Tag Archives: Richard Wiggins

In Washington, ATPE advocates for ESEA and Social Security relief

A group of ATPE state officers and staff are in Washington, D.C. this week for meetings to discuss education policy matters at the national level. ATPE’s Executive Director Gary Godsey, Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg, State President Richard Wiggins, and State Vice-President Cory Colby have been liaising with several members of Congress and their staffs, along with representatives of the executive branch. ATPE’s Washington-based contract lobby team, led by David Pore, coordinated the meetings.

Godsey, Wiggins, Brady, Colby, and Gregg

Gary Godsey, Richard Wiggins, Congressman Kevin Brady, Cory Colby, and Brock Gregg

On Tuesday, the ATPE delegation met with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to discuss Social Security legislation. Educators have long been penalized by a federal offset known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that reduces the amount of Social Security benefits some government workers may receive when they retire. ATPE has advocated for repealing the controversial WEP, but because of the extremely high cost associated with full repeal of the law, we have also proposed that Congress take more gradual steps, both to make the WEP’s application of benefits fairer and to increase benefits when possible. ATPE and the Texas Retired Teachers Association have worked closely with Congressman Brady over several years to pursue a viable solution that would result in increased benefits for retired educators. As we reported on Teach the Vote earlier this year, Congressman Brady has filed H.R. 711, the “Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act,” to provide educators with some relief from the WEP. Brady’s bill, co-authored by Congressman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), would replace the WEP’s arbitrary and punitive offset formula with a revised calculation of benefits and result in a significant benefit increase for numerous retirees.

ATPE’s discussions with the Texas Congressional delegation and their staffs this week have also focused on plans to reauthorize the long-overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The ATPE team also visited the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) this week to talk about Texas’s pending request for an extension of our state’s ESEA waiver, which helps schools avoid being penalized by outdated provisions in the federal law, such as the requirement for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and restrictions on how federal funds must be spent.

Gregg, Wiggins, Colby, and Godsey

Gregg, Wiggins, Colby, and Godsey at the U.S. Department of Education

ATPE’s Brock Gregg reports that the group met with Monique Chism, Director of the Office of State Support, and the DOE’s Texas waiver team on Tuesday. The discussions covered all aspects of T-TESS, the new evaluation system for teachers and principals that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has proposed in fulfillment of conditions attached to the original ESEA waiver that the federal government granted to Texas. The DOE agreed to postpone its review of our state’s request to extend the waiver until after the 84th Texas Legislature adjourned its session earlier this month, and those negotiations with TEA have now resumed. In this week’s meeting, ATPE State President Richard Wiggins was able to provide federal officials with detailed insights on the proposed new evaluation system after having served on the stakeholder committee that made recommendations to TEA on how it should design T-TESS. DOE officials explained that the main point of contention with Texas’s plans for teacher evaluation is not the design of the new T-TESS instrument, but rather the fact that state law does not require school districts to use the state-recommended evaluation system. ATPE’s officers and staff impressed upon DOE officials the importance of allowing school districts across such a large, diverse state to have flexibility to adopt appraisal systems that will meet their local needs rather than a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach. “Teachers really want a meaningful evaluation system that helps them grow as professionals,” Gregg explained.

According to Gregg, the DOE officials did not reveal any clues as to their timeline for making a decision on Texas’s outstanding waiver request. If the request is denied, Texas schools will once again be subject to the original accountability provisions of ESEA, including its antiquated and highly flawed requirement that all students achieve “proficiency” by 2014. Without continuation of the waiver, nearly all Texas schools would be unable to meet such an unrealistic “proficiency” standard, would be considered low-performing under federal law, and would face harsh sanctions as a result.

Gregg added, “This law has become arbitrary and capricious for schools all over the nation due to congressional gridlock and complete ineptitude for the last 13 years.” Fortunately, both the U.S. House and Senate have ESEA re-authorization bills on the move. We could see floor action in the Senate as early as next week, and the House expects to get to its version in July. “Once the law is reauthorized,” said Gregg, “there will be no reason for states to seek waivers, so we are hopeful that Congress will pass this legislation before the next school year.”

SBEC and TRS boards meet, ATPE heads to D.C.

Today, June 12, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending the meeting and has provided this write-up about the business being discussed:

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

SBEC is meeting today to tackle a full agenda, which includes ongoing proposals as well as new issues resulting from bills passed during the legislative session. The board is postponing action on several agenda items related to bills that are waiting to be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. Those bills primarily pertain to new educator preparation requirements, but also affect a few issues on which the board has previously initiated the rulemaking procedure.

Among the action taken by the board today is final approval of a new fee structure for educator preparation programs (EPPs) and certification candidates. The fee structure raises several fees imposed on EPPs with regard to approval and accountability. Two fees involving the review of credentials for candidates seeking certification were slightly reduced. The board also approved a new traditional EPP, passing standards for certain certification exams, the accreditation statuses of all Texas EPPs (and most of the programs were fully accredited), and a phase-in of passing requirements on new Core Subjects EC-6 and Core Subjects 4-8 certification exams. Based on discussions initiated today, provisions affecting EPPs and EPP candidates will be a big discussion topic at upcoming SBEC meetings.


The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board of trustees also met June 11-12 in Austin. Among the items on its board agenda were TRS-related developments that came out of the 84th Legislature’s recently adjourned regular session. Lawmakers appropriated $768 million for TRS-Care in a supplemental appropriations bill, which means the TRS board need not consider any TRS-care premium increases in the near future. However, healthcare funding for active employees continues to be a problem area and was discussed at length during this week’s meetings. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended and provided the following update:

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The TRS Board of Trustees met Thursday and Friday of this week to discuss the adoption of ActiveCare premiums for the upcoming plan year.  Because of constantly rising healthcare costs and, more importantly, severe underfunding from the state legislature, active education employees have experienced high premium increases, causing many employees to enroll in the lower cost/lower coverage plan options, such as TRS ActiveCare 1-HD.   As such, the more comprehensive option, ActiveCare 2, is experiencing declining participation and costs the program the most money to maintain. Effectively, ActiveCare participants in lower cost plans subsidize participants in ActiveCare 2. Faced with these growing costs and underfunding issues, the TRS Board discussed the possibility of freezing enrollment in ActiveCare 2, allowing existing enrollees to continue coverage, but effectively eliminating the plan in the future. ATPE testified before the board to convey our opinion that the problem is not with the plan design, but instead with legislative decisions regarding funding. Further, we do not believe that restricting access to health insurance options is where the solution to the ActiveCare problems lies. We asked the board this week to delay a decision on ActiveCare 2 at least until the legislature has the opportunity to meet again and consider this issue. The TRS board agreed and pledged to work alongside education stakeholder groups urging the legislature to meet the funding obligations necessary to maintain a reasonable healthcare plan.  We thank the TRS Board and staff for their work on this issue and for reaching out to educators. This is an ongoing issue and it is critical that ATPE members engage their elected officials discussing the importance of increasing state funding for active employee health insurance.


