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Texas Is Changing How It Evaluates Teachers. What Will That Look Like?

Texas must change its teacher evaluation system because of a deal it cut with the federal government a few years ago. The state’s education commissioner and others weigh in on what a new system might include.

The Texas Education Agency has been looking at new ways to assess teachers for three years. The federal Department of Education demanded teacher evaluation changes in exchange for granting the state waivers tied to the No Child Left Behind law.

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams says Texas is looking to help improve what he calls student growth – a broader measure of traditional evaluations like test scores.  

“Irrespective of the background that a youngster has, irrespective of the challenges at home, or whether the parents are engaged in his or her learning or not, we do expect that teacher to move that child in some positive direction," he said. "And that’s why the focus is on growth. So what I would say to those teachers is, you’ve signed up for a job where you’re going to have to move that student along. And that’s student growth. And that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Williams called Monday's all-day meeting at Grand Prairie’s Dallas Baptist University just the first of many statewide conversations about changing teacher evaluations.

Grand Prairie Superintendent Susan Hull says the current evaluation system is based on a one-day-a-year visit and it’s time for a change.

Hull hopes Williams looks at a system called TAP. She’s testing the Teacher Advancement Program in three of her 41 schools. She says it focuses more on teacher growth "instead of coming in, one day, looking at what the teacher’s doing that one day, and evaluating that teacher for an entire year on just a performance of a lesson for one day."

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles is working on changing his district’s assessment plan, which would include student input.

“There seems to be some interest among my colleagues and teachers and principals for doing something like that in their district," he said.

Commissioner Williams is considering it.

“I think there’s an opportunity to design a system where student evaluations of their instructors will be a part of that," he said.

Williams says this discussion about a new statewide teacher evaluation system will play out over the next year or two. Monday’s seminar was the first of five meetings he wants to hold across Texas. He hopes to roll out the new plan in two years. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.