T-TESS for Late Hires

February 05, 2021 • Cheryl Hoover

T-TESS for Late Hires

Like all teachers new to the district, late hires are required to have a full Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) or locally developed appraisal during the first year of employment. 

HR should remind campus administrators of the need to provide a full appraisal for late hire teachers and ensure it is completed.  The full appraisal includes creating and monitoring the Goal Setting and Professional Development (GSPD) plan, holding pre- and post-conferences, conducting the 45-minute observation and walk-throughs, scheduling the end-of-year conference, and providing the written summative annual appraisal report.

Appraisal benefits

Implementing the full appraisal process during the first partial year provides the opportunity for the administrator to become well acquainted with the teacher, the teacher’s pedagogical practices, and the performance of the teacher’s students. The appraisal process also gives the administrator ample knowledge to determine future employment action and contract decisions. If adverse employment action is taken, the appraisal records serve as documentation to show the decision is job-related and nondiscriminatory.

T-TESS procedures

Teachers new to the profession and new to a district must be provided a mandatory orientation to the T-TESS regardless of whether the teacher started before or after the first day of instruction.

Orientation for teachers starting prior to the first day of instruction must be held no later than the final day of the first three weeks of school and at least two weeks before the first observation. Best practice for late hires would be a similar timeline providing an orientation within the first three weeks of the teacher’s start date.

Just like the beginning of the year training, the orientation must be conducted in a face-to-face setting and provide all state and local district appraisal policies along with the appraisal calendar. The teacher must be given the opportunity to participate in a discussion of the T-TESS specifics and have any questions about the process answered. Formal observations are prohibited in the two weeks following the orientation.

A teacher in the first year of appraisal under T-TESS and teachers new to the district must participate in a GSPD plan conference. Teachers beginning before the first day of instruction must submit their plan for approval to their appraiser within six weeks from the day of completion of the orientation. Using a similar timeline for teachers hired after the first day of instruction would be the best approach.  

Appraisal waivers available

Due to the continuing instructional challenges caused by the pandemic, waivers may be filed pursuant to the Commissioner’s general waiver authority for school districts and charter schools unable to meet the requirements for teacher, principal, and campus administrator appraisals. It is up to the district to determine which aspects of the appraisal process they can complete and which, if any, can’t be completed.

Districts should be cautious in submitting a waiver for the full appraisal process. The abrupt closing of school and move to virtual instruction at the end of 2019–2020 school year may cause a teacher to go without an appraisal for two years. Appraisals are valuable in making employment recommendations for the next school year. If this information is not available, the district needs to determine what will be used in place of the appraisal.

Another consideration is the Local Optional Teacher Designation System (LOTDS) that includes the teacher appraisal as part of the plan. A waiver may affect this program and the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA).

The deadline to submit an appraisal waiver is April 1, 2021. For detailed information, see TEA’s Guidance on Educator Evaluation and Non-Renewal and Steps for Submitting an Educator Appraisal Waiver.

Closing thoughts

A full appraisal process is important to confirm a teacher was the right hire. If a waiver must be sought, consider a partial waiver (e.g., student growth requirement). This spring, busy administrators may forget to implement all or some of the appraisal process or to adhere to the district’s appraisal calendar. Reminding them to be diligent in these duties will benefit the late hire teacher and the district.   

Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl.hoover@tasb.org.

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Tagged: "Employee performance", Hiring, "Teacher contracts", T-TESS