Next week, members of the ATPE staff and state officers are traveling to Washington, D.C. for meetings to discuss education policy matters at the national level. ATPE’s Executive Director Gary Godsey, Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg, State President Richard Wiggins, and State Vice-President Cory Colby are expected to meet with several members of Congress and their staffs. They will be joined by ATPE’s Washington-based team of contract lobbyists. Topics that ATPE plans to address during the meetings include pending efforts to reauthorize the long-overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and to reform the federal Social Security offset laws that have the effect of limiting educators’ retirement benefits. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates next week from the nation’s capital.

At ATPE’s request, Texas congressmen ask U.S. DOE for NCLB waiver extension

As previously reported on Teach the Vote, members of the ATPE staff and state officers recently met with several members of the Texas congressional delegation in Washington and asked them to support our effort to advocate for an extension of time on the state’s NCLB waiver. A majority of the Texas congressional delegation granted our request to sign a letter of support for giving our state a waiver extension.

Texas has been granted a preliminary waiver of accountability measures in the federal ESEA/NCLB law, which was conditioned on the state’s changing its system for teacher evaluation. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced plans in May for a new system that would be piloted in the 2014-15 school year and implemented statewide in 2015-16 in accordance with expectations of the U.S. Department of Education. ATPE voiced concern that the timeline should be extended so that results of the pilot can be analyzed and adjustments can be made, if necessary, before TEA attempts to roll out new evaluations statewide.

On Wednesday, July 23, TEA announced that Commissioner Michael Williams has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking for a one-year extension of time. Similarly, 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas sent a letter at ATPE’s request to Secretary Duncan on July 24, asking for additional time for the implementation of any teacher evaluation changes in Texas and urging him to grant our state an extension of the NCLB waiver. Read the letter here.

ATPE is grateful for the assistance of the 22 congressmen, including House Committee on Education and the Workforce members Kenny Marchant and Rubén Hinojosa, who signed our bipartisan letter of support. We also appreciate the willingness of the commissioner to request an extension of time before proceeding with statewide implementation of a new evaluation system. Finally, we hope that Secretary Duncan will consider our request and enable Texas adequate flexibility to continue working to improve public education without being hamstrung by outdated federal accountability laws.

Related content: Read ATPE’s July 25 press release featuring State President Richard Wiggins, who was among the ATPE delegation that met with congressional leaders in Washington last month.

ATPE officers make the rounds in D.C.

Things were certainly heated in Washington, D.C. last week—June 16–19—as ATPE State President Ginger Franks, Vice President Richard Wiggins, Executive Director Gary G. Godsey and Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg brought Texas weather (98 degrees) and hot issues to the Texas congressional delegation and U.S. Department of Education.

Our team attended meetings with key Texas Congressmen who serve on the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce as well as majority and minority staff members of other Congressmen on the committee. We met with the two Texas Senators, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz, and Texas Congressmen serving on the House Ways and Means committees, which oversees the Social Security system.

We focused on educating Congress about the recent federal requirement that Texas institute a new principal and teacher evaluation system (that accountability based on student test scores) as a condition of receiving a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The waiver exempts Texas from accountability sanctions from the outdated accountability standards under current law; the outdated accountability standards are a result of more than a decade of Congressional gridlock and inability to update the ESEA. The DOE is using this inaction to force states to adopt several “reforms,” including the teacher evaluation piece, in exchange for flexibility under current law.

ATPE has worked hard with Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and the Texas Education Agency to create an evaluation system primarily based on recently adopted state standards of practice for what an educator should know and be able to do. On the test score portion of the evaluation, ATPE recommended using student scores aggregated at the campus level so that all educators are held accountable for every student on the campus, instead of using classroom scores at the individual teacher level. We have also asked for an extension of the pilot program’s timeline so that the program’s first year can be properly evaluated prior to full implementation of the system in all districts.

During our meeting with the DOE, we were pleased to hear that the department has recently decided to consider requests for more flexibility, and we are hopeful Commissioner Williams will request and receive more time. We also hope that the Commissioner will continue conversation about using campus scores, which we believe are more accurate and create a sense of campus collaboration instead of competition, anger and fear of the unknown.

Our message to our Congressmen was to please help us persuade the DOE that Texas does need that flexibility and that we would prefer to handle our own state-level teacher evaluation system. In addition, we advocated for changes to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a Social Security provisions that effects public servants who don’t contribute to Social Security for at least thirty years. The formula used for the WEP is arbitrary and is not proportional to the number of years paid in, unlike the formula that applies to all other Americans who are covered by Social Security.

Evaluation committee members share insights with Teach the Vote

Last year, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams requested that Texas be granted a waiver of certain accountability requirements and federal funding restrictions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan granted Texas an NCLB waiver in September 2013, but conditioned it on the commissioner’s promise to change the way teachers are evaluated in Texas. Accordingly, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) submitted its plan for a new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (“T-TESS”) to the federal government for review in early May.

In between the announcement of the NCLB waiver being granted and the state’s reveal of its T-TESS plans, TEA appointed a steering committee of educators to provide input on the development of new teacher standards and evaluations. Of the 27 members selected to serve on the committee, seven are ATPE members, including current State Vice President Richard Wiggins.

We wanted to learn more about the committee members’ experience and their thoughts on the proposed changes to teacher evaluations, and five of them agreed to be interviewed by Teach the Vote. Portions of the interviews were included in a feature article in the Summer 2014 issue of ATPE News, but you can read the full interviews in our three-part series on Teach the Vote.

In Part I, the steering committee members discuss their involvement in the creation of new teacher standards, reasons why the state is changing the way it evaluates teachers and what would be needed to make new evaluations meaningful.

In Part II, we discuss various components of teacher evaluations, including the state’s controversial proposal to use Value-Added Modeling (VAM) to try to measure each individual teacher’s impact on student growth.

Finally, in Part III, the members share perspectives on how the steering committee worked, thoughts on the state’s upcoming pilot of the new evaluation system and their overall feelings about the experience of serving on the committee.

ATPE and Teach the Vote sincerely thank Wiggins, Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr., Libbie Payne, Stephanie Stoebe and Jeremy Wagner for thoughtful, candid responses. To all of the ATPE members who served on the steering committee, thank you for your time and dedication.


Read the steering committee interview: Part I | Part II | Part III

Evaluation steering committee interview—Part I

The Teach the Vote Interview:

ATPE Members Serving on the Texas Teacher Standards and Evaluation Steering Committee
April 2014

PART I

TTV

Last year the Texas Education Agency (TEA) appointed a steering committee of educators to provide input on new teacher standards and a new evaluation system. This is the first of a three-part interview with some of the ATPE members serving on that committee.


 

TEACH THE VOTE: DESCRIBE THE PURPOSE AND GOALS OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE.

