Tag Archives: Texas Teaching Commission

ATPE expresses concern over teacher evaluation plans during House committee hearing

The House Public Education Committee held an interim hearing yesterday, May 14, to discuss the state’s new plans for teacher and principal evaluations and other issues relating to teacher quality. The Speaker of the House asked the committee to study these issues during the interim.

Yesterday’s hearing consisted of four panels of invited witnesses, followed by public testimony from several stakeholders, including ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe. Stoebe served on a steering committee of teachers appointed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to give feedback on the new evaluation system and proposed teaching standards. Read more about the steering committee’s work and the state’s plans for the new evaluation system in the upcoming Summer 2014 issue of ATPE News.

The first panel of invited witnesses yesterday consisted of teachers and principals who shared their experiences with innovative instructional practices, such as using flipped classrooms. For the second panel, former Commissioner of Education Jim Nelson appeared on behalf of the Texas Teaching Commission. He explained the commission’s 2012 study of issues relating to the teaching profession and noted that most of the time was spent discussing teacher evaluation and compensation. Representatives of the state’s four largest teacher groups who initially served on the commission withdrew from it in late 2012 because they could not support directions being taken by the commission on several issues, including evaluation. Nelson testified that commission members believe student growth should make up more than 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Representatives from TEA made up the third panel. Michele Moore, Associate Commissioner for Educator Leadership and Quality, and TEA Deputy General Counsel Von Byer were there to provide updates on teacher quality initiatives and explain the new teacher and principal evaluation system developed by TEA. Legislators on the committee expressed concern regarding the timeline for implementation of the system, which calls for piloting in the 2014-15 school year and full statewide implementation in 2015. TEA staff acknowledged that without a special session, the Texas Legislature would have to change state law to require statewide implementation prior to receiving feedback from the pilot study. TEA also confirmed that the value added-portion of the new evaluation system as proposed will not even be completed until mid-June.

ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday testified as part of the fourth panel along with representatives of TCTA, Texas AFT and TSTA. All four invited witnesses stressed concern over TEA’s decision to include a value-added measure at the individual teacher level in the new evaluation plans. Each of the panelists pointed to an abundance of research suggesting VAM is an inaccurate measure of teacher performance for purposes of high-stakes employment decisions. Due to this research, Canaday conveyed that  ATPE had suggested to Commissioner of Education Michael Williams that VAM be used only at the campus level or higher for evaluation purposes, as opposed to the individual teacher or classroom level.

Canaday also explained how the design of the new evaluation system had been dictated by the terms of an NCLB waiver that Texas has been trying to secure from the U.S. Department of Education. In a letter sent to House Public Education committee members on the eve of the hearing, Commissioner Williams insisted that the NCLB waiver was not the reason for the evaluation changes. However, as Canaday explained to legislators yesterday, the federal government, through Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, has demanded that student growth make up at least 20 percent of teacher evaluations and has used the NCLB waiver process as a means of forcing states to adopt controversial reforms, such as tying teacher evaluations to test scores or adopting the Common Core national curriculum.

All members of the panel of teacher group advocates encouraged TEA to continue to negotiate with the U.S. Department of Education and seek an extended timeline in which to work. At minimum, an additional year is needed before statewide implementation so that any data or feedback from the pilot year can be incorporated and changes made where necessary. “We should tell Secretary Duncan that we are Texas and we have 5 million students and we want to get this right,” Canaday told the committee. “We need to be negotiating from a position of strength and asking for an extension of time or different parameters.” Canaday also pointed out that parents would never tolerate the use of controversial VAM methods, which she likened to “secret statistical voodoo” in some instances, to make high-stakes decisions about students, such as determining their class rank or course grades. “If VAM is not good enough for students, why are we insisting that it be used on teachers?” she asked rhetorically.

Additionally, Canaday reiterated ATPE’s belief that in order to improve the profession and better recruit and retain teachers we should raise standards to enter the profession, offer all new teachers mentoring opportunities, pay teachers more professionally and give them career advancement opportunities that don’t necessarily require them to leave the classroom. She also told members about the TELL Texas survey on teachers’ working conditions, which is taking place now and has the potential to generate valuable data that can assist us with teacher retention efforts and improving student achievement without the use of test scores. Canaday urged legislators on the committee to follow up with school leaders back in their districts to encourage full participation in the TELL Texas survey, which ends May 31.

View an archived broadcast of the full hearing here.

ATPE, other teacher groups to testify on teacher evaluation tomorrow

The House Public Education Committee has scheduled an interim hearing tomorrow, May 14, to discuss the state’s new plans for teacher and principal evaluations and other issues relating to teacher quality. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R–Killeen) has invited representatives of all four teacher groups to provide expert testimony on the following interim charge:

Explore innovative, research-based options for improving student achievement beyond standardized test scores. Evaluate standards for effective campus management as well as teacher preparation, certification, and training. Review current teacher evaluation tools and instructional methods, such as project-based learning, and recommend any improvements that would promote improved student achievement. Engage stakeholders on how to recruit and retain more of our “best and brightest” into the teaching profession.

