As mid-semester approaches, the teacher appraisal process should be moving forward to ensure teachers are receiving timely and relevant feedback on performance in the classroom.
A strong teacher appraisal process is one of the most valuable tools a school can use to evaluate teacher performance over time. Vast amounts of research support the relationship between effective teachers and student achievement. Unfortunately, the past two years of the pandemic have brought significant challenges to the teacher appraisal process which could be detrimental to student achievement. This year, schools need to refocus on appraisal implementation to ensure all teachers receive relevant and intentional performance data for future growth and development.
Appraisal framework and timelines
Across the state, school entities either use T-TESS or a locally adopted system for teacher appraisals. Regardless of the tools and system used for teacher evaluation, school entities should follow a specific framework with detailed timelines that adheres to rules and guidelines required for teacher appraisals.
The points included below are for schools who use the T-TESS framework. However, those school entities who use a locally adopted system should also ensure they are following the required framework and timelines. Reminders for T-TESS include the following:
- Orientation: Schools must continue to provide orientation no later than the final day of the first three weeks of school and at least two weeks before the first observation. Reviewing the appraisal process with teachers is an important component of professional development at the start of the year and a must for teachers new to the profession. Orientation should have been provided for all teachers at this time, and appraisers should begin the observation process for campus teachers.
- Goal setting: The six-week deadline for goal setting is approaching for most schools, and some schools may be past this mark. Submission of the goal setting and professional development plan must occur within the first six weeks following orientation for current teachers and as needed for late hires.
- Observations: Observations may look different due to varied instructional models (e.g., remote conferencing, virtual instruction), but they should be occurring frequently and with meaningful feedback. All observations require a written summary, and formal or scored observations require both pre- and post-conferencing in addition to the summary.
- Non-scored walk-throughs or “coaching” observations: These observations should be ongoing and occur regardless of the current instructional model provided by schools. Appraisers should observe all teachers as soon as possible for the purpose of giving feedback and support and increase the frequency of walk-throughs for new or low-performing teachers.
- Formal or “scored” observations: These observations may look different based on the needs of the school. It is recommended that appraisers conduct formal observations at times when teachers can provide consistent instruction without disruption (i.e., shutting down of classrooms). For teachers pivoting to remote conferencing or changing to a virtual instruction assignment, schools may choose to delay scored observations for several weeks to ensure observations can occur when the teacher has had adequate time for preparation and acclimation to the new instructional demands.
- End-of-year conferences: End-of-year conference requirements remain the same. The appraiser and educator will review all data during the conference and complete goal setting for the following year. Schools must adhere to the current requirement to complete the conference and provide the written summary no later than 15 working days from the final day of instruction. Best practice is for appraisers to complete the conference and annual appraisal report to leave ample time for response, if warranted.
- Student growth: Schools need to have a plan for assessing students in the classroom. Since schools may not be able to rely on STAAR assessment data from the past school year, they may need to re-evaluate how student growth will be measured this school year for some students. Top priority for schools should be determining current baseline levels of student learning and creating a plan to assess growth at the end of the year.
School entities who use an alternate system may deviate from the above framework, but there will likely be similar steps and timelines for a locally adopted system. No matter which tool is used for teacher appraisal, the implementation of a strong appraisal system is necessary for teachers to grow professionally and meet the needs of every student.
Appraisals for virtual instruction
Last year, TEA developed an aligned T-TESS rubric to evaluate best teaching practices in virtual instruction settings. The rubric addresses all current T-TESS dimensions within the planning, instruction, and learning environment domains (Domains I, II, and III) and communicates best practices in evaluating virtual instruction. Domain IV remains the same and will be assessed with the traditional T-TESS rubric.
The virtual instruction rubric is designed to be used for focused observations and to provide feedback with virtual instruction teachers whose primary teaching assignment is virtual instruction. The rubric is not recommended for use with teachers whose primary assignment is in-person classroom instruction.
T-TESS rebuttal and the second appraisal
After receiving a written observation summary or a written summative annual appraisal report through the T-TESS process, a teacher has the right to respond in writing. The written response or rebuttal must be received within 10 working days of receiving the written summary, appraisal report, or any other written documentation related to the teacher’s appraisal. The response or rebuttal must relate to the current summary or appraisal report and cannot address documentation provided at an earlier instance in the school year.
Apart from the written response or rebuttal to the written observation or written summary report, teachers also have the right to request a second appraisal by another certified appraiser at the following times:
- The teacher disagrees with the written observation summary for Domains I, II, and III, as identified in Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §150.1002(a) of the Commissioner's Rules Concerning Educator Appraisal; or
- The teacher disagrees with the written summative annual appraisal report for Domain IV, and for the performance of teachers' students, as defined in TAC §150.1001(f)(2) of Commissioner's Rules Concerning Educator Appraisal.
The second appraisal must be requested within 10 working days of receiving a written observation summary or the written summative annual appraisal report. A teacher may not request a second appraisal by another certified appraiser in response to a written summative annual appraisal report for the ratings of dimensions in Domains I, II, and III, if those ratings are based entirely on observation summaries or written documentation already received by the teacher earlier in the appraisal year for which the teacher already had the opportunity to request a second appraisal.
Other points of importance for the second appraisal include:
- A teacher may be given advance notice of the date or time of a second appraisal, but advance notice is not required. Appraisers should refer to local board policy or the procedures of the school entity for observation window timing.
- The second appraiser shall make observations and walk-throughs as necessary to evaluate the dimensions in Domains I, II, and III or shall review the goal-setting and professional development plan for evidence of goal attainment and professional development activities, when applicable.
- Cumulative data may be used by the second appraiser to evaluate other dimensions.
- Each school entity shall adopt written procedures for determining the selection of second appraisers. These procedures shall be provided to each teacher at the time of employment and updated annually or as needed.
Additional thoughts and resources
Professional growth and development of teachers is essential for effective schools. While schools still face considerable instructional challenges, a continued focus should be on teacher support and growth. Consistent implementation of the teacher appraisal system is key for school and HR leaders to support teachers in the classroom and build effective learning environments.
Additional resources can be found through TEA or at teachfortexas.org.
Jennifer Barton is a compensation and HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Jennifer an email at email@example.com.
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