Jeremy_WagnerJeremy Wagner: “The committee was put together to revamp the teacher standards and teacher evaluation system for the State of Texas. Under the NCLB waiver, two of the requirements were to change the standards and the teacher evaluation tool. My role was to represent my region of the state and my content area as a teacher on the committee to ensure that the standards and evaluation tool were fair, honest and met the expectations of as many stakeholders as possible.”

Libbie_PayneLibbie Payne: “The purpose of our committee was to bring our knowledge and skills to the table to help generate a model of an effective teacher and the behaviors this kind of teacher would exhibit. What qualities would an effective teacher possess? How would an effective teacher’s classroom be organized?  How would the learning environment be structured? What professional practices would be modeled by an effective teacher? Furthermore, it was our purpose to determine and define how to judge a teacher’s effectiveness through an evaluation system that would encourage all teachers, not just the beginning teacher, to grow professionally. In a nutshell our purpose was to describe a new vision of teaching that would transform education in Texas by encouraging systemic reform to meet the needs of Texas learners.”

Stephanie_StoebeStephanie Stoebe: “As I understood it, my role on the committee was to use my experiences in teaching and public education to help make recommendations for change in Texas educational policy.”

 

 

Richard_WigginsRichard Wiggins: “The work on this committee has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of educators and 5 million Texas students. That is pretty important.”

 

 

TEACH THE VOTE: TELL US ABOUT THE NEW TEACHING STANDARDS THAT THE COMMITTEE HELPED CREATE.

Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “The new teaching standards were developed with everyone’s input and belief in what the teacher of the 21st century must look like. The teacher of the 21st century must grow through self-reflection, collaboration, feedback and professional development.”

Wagner: “I think the new teaching standards are a big step in improving the previous standards. These standards are well-rounded, serve as a platform to turn the current system from a ‘gotcha’ to a growth tool, and help ensure that quality education is at the core of what teachers are doing for the students of Texas.  … As they sit, it is hard to say if I would change anything [about the standards] because they are so new. That is the benefit of having a year to pilot the new standards and evaluation system.”

Wiggins: “ATPE posted a draft of the new standards on TeachtheVote.org, and one educator posted a comment saying, ‘What’s the big deal, these standards are what good teachers already do!’ That’s when I knew we had created something special.”

Payne: “I am thrilled with the final product. I believe the new Texas Teaching Standards clearly represent the kind of teacher we want Texas teachers to aspire to be. The standards are designed to promote teacher growth that occurs through self-reflection, feedback and professional development. They were crafted to serve as a support tool designed to improve instruction from the beginning teacher to the veteran teacher. They are thorough in their scope, and they address the increasingly complex and sophisticated demands for contemporary teaching practices that will ensure Texas learners receive quality instruction that builds a class of citizens who are strong in their knowledge and skills but who have also developed the ability to think critically, work collaboratively and solve contemporary problems. Our desire was to develop a model Texas teachers would embrace, and one that would promote the development of Texans who will continue to lead us to the future and the challenges it poses.”

TEACH THE VOTE: IS THERE REALLY A NEED TO CHANGE THE STATE-RECOMMENDED APPRAISAL SYSTEM NOW, AND IF SO, WHY?

Payne: “Successful corporations, businesses, organizations and individuals are reflective and continually self-assessing. They are dynamic in nature and committed to supplying the products and services consumers, their customers, need and want. In order to meet the needs of our customers, the students and their families in the great state of Texas, it was time for our state to review teaching practices and the standards that need to exist for our students to receive the quality of instruction that they need, deserve and that is reflective of the demands that are present in an ever changing global economy. … I don’t think [the reason for changing the appraisal system] was ever soundly addressed [by TEA officials overseeing the committee]. I think that we, the committee, were keenly aware that the status quo needed to improve, and I believe we all took it as our challenge and the charge of the committee.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “I feel that the reason to change the appraisal system came from the need and input that PDAS was not as effective as it could be.  With the new appraisal, the teacher and evaluator will have a more effective tool that develops the teacher and that allows for more growth.”

Wiggins: “We need to change educator evaluation from a system that has been regarded as a ‘gotcha’ or a ‘dog and pony show’ to one of constant and continuous feedback to improve instruction by focusing on student achievement at the campus level with all stakeholders.”

Wagner: “There’s been a need for an update [to the appraisal system] for a lot of years and the NCLB waiver was a sort of catalyst to get the ball going.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: THE STATE RECEIVED AN NCLB WAIVER CONDITIONED ON ITS PROMISE TO CHANGE TEACHER EVALUATIONS. WHAT ROLE DID THE NCLB WAIVER PLAY IN YOUR COMMITTEE’S WORK?

Payne: “The TEA officials did not specifically discuss the state’s NCLB waiver, and it was only superficially addressed as one or two of our committee members asked pointed questions about the waiver.  I never thought of our mission as a method to deal with a compliance issue but as a genuine goal to improve teaching and learning in classrooms across the state. Frankly, I am unaware of what the waiver includes, and glad that our work was not represented as an alternative to NCLB requirements. We genuinely endeavored to build a model that would improve the quality of teaching and learning in Texas classrooms. It was only when we began to address the appraisal rubric and scoring matrix in some of our last meetings that I realized our ultimate goal was to develop a tool the U.S. Department of Education would accept. I think the facilitators purposefully excluded that information so that our work would be genuinely true to developing a sound and positive tool to facilitate teacher professional growth and improvement rather than supporting a compliance demand.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “We never discussed provisions of the waiver.”

Wagner: “It is what it is. The stipulations for receiving the waiver were set [by the federal government] and we had to agree to them or not follow through with the waiver. Do I like every part of it? Not with the state assessments being as high stakes as they are. I think there needs to be a pretty big shift in assessment to make the portion of the waiver that requires student test performance to be part of the evaluation system as fair as possible. That, however, was not part of what we were put together to discuss or change. We made a teacher evaluation tool and teacher standards. The testing itself is perhaps for another committee that I’d love to be a part of one day.”

TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE EXISTING STATE-RECOMMENDED EVALUATION SYSTEM, PDAS?

Wagner: “PDAS got turned into something that accepts and even promotes compliance and checklist-style evaluations with little to no feedback, and is generally not used as a growth tool. It’s turned into a ‘gotcha’ and isn’t about finding issues and fixing them so the teacher can improve.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “PDAS lacked the opportunities for growth and was used as a punitive tool. It did not provide opportunities for dialogue. The conversations that needed to happen weren’t happening. With the new appraisal, the teacher and evaluator will have a more effective tool that develops the teacher and that allows for more growth.”

Payne: “In its current format, I see PDAS as somewhat punitive with little depth or substance for improving teaching practices. It is not very constructive in that it does not suggest specific strategies for a teacher’s growth. The overall scoring does little more than place a grade on a teacher’s practices when I believe it should be a tool that helps a teacher recognize and capitalize on specific strengths and endeavor to improve by setting personal goals and seeking professional development in identified areas of weakness. It concerns me that the self-assessment tool, pre-observation conferences and summative conferences have not been emphasized in PDAS. I believe these are the strong points of the current system, and they should be utilized to promote collaboration and cooperation between observers and instructors.”

