking on our 2016 Races page. Additional information about the candidates will be added in the coming weeks, especially as those vying for election respond to our candidate survey.

American voting pins

Feb. 1 is the last day you can register to vote in the March primary elections. It’s important for all Texas educators to be registered and exercise their voices at the polls. This is especially true for the March 1 primary elections, since many of Texas’s contested races will be decided through the primaries rather than during the November general election. If you’re already registered, make sure your family members, friends, and colleagues are registered, too! Learn more about how to register to vote here.

Early voting for the March primaries is still a month away, but if you happen to live in San Antonio’s House District 118, you can cast a vote as early as next week! The retirement of Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) has forced a special election for his seat. Back in Nov. 2015, voters selected Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomas Uresti to advance to a runoff election. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016, but you may early vote between Jan. 20-22. View additional information on the special election candidates in the Resources section of Teach the Vote.

ATPE submits input on T-TESS rules, steering committee members send letter

In public comments submitted today on the proposed Commissioner’s Rules implementing a new teacher appraisal system in Texas, ATPE encouraged newly appointed Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to delay implementation of the rules in order to address several concerns. ATPE expressed particular concern with provisions pushed by the Obama administration in exchange for Texas’s waiver from the burdensome and outdated policies under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), including compelling school districts to use standardized test scores as a measure of evaluating teachers on student growth.

ATPE highlights prominent research that questions the reliance on student standardized test scores (or the use of value-added modeling or VAM) as a measure of student growth and encourages the Texas Education Agency to omit the unproven measure. Such research questions the reliability of VAM for high-stakes decisions affecting educator appraisals, compensation, employment, and preparation program accountability. ATPE’s comments note research published by the American Statistical Association, which issues the following warnings:

  • “limitations are particularly relevant if VAMs are used for high-stakes purposes,”
  • “ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality,”
  • aside from test scores, VAMs “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes,”
  • “VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used,” and
  • “effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.”

In addition to citing research warning against the use of VAM, ATPE’s comments address several issues that make the use of VAM impractical, unnecessary, and harmful. Among them is the fact that only about 30 percent of Texas teachers will be evaluated on their students’ test scores since VAM can only measure teachers who teach subjects where a STAAR test is administered. “The potential harm created by this bifurcated system, where teachers of certain tested subjects would be isolated from the majority of their peers, is tremendous and will only serve to alienate teachers in tested subjects or discourage teachers from teaching those subjects.”

As we reported last week, today is the last day to submit comments on the proposed rules, which could be adopted as early as today and after adoption would go into effect on July 1. Among the comments submitted to the Commissioner is a letter authored by six ATPE members who served on two T-TESS steering committees that TEA convened to gather input on the development of the new teacher standards, evaluation system model, and proposed rules. The educators’ letter states: “We ask you to delay implementation in order to reconsider inclusion of value-added data as a means to measure student growth. We are proud that the inappropriate use of standardized tests in the public education system has been recognized and change is underway. Please help us continue that effort for the betterment of the 5 million school children across Texas.”

The group’s letter explains that they understood that the inclusion of VAM was a requirement of the waiver Texas had received from the Department of Education in exchange for needed flexibility under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “At that time, we were willing to accept that our hands were tied and this was not a topic of debate.” However, the group notes, Texas was freed from waiver requirements last month when Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a new federal education law. Passage of the law negates the need for a waiver and returns the decision making on teacher evaluations to Texas and its local school districts. In light of that development, the group encourages Commissioner Morath “to eliminate the inclusion of value-added data or student standardized assessment results as a means for measuring student growth under T-TESS.”

Both ATPE and members of the steering committees encouraged Commissioner Morath to delay implementation in order to address the piece allowing the use of value-added data, or state standardized test scores, as a measure of a teacher’s performance. Read ATPE’s full comments and the letter from members of the steering committees to learn more.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 8, 2016

It’s a new year with many changes in store for public education. Here’s the latest news:


Monday, Jan. 11, is the deadline for public comments to be submitted on proposed Commissioner’s Rules to implement a new teacher evaluation system in Texas known as T-TESS. Former Commissioner of Education Michael Williams proposed the draft rules for a replacement to the PDAS shortly before Christmas. If adopted, the rules would take effect as of July 1, 2016.

ATPE and others are asking the new commissioner to consider delaying the adoption of the rules to allow time for reconsideration of some aspects of the new system. Specifically, T-TESS calls for at least 20 percent of a teacher’s appraisal to be based on student growth measures; for teachers of tested grades and subjects, the growth measure will be calculated using value-added modeling (VAM) data from student test scores. ATPE has previously shared with lawmakers and policymakers our grave concerns about the use of VAM for high-stakes purposes, especially in light of substantial research calling into question its validity. (Read more about some of the problems with VAM in a formal statement from the American Statistical Association, in our Summer 2014 feature article for ATPE News, and on our blog here and here.)

The decision to incorporate VAM into a new teacher evaluation system for Texas was driven by the state’s desire to win and hold onto a waiver of federal accountability laws from the U.S. Department of Education. The Obama administration offered states waivers from some sanctions and penalties within the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but strings were attached. In Texas’s case, the NCLB waiver was conditioned on our state’s adopting a new teacher appraisal system that would tie teacher evaluations to student performance data. ATPE members who served on an original stakeholder committee convened to help develop the new system were told that the 20 percent threshold for student growth measures in each teacher’s appraisal was the minimum that the federal government would allow in order to preserve Texas’s waiver.

Since that time, however, the circumstances have changed. Congress replaced the NCLB with a new federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December, and that new law means that waivers and the strings attached to them will soon become obsolete. For this reason, ATPE is urging the Texas Education Agency to revisit with stakeholders and put the brakes on wholesale replacement of PDAS with a new system that is based largely on federal parameters that no longer apply.

If you would like to submit your own feedback about the T-TESS proposal in new 19 TAC Chapter 150, Subchapter AA, send your written comments to TEA no later than Monday, Jan. 11.


Before the holidays, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his pick to succeed Michael Williams as Texas Commissioner of Education. Mike Morath was sworn in on Monday as the new commissioner and he shared his desire to hear from stakeholders in an introductory blog post. Members of the ATPE staff expect to meet with Commissioner Morath in the near future and share our members’ priorities and input.CapitalTonightJMCJan2016

Related content: ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday appeared on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight program this week to discuss the appointment of the new commissioner along with new laws affecting public education in Texas.


Exam

The State Board of Education is hosting a series of community conversations around the state this winter to gather input on accountability and student testing. The meetings are designed to elicit feedback to share with the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. We posted the tentative schedule of dates and locations on our blog earlier this week. Registration links for each event will be included in the ATPE member newsletter.