Preparing Better Teachers: New evaluation system promotes more professional development

HARLINGEN — When Beatrice Cruz learned she and her fellow teachers would be evaluated under a new system, she knew exactly what to do.

She set goals. She planned. She developed strategies to improve her performance as a fifth grade teacher at Zavala Elementary.

“It helped me add more depth and rigor to my lessons,” Cruz said.

More depth and rigor in the classroom translates into more engaged learning for students. Better learning means more power and talent to carry them into college and the workforce.

Planning and setting goals are part of the new T-TESS — Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System. This is designed for more professional development for teachers and more effective teaching for students. In the T-TESS, teachers are evaluated in four areas which address everything from classroom activities to planning and professional development.

The Harlingen school district used the T-TESS for the 2015-2016 school year as a pilot program. At the beginning of the school year, administrators gave teachers a PowerPoint presentation detailing the system. Teachers learned they would have a pre-conference with their principal or assistant principal at the beginning of the school year.

At the end of the year, they would have their formal, 45-minute visit from their principals or assistant principals who would then evaluate their performance. That would be followed by another conference.

Harlingen school teachers had their evaluations and conferences in April. An appraiser sat with teachers and went evaluation area by area to give them feedback.

“That’s a very powerful tool for our teachers because it really emphasizes the fact that we’re all continuous learners,” said Veronica Kortan, administrator for organizational development.

“The T-TESS allows for a lot of coaching for teachers who want to perfect their practice.”

Teachers “perfect their practice” by improving their teaching methods. They may work on the way they stand, speak and present themselves to their students. They might study a new teaching strategy or learn how to ask better questions to encourage a more robust dialogue.

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How T-TESS Works

The Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System – T-TESS, is a new teacher evaluation system for the state of Texas.

It was developed by a steering committee comprised of teachers, principals and others in the education profession. It has been used as a pilot program for the past two years.

The Harlingen school district used the evaluation system last year. It’s expected to become the state-recommended evaluation system this coming school year. As such, it will replace the PDAS, a system implemented in 1997.

Teachers evaluated on four domains

– Planning

– Instruction

– Learning Environment

– Professional Practices and Responsibilities

Three measures of teacher effectiveness

– Observation

– Teacher Self-Assessment

– Student Growth

Five ratings

– Improvement Needed

– Development

– Proficient

– Accomplished

– Distinguished