TEACH THE VOTE: TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON LOCAL CONTROL WHEN IT COMES TO EVALUATIONS. SHOULD SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO DECIDE HOW THEY WILL EVALUATE THEIR TEACHERS, OR SHOULD EVALUATION CRITERIA BE DETERMINED BY THE STATE OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “In Texas, local education agencies (LEAs) should decide what system to use. The LEA knows the community, the needs and the expectations it wants.”

Payne: “I believe that the local school districts know their unique needs better than anyone else, but to promote quality across the state, a system that offers a framework [for teacher appraisals] must be provided. This would allow individual school districts to tailor the system to their individual needs and give them the flexibility and control to address them. One size does not fit all. I do not support the U.S. Congress adoption of a teacher appraisal to be used throughout the nation. States are better prepared to address their own needs. ”

Wagner: “Even under current law this is a local decision. It will still be a local decision. The only thing that is different for districts that decide to not adopt the state system is that they must develop their own [evaluation systems] that meet certain minimum requirements. The state system is developed through a joint effort with the Commissioner of Education’s office, TEA and stakeholders around the state.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING NEEDED TO MAKE A NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM MEANINGFUL AND VALUABLE TO TEACHERS?

Wagner: “Feedback. More feedback. Still more feedback after that. Teachers need it to grow. The state has done its part in this regard. We’ve made a tool, with the state’s assistance, which builds in feedback as a more crucial part of the evaluation system. We’ve also tried to make it so that it was as evidence-based as possible and has room for growth for all teachers, not just new teachers or teachers on growth plans. At this stage, the only thing further the state can do is ensure that training is delivered in such a way that the appraisers understand the purpose and follow through with fidelity to the evaluation rubric.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “The incorporation of tools that allow for more teacher reflections, opportunities for growth, developing lesson plans that take into consideration students’ needs and growth, and dialogues between the teacher and the evaluator.”

Payne: “First, and most importantly, the new system must be carefully assessed and evaluated by the districts that have volunteered to pilot it. Their feedback, subsequent review of the system that has been developed, and any needed modifications will ensure that the new system performs as the steering committee hoped it would.  It was our intent to design and produce a workable system that would be embraced by all because of the results it encouraged and ultimately produced. As our work is introduced to educators across the state, I believe it is imperative that the system is introduced as a tool to help teachers reflect on their own teaching practices while affording them the opportunity to grow professionally as student learning and growth is promoted. So often, evaluations and appraisals are viewed as punitive rather than constructive in nature.  Teachers need to know that the new teaching standards and accompanying measurement tools were developed and designed to help them improve as teachers, to encourage them to set goals for professional growth, and ultimately to deliver quality lessons that meet the needs of the learners in their classrooms. I believe that if they embrace the new tools as such they will be more satisfied with the work they do in their classrooms. The presentation and introduction of these tools must reflect the notion that these were developed and refined for teachers by teachers.”

Stoebe: “I think the most important step that can be taken in making these new appraisals meaningful and valuable is to get the message across that the tool is not to be a ‘gotcha’ or a ‘gold star,’ but rather a method to encourage constant professional growth.”

TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT RESOURCES WILL DISTRICTS NEED TO IMPLEMENT A NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM?

Wagner: “The answer here would be funding. To make the frequency of observations that I would recommend become feasible, we need to train other teachers to evaluate teachers to relieve some of the pressure from principals. This will require additional conference periods for teacher-evaluators, which in turn will require more staff to fill in conference periods, training costs and potentially a modest pay increase for teachers who accept the larger responsibility of evaluating their peers. Schools will need more money to make that happen—not just reallocated money due to a mandate that says, ‘you’re not getting more, but you still have to make it work.’”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “Do school districts currently have sufficient resources to implement the type of teacher evaluations I would recommend? No. What additional resources are needed? Evaluators as well as teacher leaders should be effectively trained.”

Payne: “I would hope [districts have sufficient resources to implement new teacher evaluations]. Like the old PDAS, a teacher observation would still be required; however, a new evaluation rubric would be used. The measurement of student growth would be the most significant change based on the system that I believe TEA will submit to the Commissioner. The evaluation rubric focuses on contemporary teaching strategies, student needs that have changed with the times, implementation of technology, more emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving along with a shift from a quantitative to qualitative teacher role where the teacher moves from being a director to a facilitator or collaborator, where students are taking more ownership for their learning and questioning each other about their learning. If we are to implement the measurement of student growth in untested grades and courses, and measure student growth by substituting alternative methods such as SLOs, portfolios, or district-created tests, guidelines for these measurements along with staff development to implement them will be required. Training for observers/evaluators and staff development for all teachers [are additional resources needed].”


NEXT: Read Part II of the evaluation steering committee interview.

Evaluation steering committee interview—Part II

The Teach the Vote Interview: 

ATPE Members Serving on the Texas Teacher Standards and Evaluation Steering Committee
April 2014

PART II

TTVLast year the Texas Education Agency (TEA) appointed a steering committee of educators to provide input on new teacher standards and a new evaluation system. This is the second post in our three-part interview with some of the ATPE members serving on that committee.


TEACH THE VOTE: SHOULD ALL TEACHERS BE EVALUATED ON AN ANNUAL BASIS?

Libbie Payne: “I welcome annual observations because I see them as an as an opportunity for teachers to become absolutely the best teachers they can be, and I believe that they promote quality instruction. Frequently, an outside observer can help teachers identify strategies that will improve the quality of their teaching, ultimately make their jobs more satisfying and even  in some cases make their jobs less stressful. Likewise, it is affirming to be recognized for those practices that you do best. I would suggest that the constructive nature of the new tool that measures both the quantity of positive classroom practices as well as the quality of instruction should reduce the anxiety and stress some teachers experience with the current evaluation process, and ultimately they will welcome more regular evaluations because they promote satisfying teaching experiences.”

Jeremy Wagner: “Yes. This shouldn’t be optional. Professionals should expect evaluations and should be constantly striving to become better. If we, as teachers, expect to be viewed as professionals then we need to accept this. …You need to be evaluated every year.”

Stephanie Stoebe: “All teachers need to be evaluated every year. Students test to show proficiency and growth. If the state is requiring students to be assessed on a yearly basis, then the same concept holds true for teachers. How can we ensure that students will be learning and growing? By ensuring that teachers are learning and growing.”

Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “For teachers that prove to be effective, I would suggest every other year.”

TEACH THE VOTE: DESCRIBE THE ROLE YOU THINK OBSERVATION SHOULD PLAY IN TEACHER EVALUATIONS.

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “The observation piece should be central to the appraisal. It is what the teacher does on a daily basis and should be measured over time. …Observations should be frequent, announced and semi-announced, and should last a class period.”

