TEA pauses A-F accountability ratings, STAAR exams will be administered during 2020-21

Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced this week that the Texas Education Agency would pause A-F accountability ratings for the 2020-21 school year. But Morath said STAAR exams will be administered to students so that the state can see how the pandemic has affected learning. While we appreciate the removal of the high stakes associated with testing, TCTA continues to urge state officials to cancel the exams.

Districts can seek waivers for teacher appraisals

Commissioner Morath also announced this week that districts can apply for waivers that allow them to skip teacher appraisals this year. TCTA advocated early and often that state leaders should suspend the requirement for teacher evaluation. The disruption of traditional modes of instructional delivery have rendered typical components of teacher evaluation (observation and student growth) difficult, if not impossible, to capture accurately.

Senators seek emergency sick leave extension

Three U.S. senators sent a letter to colleagues today calling for an extension of emergency paid sick leave provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The legislation approved in March provides up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work or telework because they have COVID-19 or are required to self-isolate by governmental order or recommendation of a health care provider due to COVID-19. Up to 10 additional weeks of partially paid leave is also available to care for a family member with COVID-19. Without Congressional action, the emergency provisions will expire Dec. 31. After working with members and seeing the need for protected leave to continue, TCTA provided supporting data to Congressional offices via our Washington, D.C., lobbyists, and we will continue to advocate for the extension of this leave.

Three SBOE members test positive for COVID

At least three members of the State Board of Education tested positive for COVID-19 after the board's in-person November meeting in Austin. The announcement comes as Texas continues to report record numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. According to the state's COVID-19 dashboard for school districts, a total of 48,875 students and 28,993 educators have tested positive through Dec. 6, with 6,835 students and 3,524 educators reporting infections in the past week.

Panel recommends teachers get vaccine earlier

During a meeting last week, the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, a team of governor-appointed external and internal subject-matter experts, decided to include teachers as frontline workers in their draft recommendations for vaccine allocation, as TCTA had requested. This designation, if it is approved by the Texas commissioner of health, will allow educators to voluntarily receive the vaccine as a priority population when enough doses are available next year. The first populations scheduled to receive the vaccine this month include frontline healthcare workers, and long-term care workers and residents. State Sen. Larry Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and State Rep. Matt Sheehan have also joined TCTA in supporting the designation of educators as frontline workers.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. This week we updated information based on TEA's announcements about STAAR tests, accountability ratings and teacher appraisals. While this information is not legal advice, we hope it helps answer questions you may have about COVID-19's impact on schools. Members who have specific concerns or questions should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.
Pros and cons of TEA's 4 models to manage remote and in-person instruction

Throughout the pandemic, teachers have been struggling with a heavy workload as they simultaneously teach students in classrooms and remote learners. TEA is recommending four models to help districts manage remote and in-person students. TCTA reviewed them and compiled the pros and cons of each method. Click here to read our summaries.
TRS Board gets update on pension fund during meeting

The TRS Board of Trustees met remotely for its December meeting. Former TCTA State President Nanette Sissney, one of the employee representatives on the board, was reelected as vice-chair. Board members were briefed on the actuarial valuation of the pension fund, which remains in relatively good shape. COVID-19 benefits in TRS-Care and ActiveCare plans have been extended, and plans for expanding TRS office space are on hold. Click here to read more.
Parents file suit over treatment of child in special education

Parents sued a school district following an incident with their child who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and received special education services. As a result of his conditions, the child sometimes exhibited significant behaviors that required removal from class or restraint. The parents objected to the way in which a teacher handled an outburst from the child. In the lawsuit, they alleged that their child had not received appropriate services for his disability. Click here to read more.
New Texas Success Initiative Assessment starts Jan. 11
The Texas Success Initiative Assessment, Version 2.0 is set to launch on Jan. 11 and will replace the current version of the test. TSIA2 will provide a streamlined testing experience, combining the current reading and writing sections into a new single section called English Language Art and Reading.

The diagnostic tests have been reduced to one per subject area. Students will have access to tutorials and the ability to send their scores to institutions, free of charge. Students and educators will have access to free instructional and practice materials related to TSIA2 content with the launch of the TSIA2 Learning Resources library in January.

Click here to register for the training sessions. For a complete list of all dates and sessions, type “TSIA2” into the search field.
Student loan repayments suspended through Jan. 31
The U.S. Department of Education has suspended student loan repayments and extended its 0% interest rate through Jan. 31 to provide relief amid the pandemic. Federal student loan borrowers will not be expected to make any payments through January, although they can continue to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate to pay down principal. Nonpayments will continue to count toward the number of payments required under an income-driven repayment plan, a loan rehabilitation agreement, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Click here to read more.
  • Dec. 28 is the deadline to notify headquarters if you want to be a delegate-at-large or a student delegate at the 2021 Virtual Convention on Feb. 26-27. This is a great way to learn more about TCTA if you're in a district without a local affiliate. Delegate allocations will be sent to local affiliate presidents next week. Click here for more information.
  • Encourage your colleagues to join TCTA and you could earn $25 for every two eligible Active-level members you recruit through Dec. 31 with our Take 2/Make $25 program. Click here for details.
  • TCTA will be closed Dec. 19-Jan. 3 for winter break.
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