Texas AFT filed suit one year ago to challenge the authority of the Texas commissioner of education—Mike Morath—to dictate how to measure student performance for the purpose of teacher appraisals.
According to a May 3 press release, Texas AFT filed the suit because the commissioner attempted to enshrine in state rules the misuse of test scores as part of an exclusive list of permissible methodologies for teacher evaluation.
The state recommended system for evaluations developed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the recently-developed Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, or “T-TESS.”
Now, as part of a negotiated settlement to the Texas AFT lawsuit, the commissioner has agreed to strike from state rules any reference to specific measures of student performance, including so-called “value-added data based on student state assessment results.”
Under the agreement, the commissioner has agreed to revise current state regulations so that school districts are free to use any method they choose to measure how teachers’ students progress academically. The change applies to both the statewide T-TESS as well as to a locally developed appraisal system.
The settlement agreement also makes clear that local appraisal systems are not subject to state requirements giving specific weight to certain elements that make up the teacher’s appraisal. Those weights are to be determined by the local school district that develops its own teacher appraisal system.
“The legislature gave the commissioner the authority to recommend the use of a commissioner-approved appraisal model, not to dictate to districts,” said Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro. “The law clearly allows districts to develop their own locally designed alternative model, and the commissioner simply had no legal basis for telling districts how to measure students’ performance for purposes of teacher evaluation.
“This successful resolution of our lawsuit is a vindication for teachers who have argued against the use of state assessment data in their evaluations.”
Previously, the U.S. Department of Education had attempted to require states, as a precondition for receiving relief from onerous NCLB mandates, to tie each individual teacher’s evaluation to the scores of the teacher’s students on standardized state tests.
Texas officials rightly rejected this requirement as one they could not impose, because the state’s appraisal law gives school districts the option of devising their own local alternative to the state-recommended system.
Congress vindicated the Texas stance in defense of local discretion over teacher-evaluation policies by passing a complete ban on federally dictated teacher-evaluation methods, the press release states.