Payne: “Administrators often neglect their roles as the instructional leaders of their campuses because of the demands of being a building administrator and manager.  By requiring more frequent observations, administrators will have greater opportunities to serve as the instructional leaders of their campuses, assess the overall strengths of their teachers, assign teachers where they will be most effective and select campus professional development that will address the unique needs of their individual campuses. … When classroom observations are conducted properly by highly trained observers, I believe they can potentially be a powerful tool for teacher development. With this in mind, I believe that teacher observations should carry the most weight in the total teacher appraisal process. In my opinion, observations should be both announced and unannounced. The announced observation should occur at least once per school year and should cover the entire span of one class period or one entire lesson. The announced observation should include a pre-observation conference that provides an opportunity for the teacher to familiarize the observer with the context of the classroom, the design of the lesson to be observed and any other student information that could potentially impact the observation. The announced visit should be more formal than an unannounced visit, and the teacher should have the option to request a second announced observation if the teacher feels it is needed. Unannounced observations (walk-throughs) should be less formal and shorter in length.  The frequency of these visits should be left to the judgment of the observer. In either case, timely feedback is critical to the purpose of the observation itself. Following the announced observation the teacher would complete a self-reflection piece that would include the teacher’s self-assessment of the observed lesson that would include what went well and what did not. A post-observation conference would be conducted, and the discussion that would take place should focus on the teacher’s self-reflection and the evidence collected by the observer. I believe this conversation is essential to the process and would help to build positive teacher practice and promote professional growth. I envision the post-observation conference as one that should include goal-setting along with action steps to help achieve the teacher’s goal(s). Similarly it should be constructive and designed to move the teacher from the position of classroom director to that of facilitator and collaborator.”

Wagner: “Evaluators, peers, parents, students, and community members— all of these people need to be in and out of classrooms every day. Peers need to see master teachers at work and model after them, administrators need to be in classrooms as much as possible to provide accurate feedback, and community members need to be in the classrooms to help build relationships, provide input and see how hard teachers really are working. Teaching isn’t about being an island with a closed door and an attitude that says, ‘Leave me alone and let me teach.’ … Teachers need to be [observed] multiple times a year.  I think a one-shot evaluation is too much like what we’re asking our kids to do on the high-stakes state exams.  To actually provide data on growth a teacher needs at least three full-period observations, two of which should be unannounced, and weekly walkthroughs. That being said—before principals read this and decide I’m absolutely nuts— this will require a huge reworking of infrastructure. Principals can’t do all of this alone. … Teachers need to be trained to evaluate other teachers.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: HOW DO YOU THINK APPRAISERS SHOULD BE SELECTED AND TRAINED?

Payne: “All appraisers must be highly trained in the observation process. The announced observation should be performed by a campus administrator (principal/assistant principal). I would suggest that a campus or district peer review committee that would be composed of highly effective and distinguished teachers from a variety of subjects and grade levels who have been highly trained in the observation process could be utilized if the teacher were to request a second announced observation.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “I believe having one observer offers little feedback, therefore I suggest having multiple observers to provide more feedback.”

Wagner: “Principals and instructional coaches, mentor teachers or master teachers [should serve as appraisers]. …We need to develop a mentor-teacher kind of mentality in which peers are accepted as evaluators (instructional coaches, master teachers, etc.). Teachers need to be trained to evaluate other teachers. It will promote collaboration, it will promote growth for the evaluator and the person being evaluated, and it will make teachers better.”

TEACH THE VOTE: SHOULD A TEACHER’S MENTOR ALSO SERVE AS THE TEACHER’S APPRAISER?

Wagner: “Absolutely. When teachers evaluate other teachers, there’s collaboration. The real issue here will be with matching up content expertise. This is easily overcome with proper planning and preparation.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “The mentor has seen the teacher grow from a novice level. They can clearly see if the growth is appropriate or if more growth is needed.”

Payne: “As a mentor, I regularly observe the teachers I mentor. I am concerned that if the mentor becomes the appraiser the teaching element of the mentor’s role could be affected.”

TEACH THE VOTE: AS PART OF THE NCLB WAIVER, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS DEMANDING THAT STUDENT GROWTH BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN TEACHER EVALUATIONS. HOW SHOULD STUDENT GROWTH BE MEASURED FOR PURPOSES OF TEACHER EVALUATIONS?

Wagner: “The best way [to measure student growth] is likely the least feasible with current budgets, teacher salary and school settings. The most authentic way to measure student growth would be through student portfolios with real examples that show what a child is truly capable of. Who would ‘grade’ these? Where would we store all of it? Should it be purely digital? How would this affect the teacher’s contract year if they are to be used to ‘grade’ others? There are a lot of question that would have to be answered to make this feasible.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “Student data from assessments such as STAAR and EOCs are quite possibly the best measures we can use and are available. Locally developed assessments can also be used for this purpose.”

Payne: “Prior to serving on the committee, I had not considered using student growth to measure an individual teacher’s effectiveness. Initially, as this topic was introduced, the overall committee response was negative and most committee members were resistant to considering student growth as part of the teacher evaluation. Once the concept and different alternatives to measure student growth were introduced, I began to see that student growth could be included as a measure of teacher effectiveness. The alternatives that were proposed each have their strengths and weaknesses. The STAAR and EOC results are probably the easiest measurement to produce, but I believe they also have the most flaws and shortcomings. Furthermore, less than 30 percent of Texas teachers teach grades or subjects that are measured by these tests. That leaves a majority of Texas teachers using another method to measure student growth. The other methods proposed were student learning objectives, portfolios, and district developed tests. In some disciplines SLOs might be hard to develop, district developed tests could reduce equity between districts, and portfolio submission is time consuming and very subjective at best.  I would suggest that a combination of some or all of these strategies would give the truest picture of student growth in any given school year. This is a new concept and one that must be carefully considered and implemented. Because there is limited data that demonstrates that student growth measures teacher effectiveness, I am convinced that we must consider this option tentatively, collect our own data, and evaluate its effectiveness. We must not be married to this and leave this option open to modification, alignment, refinement and potentially even dismissal.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT VALUE-ADDED MODELING (VAM), WHICH THE STATE PLANS TO USE IN THE NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM. DO YOU THINK VAM IS AN APPROPRIATE WAY TO MEASURE STUDENT GROWTH FOR PURPOSES OF EVALUATIONS?

Wagner: “I was extremely familiar with VAM before the committee ever met.  I took part in the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) as a mentor teacher who evaluated other teachers using the VAM to help determine student growth for three years. With the current infrastructure in education and high-stakes state testing, [VAM] is probably the fairest way to measure student growth in math and reading. It’s entirely different for science, social studies and writing. When applied for math and reading teachers, I am extremely confident [in the reliability of individual teacher-level VAM for evaluations].  Anyone with a statistics background that is familiar with VAM will say the same.  The challenge will be to make it easily understandable for people without a math degree. … There is a lot of research out there that shows how [VAM] has worked for other states or individual districts. Let’s see how the pilot goes then make some more decisions then.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “Prior to serving on the committee I had little knowledge on this matter. The Texas Comprehensive Center made available to us research and consultants who explained what this was, how it works and how it is used. I am still a little unsure of VAM and the impact it can have on the teacher evaluation.”

