September 2016, Vol. 2

Ready or not: T-TESS is here

As the 2016–2017 school year begins, so does the implementation of a new teacher appraisal system. Effective July 1, 2016, districts had to adopt the use of T-TESS (Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System) or a locally developed appraisal system that adheres to TEC § 21.352 and 19 TAC § 150.1007. 

Appraiser Requirements

A campus administrator (principal, assistant principal, administrator who holds a comparable SBEC administrator/supervisor certificate, or supervisory staff whose responsibilities include the appraisal of teachers and who is not a classroom teacher) may become a certified appraiser. Additionally, a teacher on a campus that serves in the capacity as a department chair or a grade-level chair and whose responsibilities include classroom observation responsibilities may appraise teachers at his or her campus. A teacher who is a certified appraiser but is not a department or grade-level chair may only appraise teachers at another campus.
 
To become a certified appraiser, an individual must satisfactorily complete the state-approved T-TESS training and pass the T-TESS certification examination. He or she also must have received Instructional Leadership Training (ILT), Instructional Leadership Development (ILD), or Advancing Education Leadership (AEL) certification. If an individual did not complete ILT or ILD before January 1, 2016, the only option is AEL. Unlike past leadership training, AEL provides support in the implementation of impactful strategies designed to improve instruction and student performance.  

Teacher Orientation

Within six weeks of completion of the T-TESS orientation, teachers in their first year of a T-TESS appraisal or who are new to a district must conference with an appraiser and submit a completed Goal-Setting and Professional Development Plan. In later years, a teacher will develop the Goal-Setting and Professional Development plan at the end of the school year, make adjustments to it at the beginning of the start of the next school year based on his or her assignment and submit it no later than the end of the first six weeks of school.
 
Teachers are required to maintain the Goal-Setting and Professional Development Plan throughout the course of the year and track progress in the attainment of goals and participation in professional development activities detailed in the approved plan. After the end-of-the-year conference, this information is used to determine ratings for the goal-setting and professional development dimensions of the T-TESS rubric.

Observation Requirements

During a full appraisal cycle, a teacher must have at least one 45-minute classroom observation. Additional walk-throughs and observations may occur at the discretion of the certified appraiser. If data from additional walk-throughs and observations will impact the teacher’s summative appraisal ratings, a written summary must be provided to the teacher within 10 working days after completion of the additional observation or walk-through. Walk-throughs and additional observations do not require a post-conference.  

Policy Implication

Policy DNA (LOCAL) should be updated to reflect local decisions about the new appraisal system. Policy DNA (LEGAL) was revised in Update 105. The local policy will be updated in response to a TASB Policy Service survey sent to the district’s policy contact in April. Considerations include:
  • Will the district implement T-TESS for all campuses, some of its campuses, or none of its campuses?
  • Will the district appraise teachers on a yearly basis or less-than-annual basis?
  • Which of the following criteria will be used if a district allows a less-than-annual appraisal?
    • Type of contract
    • Type of certification
    • Number of years employed by the district
    • Years served in current position
    • Years served on current campus
    • Years supervised by current principal 

HR’s Role

HR administrators can provide support to their district for the implementation of the new appraisal system through encouragement and resources. The TEA T-TESS resources webpage (https://teachfortexas.org/) provides access to items such as the appraisal calendar, description of the evaluation process, rubric training, and calibration videos. Even if you're an HR administrator who has not been trained in the new appraisal system, you can become more familiar with the process by visiting the site. 
 
The new appraisal system is a culture shift for educators in Texas. Staff might feel uncomfortable at first because T-TESS is very different from PDAS, and change can be difficult—even if it's for the better. As Socrates once said, “The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”