State Rep. Jason Villalba’s Teacher Appraisal Bill is Another Vital Step Toward Upgrading Texas Public Schools

Texas’ 83rd Legislative Session features an important theme, reflected in numerous pending bills: the determination to improve the public education system, and to protect and advance school choice, especially for low-income families. Texas Republicans are leading the way.

One aspect of upgrading public schools, reviewing the caliber of our teacher performance appraisal process, is the subject of two bills. First term Republican State Representative Jason Villalba, District 108, introduced HB 2977, while Republican Senator Dan Patrick introduced S. 1403.

Both call for revisions to the criteria used to evaluate teacher performance, and for annual (rather than the current once-every-five- years) appraisals of our public school teachers’ job performance.

As Villalba put it, teachers and a quality education are “our children’s most valuable resource in closing the achievement gap.” Villalba emphasized that the goal of the enhanced appraisal process is to recognize superb aptitude in teaching, and to identify teachers who are struggling so that they can receive additional training and improve.

Representative Villalba’s bill includes:

  • A requirement that the TEA (Texas Education Agency) Commissioner adopt a “teacher appraisal framework” that is based on “objectives measures of teaching performance.” 
  • Direction that TEA’s appraisal framework must include teaching standards that spell out expected teacher knowledge, understanding, skill and practice, all to ensure student achievement and growth. 
  • The constraint that multiple appraisal measures must be used in the teacher evaluation process, including student achievement and growth.

The controversy between these reform-minded bills and some teachers’ organizations arises out of whether students’ test scores, and student academic gains, are a legitimate factor to be included in the teachers’ appraisal process. If kids test scores go up or down, is it legitimate to consider that among other factors is assessing a teacher’s performance?

Teachers’ groups such as the American Federation of Teachers, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Association of Texas Professional Educators all testified against Senator Patrick’s bill, expressing concern that the call for “objective measures” to be used in evaluating teachers could unfairly tie teachers’ performance to students’ test scores without adequately considering whether demographics, language, parental support or the lack thereof, and special needs, played a significant role in poor test results.

Villalba’s office points to the fact that many studies by education advocates urge including student performance as one measure of improving teacher evaluations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET), and MET’s recently released research supports including classroom observation, student surveys, and student achievement gains, in teacher evaluations.

A high-quality education is every poor child’s ticket out of poverty and helplessness. Great teachers make all the difference. One key to upgrading the Texas public school education system is to do all we can to provide our children with the best teachers we can, and with a system that identifies teachers whose skills need upgrading, and that identifies and rewards quality teachers.

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