Payne: “Before serving on the committee I had only heard the term VAM tossed around in conversation with a handful of educators. I understand the concept, but still have lots of questions about how it will work. I would really like to have more data that supports its use. … I think the entire committee still has concerns about VAM.”

TEACH THE VOTE: THERE’S A LOT OF DEBATE ABOUT THE USE OF CAMPUS-WIDE VAM SCORES VERSUS VAM CALCULATIONS THAT ARE MADE AT THE INDIVIDUAL TEACHER/CLASSROOM LEVEL. CAMPUS-WIDE VAM ENABLES DISTRICTS TO EVALUATE EVERY TEACHER USING THE SAME CRITERIA; INDIVIDUAL VAM CALCULATIONS ARE ONLY POSSIBLE IN CERTAIN TESTED SUBJECTS AND GRADES, WHICH MEANS TEACHERS WOULD BE EVALUATED DIFFERENTLY DEPENDING ON WHAT THEY TEACH. SHOULD VAM CALCULATIONS IN EVALUATIONS BE MADE AT THE INDIVIDUAL TEACHER LEVEL OR AT THE CAMPUS LEVEL?

Wagner: “Honestly, I think it should be a combination of both. Teachers need to collaborate. If it’s just individual teachers then that creates an incentive to hoard all your best stuff for yourself and shut out the world. If it’s entirely campus level then you promote teachers relying on other teachers to pull up the scores and there isn’t incentive for pushing for individual growth. I think there needs to be a balance of both.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “My personal belief is that the entire faculty should be accountable for the students’ growth on the state assessments [using the same evaluation criteria for all teachers].”

Payne: “I would like to save my opinion on this question until after the pilot year is completed and feedback from the pilot districts has been reviewed.”

TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON USING STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES (SLOs) TO MEASURE STUDENT GROWTH FOR TEACHER EVALUATIONS?

Wagner: “There needs to be more exploration of SLOs. There is a possibility that SLOs will just turn into benchmarking every year for science, social studies and writing. SLOs do, however, provide a great option for non-tested subjects such as electives. SLOs should have the same weight as the VAM for non-tested areas.”

Payne: “In some disciplines SLOs might be hard to develop.”

TEACH THE VOTE: SHOULD SELF-ASSESSMENTS BE PART OF A TEACHER’S EVALUATION?

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “As a profession, we must self-assess at every point in the lesson, unit, or semester. [The evaluation] should also consider whether the teacher actively seeks opportunities for professional development beyond the minimum requirements.”

Wagner: “Teacher self-assessment will be part of every post-conference and part of the appraisal system in general.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: SOME HAVE SUGGESTED USING STUDENT SURVEYS IN TEACHER EVALUATIONS. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT IDEA?

Wagner: “This would be helpful to some degree. The problem would be with fidelity and implementation.”

Payne: “I use them regularly because I have found they are an effective way to gauge how your teaching practices are impacting student engagement, but I would not suggest including them in the teacher’s appraisal.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “These should be used by the teacher to reflect [but not incorporated into the evaluation].”

TEACH THE VOTE: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS REQUIRING STUDENT GROWTH TO MAKE UP A “SIGNIFICANT” PORTION OF A TEACHER’S EVALUATION, BUT THERE IS NO LEGAL OR STANDARD DEFINITION OF “SIGNIFICANT.” WHAT PERCENTAGE SHOULD BE ASSIGNED TO THE STUDENT GROWTH COMPONENT OF THE EVALUATION, AND WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER COMPONENTS?

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “I believe that student growth should account for 20-33 percent of the appraisal. … I would say that 50 percent of the [appraisal] should be based on observations.”

Payne: “Somewhere between 20–33 percent [should be based on student growth], but only if we are genuinely able to document that student growth is a true measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. By dedicating no more than 20 percent of the overall process to student growth, the remainder of the process should be left to observation, self-assessment and professional responsibility. I would suggest that the overall weights might be:

  • Student growth: 20 percent
  • Self-assessment: 20 percent
  • Professional responsibility (professional development, pre-observation conference, post-observation conference, connection with parents, colleagues and the greater school or professional community): 20 percent
  • Observation (announced and unannounced) 40 percent

Within the observation itself, I would suggest that instruction should command the heaviest weight followed by planning and finally by the learning environment. The committee looked at a model that was similar to this and, in fact, discussed at length what these percentages might look like. The group was almost perfectly split 50/50 with the division being related to the student growth element. The question was should student growth be 20 percent or 33 percent of the total appraisal process? I suggested that we begin with the pilot group at 20 percent student growth and based on feedback from the pilot group decide if the student growth element is a positive measure of teacher effectiveness and raise it to 33 percent.”

Wagner: “[The percentage of student growth that the federal government would consider to be ‘significant’ for evaluation purposes] was a question addressed by the committee and clarification was sought. The Department of Education returned with 20 percent as a minimum. [I believe student growth in the new system] will be set at 33 percent. It’s difficult to say if this is too much or too little without more information about how this will work for Texas. … If VAM is being used, then that 33 percent should be split. I’m not sure what the best percentage split would be best, but it should probably be equally divided between individual and campus level [VAM calculations]. …You certainly don’t want to underemphasize one portion. If it’s a one shot style evaluation like PDAS is now, then [the weight of observations] should be minimal. If it’s multiple, unannounced, observations with post conferences that provide meaningful feedback, then that provides a much clearer picture of what the teacher is actually capable of. We would avoid a ‘dog and pony show’ in that kind of setup.”


NEXT: Read Part III of the evaluation steering committee interview.

Evaluation steering committee interview – Part III

The Teach the Vote Interview: 

ATPE Members Serving on the Texas Teacher Standards and Evaluation Steering Committee
April 2014

PART III

TTVLast year the Texas Education Agency (TEA) appointed a steering committee of educators to provide input on new teacher standards and a new evaluation system. This is the last segment of our three-part interview with some of the ATPE members serving on that committee.


TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE UPCOMING PILOT OF THE PROPOSED NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM?

Jeremy Wagner: “The state is going to pilot both the standards and the new evaluation tool with 70 districts around the state for the upcoming 2014-15 school year and make modifications based on feedback from that pilot group.  I am confident that [the standards and evaluation system] are strong enough to withstand the test. … There will be a lot that is revealed as a result of this pilot year that will ease tensions, answer questions and even provide multiple opportunities for more feedback from anyone who wants to give it.”

Libbie Payne: “This is a new concept and one that must be carefully considered and implemented. Because there is limited data that demonstrates that student growth measures teacher effectiveness, I am convinced that we must consider this option tentatively, collect our own data, and evaluate its effectiveness. We must not be married to this and leave this option open to modification, alignment, refinement and potentially even dismissal.”

