Teachers Are Filing a Lawsuit Against the Texas Education Commissioner

The Texas State Teachers Association says a new evaluation system is illegal because it relies too much on test scores.

By Rhonda FanningApril 21, 2016 10:44 am

On Wednesday the Texas State Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against Education Commissioner Mike Morath. At issue? The state’s new teacher evaluation method.

The lawsuit is an attempt to block the implementation of a system that will base 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on how a student performs – including the students’ standardized test scores.  The group says it violates state law.

Noel Candelaria is the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. He says that the new evaluation method, Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System or T-TESS, shouldn’t be able to use standardized test scores to measure teachers’ performance.

“The law clearly states in Texas education code that the appraisal system adopted by the commissioner must be based on observable, job related behavior,” Candelaria says. “When you now are using student’s standardized test scores – tests which were never developed to measure student growth to begin with – it’s in clear violation of the intent of the law.”

It’s not that test data shouldn’t be used at all, Candelaria says, but that the right test data is being used. He said that there are other assessment methods that give a clearer picture of student growth.

“There are multiple assessments that are performed throughout the entire course of a school year that can be used, that should be used as a bigger piece of the entire evaluation system – including observations and teacher input, and maybe even colleague input. But not using the standardized state test scores – which, like I said, were never developed to measure student growth.”

Candelaria argues that data proves standardized testing don’t help students, and hurt teachers.

“We do have research that shows that basing teacher evaluations on test scores doesn’t improve student learning, it leads to higher turnover,” he says. “At time when we are at a critical high of teacher turnover and teachers not even coming into the profession – I mean, our colleges of education are at an all-time low enrollment. Where people are not wanting to come into the teaching profession because of all this emphasis on standardized testing.”

And while the T-TESS isn’t mandatory – districts may opt to develop their own evaluation systems – Candelaria says that its likely that many districts will end up having to use the T-TESS anyway, especially poorer schools.

“The problem that we have is that most districts don’t have the resources necessary to actually go thought the process of developing their own appraisal system,” Candelaria says. “Especially with all the funding cuts to public education, districts are scrapping for every dollar. When the state is able to provide an overall evaluation system that they can easily adopt for most districts, that makes financial sense for them.”

Candelaria says that the Texas State Teacher’s Association had previously tried to air their concerns to the Education Commission.

“We actually sent them a letter two months ago wanting to meet with them on our concern on this very issue,” he says, “and (they) never responded to our letter, which is now why we are forced to file a lawsuit. Because we wanted to have a conversation before we got to this point.”

This post was prepared for the web by Alexandra Hart.