The full witness list is as follows:

Panel A. Changing Texas Classrooms
• Patty C. Hill, Mathematics Teacher, Kealing Middle School, Austin Independent School District
• Carl Hooker, Director of Innovation & Digital Learning, Eanes Independent School District
• Andrew Kim, Superintendent, Comal Independent School District
• Chrystal Carlin, Principal, Alamo Colleges – Memorial Early College High School, Comal Independent School District

Panel B. Texas Teaching Commission
• Jim Nelson, Vice Chair, Texas Teaching Commission

Panel C. Update on Teacher Evaluation, Educator Preparation Program Accountability and other Teacher Quality Initiatives
• Michele Moore, Associate Commissioner for Educator Leadership and Quality, Texas Education Agency
• Von Byer, Deputy General Counsel, Texas Education Agency

Panel D. Teacher Perspectives
• Jennifer M. Canaday, Governmental Relations Manager, Association of Texas Professional Educators
• Holly Eaton, Director of Professional Development and Advocacy, Texas Classroom Teachers Association
• Ted Melina Raab, Senior Legislative Agent, Texas AFT
• Portia Bosse, Government Relations Specialist, Texas State Teachers Association

The committee will also hear public testimony at the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Click here to watch a live or archived webcast of the hearing, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for a complete recap following the hearing.

Vote for candidates who will improve teacher compensation

This is the eleventh post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.

At issue: Teacher compensation plays an important role in efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, as discussed in a recent editorial by ATPE State President Ginger Franks. Nationwide, the average teacher salary exceeds $56,000, while Texas teachers are paid an average of $48,000. If Texas ever expects to become a global education leader, our teacher salaries must be at least equal to and preferably greater than the national average, which means that we still have a long way to go. Keeping salaries competitive with other professions and private industry is also critical to maintaining an adequate supply of teachers, especially in hard-to-staff subject areas like science and math. Studies have shown that funding additional stipends to entice high-performing college students and professionals to teach those subjects is a successful strategy to improve teacher quality. Differentiated pay for educators who undertake advanced training or other professional duties outside their normal instructional activities, such as mentoring a new teacher, can also help with teacher retention.

The state minimum salary schedule for teachers needs to be protected: While differentiated pay and targeted bonuses can and should be used strategically, it is essential that we maintain an adequate base pay structure for all teachers. The state’s minimum salary schedule (MSS), which fosters teacher retention by ensuring gradual pay increases over a 20-year span, has been under attack in recent legislative sessions. Critics of the MSS, including well-funded reform groups like Texans for Education Reform, Texans Deserve Great Schools and Educate Texas, falsely claim that its experience-based formula prevents school districts from adopting their own pay scales and strategic compensation plans that reward the best teachers. We disagree, and we hear frequently from educators who believe that the MSS provides an incentive to stay in the classroom and who would prefer it to be expanded rather than eliminated.

We must elect pro-public education candidates who understand the important function of the minimum salary schedule: Legislators who’ve attempted to repeal the salary schedule dismiss educators’ concerns as “institutional resistance to change” and ignore the fact that the MSS was designed to be merely a floor for teachers’ salaries across their first 20 years of teaching. The MSS was adopted with the intent that districts would pay teachers above the state minimums according to their own locally developed criteria. Most districts do pay above the MSS, with the excess payments often structured as performance-based increases. If the Legislature would comply with its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education, more districts would probably be able to offer strategic payments above the state minimums. Moreover, in the decades that the school finance system has been in and out of litigation, pay increases for teachers have been few and isolated, but the MSS is what has made it possible to direct funds to the classroom where they are most needed. The MSS also helps stabilize the Teacher Retirement Statement (TRS), which is tied directly to the existing salary schedule.

Your future earnings as an educator depend on the participation of the education profession in this primary election: Too many of our legislators have bought into reformer rhetoric about teacher compensation. Educators cannot afford to remain a silent majority on this issue. View your legislators’ profiles on Teach the Vote to find out how they voted in 2013 on issues such as merit pay (see “Senate Vote #3”) or requiring a state survey of teacher salaries (see “House Vote #4”). Although the March 4 primary elections are only two days away, there is still time for you to talk to your friends and family about what’s at stake in this election. Don’t forget that in 21 legislative races, the November general election will be irrelevant, and the winner will be decided Tuesday. The legislature won’t stand up for better teacher pay unless the members of the education profession send a message now. This Tuesday, vote your profession.