TEACH THE VOTE: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE STEERING COMMITTEE’S WORK PRODUCT AND THE RECOMMENDATIONS IT ULTIMATELY MADE FOR NEW EVALUATIONS?

Stephanie Stoebe:  “One of the goals of the work was that the new evaluation tool be used to facilitate conversations between administrators and teachers. I like the emphasis on providing teachers support, as great teachers need support just as much as, albeit differently from, new or struggling teachers.”

Payne: “I believe our work on the [evaluation] rubric complements the new teaching standards beautifully. My greatest levels of concern are related to the measurement of student growth and the matrix that will assign a teacher effectiveness rating. … I think the entire committee still has concerns about VAM, the measurement of student growth, values placed on individual items to be included, and the matrix itself. Personally, I look forward to seeing the entire system as a ‘package deal’ and would prefer not to put my personal stamp of approval on it until we have the opportunity to assess and digest feedback from the pilot districts. I think the system is still a work in progress.”

Wagner: “I think that the current system we’ve developed actually addresses all teachers from pre-K— 12 pretty well. It also does a good job of addressing the non-tested content areas. No one on the committee seemed to be unhappy with the end product. The committee included a pre-k teacher, a PE teacher, several elective teachers (including technology), several administrators, parents, etc. …Let’s put it this way: I’d be comfortable being evaluated under this new rubric.”

TEACH THE VOTE: TELL US MORE ABOUT THE COMPOSITION OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE SELECTED TO SERVE ON THE COMMITTEE.

Stoebe: “I remember being told quite candidly that we on the panel were the experts in teaching and our opinions and concerns were valued. The Texas Education Agency and SEDL honored my fellow educators and me in the ten days we worked, allowing us to express ourselves and encouraging open discussion. I have to admit the committee work was difficult; we were representing over 325,000 educators and millions of children in Texas. It was part of our role to make recommendations on teacher standards and an evaluation tool that would be appropriate in schools from Dime Box to Dallas and from preschool students to seniors. … I feel that the majority of the steering committee members were in agreement as to what good teaching looked like and what was required of a professional teacher for an evaluation. This fact is really the most positive take away for me as a representative of the committee. Imagine teachers of physical education, Spanish, preschool, Algebra II, second grade, ESL, SPED, CTE courses, and AP English (just to name a few) being very much aligned on the needs of students (all students!) and the requirements of teachers (all teachers!) When we had disagreements, it was more of an issue of the weight of an idea rather than whether or not an idea was valid. The professionalism of the committee members made me proud to be selected for this work, but more importantly, it reaffirmed my hope that the changes we were recommending were truly for the betterment of public education in Texas. I cannot have imagined a more empowering experience in my career as an educator.”

Payne: “I am not sure that I initially had a clear understanding of what my role on the steering committee was to be. Before I was selected to serve on the committee, I was invited by TEA to respond to several questions about my professional background and my assessment of what contributed to the making of a successful teacher. I was honored to have been chosen to apply to be a member of the committee. I saw this as an opportunity to represent my profession and ensure that any new teacher evaluation methods were equitable and just. Similarly, having taught three decades-plus, I have experienced many changes in education, especially as technology has emerged and has been embraced as a learning tool. I have also witnessed the effect of quality and poor teaching, so I was confident that I had something to contribute. … It was when I was named to serve on the committee and we received our first reading list that it became clear this was going to be a challenging task that was going to require dedication,  time and a concerted effort. … Without question, I believe I was invited to apply to serve on the committee because I had been named the ESC 2 2012 Regional Teacher of the Year, but as the committee worked, it became clear that each committee member had been ‘handpicked.’ Our committee was as diverse as the many regions of our state, and it was evident that individual committee members represented each of the state’s many regions. Similarly, each member seemed to have a unique expertise that could speak to the needs of their community of educators as well as to the needs of the students in their discipline or teaching environment. The committee spanned levels from prekindergarten to university education preparation professor and covered the broad spectrum of responsibilities across all disciplines. I marvel at the TEA facilitators’ ability to build a team of educators where each member was one of a kind that clearly represented an educational specialty. I believe I was specifically selected to represent the coastal bend of Texas, alternative learning environments for at-risk high school students, vocational education and technology as it is integrated in classrooms today.”

TEACH THE VOTE: DO YOU FEEL THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS’ INPUT WAS CONSIDERED AND VALUED BY TEA AND THE FACILITATORS?

Payne: “Yes, indeed! I had concerns about the absence of specific references to technology in the first rubric document produced. When I shared my concern that technology had not been given the emphasis I thought it deserved, I was asked personally to provide suggestions. I was pleased that TEA representatives valued and sought my ideas and opinions. By the next meeting, references to technology were carefully woven into the rubric in such a way that it would allow the document to remain viable and dynamic even as our uses of technology grow and change. … Because of our commitment to the mission, our discussions, collaborations, and consensus building were collegial and all concerns, views, ideas and suggestions were valued. The more time we spent together the better our work became, and we now see our group as a family rather than a committee.”

Stoebe: “At one point, a facilitator asked us to think of our own personal passion for education. We were asked to review the standards and the evaluation tool to see if our passion was represented. I searched these items to see if the English Language Learner was represented; I can fully support the upcoming changes knowing that students who need linguistic accommodations are specifically addressed in the new standards and evaluation system.”

Wagner: “I think my recommendations were listened to and I saw some of them reflected in changes to drafts of the evaluation tool and the standards. … Everyone was valued and allowed time to contribute.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: DO YOU FEEL THAT THE STEERING COMMITTEE’S WORK WAS CONDUCTED TRANSPARENTLY AND WERE YOU ABLE TO SEEK INPUT FROM OTHERS OUTSIDE THE COMMITTEE?

Wagner: “I would say [the committee process] was as transparent as it could be made. The committee’s work [on the standards] was even opened to public comment for over a month. There was, however, little engagement from the public on the standards. At least it wasn’t as much as I would have liked to have seen.”

Stoebe: “There were no secrets to the goal of the committee. At each stage, proposed drafts were posted online for comments and we discussed the public comments at our meetings. Whenever I received notification that we could publicly talk about our work, show a document, or share information, I did so. I would email the staff at my school and tell them where to access the information that would be affecting their career and I know others did the same.”

Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “[I sought input from] my colleagues on my campus, colleagues in my school district, mentors and colleagues from across the state. I also sought input from teachers I had while in school and family members in the profession.”

Payne: “I [felt permitted to seek outside input], and I did. [I consulted] my colleagues in my school and district, some of my university friends and professors, and relatives in the state of North Carolina, a state where VAM is already being used.”

TEACH THE VOTE: TELL US ABOUT THE STEERING COMMITTEE’S PROCESS FOR MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE NEW STANDARDS AND EVALUATION SYSTEM AND HOW THAT PROCESS WAS FACILITATED BY TEA OR OTHER VENDORS.

