District Implements New Teacher Appraisal System

District Implements New Teacher Appraisal System
Teacher in classroom photo for T-TESS

October 17, 2016 -- The state’s new teacher evaluation system puts educators in the driver’s seat, Amarillo ISD administrators say.

The Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) was implemented statewide this school year. It replaces the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) as the recommended evaluation tool for Texas public and charter schools.

“T-TESS really changed the evaluation process for teachers. Teachers now get to set their own goals for improvement. It is all about student-centered education. It is leaving teacher-centered instruction and helping our teachers think about how they do their jobs in a new way,” said Palo Duro High School Principal Amy Dorris.    

The T-TESS system is intended to not just measure teacher performance, but to be a coaching and development tool for educators by supporting continuous improvement. It breaks appraisals down into four performance domains: Planning, instruction, learning environment, and professional practices and responsibilities. Both the domains and how T-TESS measures teacher performance are meant to enhance and reflect the most current and effective teaching methods.

Another big change from PDAS to T-TESS is the observation component. Throughout the school year, T-TESS incorporates continuous collaboration between teachers and their appraiser, with multiple informal observations and at least one formal observation. 

“With PDAS, it was about administrators observing teachers and T-TESS has a piece that’s similar to that. But now, it is evidence based. If the evidence is provided and documented, performance is no longer weighted by how I think and feel about a teacher. It’s about what teacher is actually doing in the classroom and what the students are doing in the classroom, as well,” said Dorris. 

Student growth measures will be added to the system for the 2017-18 school year. Districts can choose which areas of student growth will be measured, including student learning objectives, student portfolios, and data from district or state assessments. Additionally, districts will be able to choose which student growth measures to use for which teachers, and drill down even further to decide which ones to apply to individual subjects and grade levels.

“It really took that impersonal piece of the former evaluation system away and made it very personal. I think that’s what teachers appreciate and principals really appreciate it, too,” Dorris said.

School districts aren’t required to use T-TESS and can instead opt to develop their own appraisal system. Though, state law mandates any system developed by individual school districts must include the same standards as T-TESS. The former system, PDAS, had been in use since 1997 in an estimated 86 percent of Texas school districts.

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