Spring 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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Page 12 of 43

by Jef Kelly, ATPE staf attorney your ally. your voice. | 13 spring 2016 Educators States are given signifcant discretion with regard to professional development for high-quality teachers and leaders. Among many options, states would be allowed to spend federal money on the development of an educator evaluation system, but no state would be required to do so. This piece of the law has the most immediate impact on Texas as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) moves forward with statewide implementation of a new teacher evaluation system, T-TESS. The new system includes tying teacher performance to student test scores, a move that satisfed one requirement of the state's ESEA waiver. However, with waivers now null and void and a new law of the land governing education, Texas is no longer forced to press forward under such controversial terms, and education stakeholders continue to oppose the unproven and unreliable measure. Texas now has the opportunity to react. The new law also repeals the mandates surrounding the "highly qualifed teacher" provision included in NCLB. That provision is replaced with new requirements aimed at ensuring all students have access to "effective" teachers. Next Steps The ED began work in January to implement the new law, including making rules, issuing guidance for states and districts, and having conversations with stakeholders. To take full advantage of the new fexibility provided by the law, Texas will need to take action at the state and local levels. The law takes effect for the 2016-17 school year. See ATPE's blog at for timely information as more unfolds. Although the changes to federal law due to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will certainly affect educators, other upcoming changes may impact certifed Texas educators as much or more than changes to federal education law. The nearly two- decades-old commissioner-approved Texas teacher appraisal system, the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS), will soon evolve into the new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). TEA has proposed rules defning how the T-TESS will be administered and the rights educators will have to respond to evaluations they disagree with. In addition, the State Board for Educator Certifcation (SBEC) has proposed new rules defning when and how an educator's certifcation may be sanctioned for actions deemed inconsistent with the standards set for certifed educators in Texas. We will share information explaining both sets of rules once they have been fnalized and adopted. For now, I'd like to explain how you can participate in the rule-making process. Your Turn When an agency like the TEA wants to create a new rule or change an existing one, the agency must provide a window of time to accept and consider public comments before making the change. ATPE will almost always provide comment, but you can also help change the rules that affect you. You have a voice. You may have heard how public comments recently persuaded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to embrace net neutrality. The Texas process for public comment is similar to the federal process. Under Texas law, when an agency like the TEA proposes any new rules—from changes in evaluations, to disciplinary processes, to contract rights—those rules must be submitted to the public for comment for a period of 30 days. You don't have to disagree with every part of a new rule to submit comments. Focus on why you are concerned about the proposal—this could be anything from the reality of how the rule will work on a school campus to a philosophical concern about the rule's purpose. You can comment on anything, but the more specifc you are about what needs to be changed and how, the more likely a reviewer will consider your point of view. Taking Action This short comment period means you don't have long to study new rules and submit your concerns or suggestions about the proposals. Unfortunately, the comment periods for both the T-TESS rules and the SBEC rules have closed, but there will be many more opportunities in the future. If you want a say, frst you need to fnd the proposals and read them. Most of the rules that affect your work as an educator will be proposed by the Commissioner or SBEC. The Times, They Are 'A Changin' Continued on page 42

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