Wagner: “We were there to represent a group of people.  We had a month or more between each meeting to discuss things with our peers, community members, etc.  We often came back with suggestions.  …In general I feel we were mostly all on the same page about pretty much everything.  There were a few things we disagreed about, but we all came to consensus after debate, discussion and good leadership by the committee leaders. …The committee was lead in such a way that the scope of what we were doing didn’t overwhelm the individual tasks at hand.  It flowed well and I think produced a product that is ready to be piloted. …The committee leaders allowed all committee members to share their thoughts, were flexible with the scheduling if we needed more time to hash things out. … The [outside facilitators used by TEA] provided presentations on research, VAM, different teacher appraisal methods, etc. to the group. They did a great job and helped us to make the best decisions possible. [One of the facilitators,] the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) will be used to provide training to the teachers and administrators piloting the new program. I think they will do a phenomenal job with that as well.”

Stoebe: “I am first and foremost a teacher, not a policymaker. I made notes during the meetings on how business was conducted because I was introduced to techniques that I would use in my classroom! It means a lot to me that what I would consider best practices for teaching were used in meetings to find the best practices in teaching.”

Payne: ”I am convinced that the overall success of our committee is due in large part to the TEA and Texas Comprehensive Center/SEDL facilitators who provided a wealth of reading material and data to prepare us for each session, secured experts to present pertinent information and research, planned and executed engaging, thought provoking activities, impartially guided small groups through healthy, hearty and at times intense discussions, and endeavored to bring all of our ideas and suggestions together in document form in the time between sessions. When the committee was concerned documents produced between sessions did not reflect our advisement, views, and proposals, the TEA representatives went back to the drawing board to produce new documents that were mutually acceptable to both the steering committee and TEA. … I think one more one-day session would have been nice, and I would like to have seen the final ‘package deal’ that was submitted to the Texas Commissioner of Education and then forwarded in final format to the U.S. Department of Education.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “If the timeline permitted for another meeting before it was to be submitted to the Commissioner, this would have given us a chance to further refine the work and see the final product.”

TEACH THE VOTE: WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU ENCOUNTER AS A RESULT OF SERVING ON THE STEERING COMMITTEE?

Payne: “Leaving my students with a substitute, driving from Corpus Christi to Austin alone, and finding the time to read the wealth of material shared with the committee were my biggest challenges.”

Wagner: “The biggest challenge was just my scheduling.  TEA tried to accommodate everyone as much as they could.  I was fortunate to be able to attend every meeting.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “Time [was the biggest challenge].”

Stoebe: “My biggest challenge was using my personal days to take the time off for the work.  At one point I was reluctant to use my personal time, but I felt so strongly about my role in this project that I continued.  I even argued (professionally!) with my principal. She told me that if she gave me district time off for this work, then she would have to give everyone district time off for something they wanted to do.  She said it was right before STAAR and I needed to prepare my students. I countered with the truth that I prepared my students for an educated life, and therefore STAAR, every day I am in the classroom. I told her I needed to know that my students were going to be taken care of in the educational changes to come. So I used my personal days for the work. But I can get up in the morning and look myself in the mirror knowing that I did everything I could to make a positive impact in education. I used to wonder why somebody didn’t do something about education. Then I realized that I was somebody, and I did something about it.”

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TEACH THE VOTE: DESCRIBE YOUR OVERALL THOUGHTS ON THE EXPERIENCE.

Payne: “Incredible! Amazing! Extraordinary! Fantastic! Remarkable! Unbelievable! I don’t think these sentiments are mine alone. You probably would receive similar answers from all of the group members. It was an opportunity of epic proportion and one that I will not forget anytime soon! Without a doubt, it was worth every minute of the time I spent. It was an honor and privilege to be an integral part of this endeavor to help bring teaching to a new level of excellence in our great state of Texas. This [committee] was an absolutely amazing group of incredibly gifted, talented and committed educators, and this experience has been the highlight of my teaching career. I am confident that this is due to an amazing synergy that the steering committee enjoyed.  Each member of the committee shared a similar passion and dedication to the teaching profession, and I believe the diversity of the group is one of its greatest strengths. Throughout the entire experience I never felt age, teaching experience, level of education, race, culture, regional representation, gender, teaching field or teaching level ever interfered with each committee member’s desire and commitment to accomplish our mission. Our number one goal throughout the process was to ensure that every public school student in the state of Texas will receive a quality education because the teachers in the state are well prepared and focused on continual personal growth and improvement as educators due to our work. …The overall experience was very positive, and I believe the entire committee would agree that the opportunity to serve on the committee has strengthened our commitment to teaching and has made each of us a better professional educator.”

Richard Wiggins: “It has been satisfying to see educators from all over the state, from various backgrounds come together and share ideas and philosophies about how Texas educators can grow and how students can better achieve.”

Wagner: “It was a very positive experience and I enjoyed it.  It was challenging, but also provided me with a lot of personal and professional growth. I am extremely glad that I served on the committee. It taught me a lot and it’s been a goal of mine to help influence education in general across the entire state for the better. I think being on this committee helped me meet that goal, at least in part (‘cause I’m not done yet!)”

Stoebe: “I feel proud of the work that we accomplished as a team. I made lasting personal and professional relationships with teacher leaders from all corners of this great state. I respect the Texas Education Agency for truly honoring teachers and for aspiring to secure a legacy for Texas in creating twenty-first century learners.”

Diaz-Rivera Jr.: “It was worth every single minute. It made significant changes in the way I teach, lesson plan, and reflect. The connections I have made on this committee are priceless. I loved working with such a positive and professional group of educators.”


Stay up to date on all the changes to teacher evaluations at our Educator Evaluation Reform Resources page.

Legislative Update: Charter school legislation, enrollment growth, evaluations and SBEC

In Washington this week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senior Democrat George Miller (D-CA) introduced the “Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act” (H.R. 10). The legislation would allow the U.S. Department of Education to oversee spending $300 million on competitive grants to fund charter school startups, expansions and facilities. The full press release, including a bill summary and fact sheet, can be found here: Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act – press release.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released new figures this week on student enrollment. The number of students attending Texas public schools has increased by more than 19 percent over the past decade, with statewide enrollment passing the 5 million mark during the 2012-13 school year.


ATPE State Vice President Richard Wiggins and ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg were featured in a front-page news article Monday in the Austin American-Statesman about teacher evaluation reform efforts. Wiggins is one of several ATPE members serving on a committee that has given TEA officials input on the creation of new professional teaching standards and the redesign of the state’s recommended appraisal system. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams is expected to present federal officials with TEA’s plans for the redesign by May 2, pursuant to the conditions of the state’s NCLB waiver.

Related Teach the Vote content: Why it is important to support candidates in the 2014 elections who will ensure teacher evaluations are valid, fair and easily understood.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will meet Friday to discuss possible recommendations to the 84th Legislature. SBEC and TEA will again be under sunset review in the 2015 legislative session after a sunset bill failed to pass in 2013. Stay tuned next week for updates.