HR Extras

T-TESS update

Long-anticipated new rules governing teacher appraisal in Texas were adopted in April and will become effective on July 1, 2016. The new rules replace the current system—the Professional Development Appraisal System (PDAS) – with the new state-recommended appraisal system—the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The option allowing districts to adopt a locally developed alternative system remains. The adopted rules provide flexibility to districts in some areas, such as frequency of evaluations and how appraisal scores will be determined. 

Districts will need to update board policy to reflect their local decisions about which appraisal system the district will use. TASB Policy Service distributed a survey in April to all policy contacts to help districts revise their board policy language. Policy Service will create policy drafts for districts after districts complete the survey. In addition, Policy Service has sample administrative regulations available for districts to document the administrative-level decisions regarding the district’s appraisal process. 

Oil devaluation taking its toll on districts

School districts in oil towns are feeling the effects of the ongoing devaluation, facing steep budget shortfalls among other issues as the crisis wears on.

Oil plays a pivotal role in district finances—booms can boost revenues significantly, while devaluations can severely damage school budgets. Cuero ISD experienced a budget increase from $6 million in 2009 to $22 million in 2012 during the Eagle Ford shale boom. Now, the board is projecting a significant drop in revenues to $16 million, forcing the district to cut personnel and services it added during the previous five years.

The Eagle Ford shale oil boom allowed small towns like Cuero the chance to begin projects it normally wouldn’t have been able to even consider. The town was able to pass a $76 million bond measure for the construction of the Performing Arts Center as well as two new elementary schools. Interim superintendent Dr. Ben Colwell said the district wouldn’t have been able to pass even a $10 million bond before the boom.

In addition to the decrease in revenues, school districts in towns like Cuero, Karnes City, and Yorktown are now facing a second challenge because they are considered Chapter 41, or “property rich.” The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is now requiring them to repay state dollars they were previously given. Karnes City ISD is facing a $48 million recapture, while Cuero owes the state $5.3 million.

While the boom was undeniably helpful for these small town districts, inaccurate estimations of the length of the boom will have a painful impact in the near future. Fortunately, the buildings and facilities the boom allowed are here to stay, and the devaluation will certainly not last forever.

100Kin10 continues to gain steam in STEM prep

Launched in response to a State of the Union address in 2011, 100Kin10 is climbing closer toward its goal of training 100,000 teachers in STEM subjects by the year 2021.

Heading into the program’s fifth year, 100Kin10 has trained more than 28,000 STEM educators, according to its website. The coalition recently announced the addition of 49 new partners, giving the group a total of 280 academic institutions, businesses, non-profits, and other foundations to help achieve its goal. Texas A&M is among the newest members, and the university pledged to increase the supply of STEM teachers by 950 before the 2021 target deadline. The university specified that 165 secondary math and science teachers will be trained to serve the needs of Texas K-12 students.

Texas A&M is proposing that three of its colleges work together on initiatives including the launch of a teacher preparation program and the distribution of hands-on STEM tools for early childhood and middle grade teachers to intertwine engineering concepts with math and science lessons.

Only 2 percent of high school graduates in Texas take a computer science course in high school, a statistic that prompts the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for STEM Education to key in on the expansion of computer science through Texas schools. UT was granted a 100Kin10 Fellowship to create an online course that will help teachers become certified in computer science and increase the quality of classroom instruction. The university is hoping to have at least 200 additional teachers certified by January of 2017.