Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has written to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting an extension of time for piloting a new teacher evaluation system. In doing so, Commissioner Williams has responded to the growing chorus of educators and others questioning the feasibility of a timeline imposed by the federal government for Texas to overhaul its teacher evaluation system.
Duncan previously granted Texas a waiver of certain accountability measures in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The outdated federal law has become problematic for most school districts, prompting Texas Education Agency (TEA) officials to join most other states in seeking flexibility in the form of waivers. Duncan offered Texas a conditional waiver that requires the state to change the way it evaluates teachers and principals. In fulfillment of that condition, TEA announced a plan in May to pilot a new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) in the 2014-15 school year in several districts and implement the new system statewide in the 2015-16 school year.
ATPE and other groups have voiced concerns that the implementation timeline mandated by the federal government is unreasonable, primarily because it does not allow time for analysis of the pilot results and modifications to the new evaluation system prior to full implementation. (Read about ATPE’s recent discussions with the Texas Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. about the need for an extension of time.) Commissioner Williams echoed those concerns in his letter to Duncan, stating, “If Texas is to develop an evaluation system that truly supports our teachers, we need time to complete the pilot year and then utilize the constructive feedback we will receive from our school districts, charters and educators.”
If the state’s request for an extension is granted, it is likely that there will be two years of piloting for the new teacher evaluation system, known as T-TESS. According to TEA officials, it is too early to know whether the same school districts participating in the 2014-15 pilot year will participate in a second year of piloting the new system.
ATPE greatly appreciates the commissioner’s responsiveness to educators’ concerns about the implementation timeline. Read TEA’s press release announcing the commissioner’s action here. Read ATPE’s press release about the decision here.