TCTA 2019-20 Survival Guide

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Summer 2019 | Volume 39 | Number 2


SuRViVAl guide

What’s New in Texas Public Education ............................................................................................................................. 3 What’s Ahead for Texas Public Education...................................................................................................................4-5

YOUR Voice

Legislative involvement: You can make a difference. ....................................................................................... 6-7 Site-based decision-making committees more important than ever ...................................................... 8 Resources for educators .............................................................................................................................................................. 8


Tips for new teachers ............................................................................................................................................................. 9-10 Teacher contracts ............................................................................................................................................................................. 11 Salaries and incentive pay ....................................................................................................................................................... 12 Paraprofessional wages/rights under Fair Labor Standards Act ....................................................... 13-14 Educator certification/continuing professional education ....................................................................... 15-18 Charter school employees ....................................................................................................................................................... 19 Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System ............................................................................................. 20-21 FAQs: When placed on administrative leave ............................................................................................................ 22 FAQs: When called to the principal’s office ................................................................................................................ 23 Professional boundaries with students ................................................................................................................ 24-25

YOUR LegAl Rights & Responsibilities

Key laws affecting your time, classroom, students’ health, employment & legal protections (duty-free lunch/planning time, teacher grading authority, qualified immunity, etc.)......... 26-32 Child abuse or neglect reporting requirements....................................................................................................... 33 Student records confidentiality requirements & parental rights................................................................. 34 Eroding teacher rights................................................................................................................................................................... 35


SuRViVAl Guide The Texas Classroom Teachers Association’s annual Survival Guide provides up-to-date information on education-related topics for Texas teaching professionals. Keep it handy to refer to throughout the year. Please note that information in this guide is current as of September 2019 but is subject to change. All legal material is for purposes of general reference only and is not a substitute for an attorney’s advice. TCTA members with general legal questions may ask them through our “Ask-a-Lawyer” response center at TCTA members who have specific legal questions or need more information should call TCTA at 888-879-8282. Copyright © 2019

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Curriculum/programs ................................................................................................................................................................. 36 Student assessment ........................................................................................................................................................... 37-39 2019-20 student assessment calendar ....................................................................................................................... 38 Graduation requirements ................................................................................................................................................. 40-41 Laws that impact the student-to-student relationship ............................................................................ 42-43 Student discipline and violence ................................................................................................................................. 44-48 School safety and threat assessment.............................................................................................................................. 49 Student conduct: Required notice to educators and confidentiality rules .................................. 50-51 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act .......................................................................................................... 51-53 Restraint of students with disabilities ............................................................................................................................. 53 Inclusion and ARDs for regular education teachers ............................................................................................ 54

YOUR Benefits

Teacher Retirement System ......................................................................................................................................... 55-57 Social Security benefits .............................................................................................................................................................. 57 Health insurance .................................................................................................................................................................... 58-59 Tuition aid and housing assistance programs ........................................................................................................ 60

MoRe foR You

Every Student Succeeds Act ......................................................................................................................................... 61-62 For a complete index, see page 63. THE CLASSROOM TEACHER (ISSN-0279-2494) is the official publication of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA), providing news and opinions in the interest of education excellence. All contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the publisher’s permission. The views and opinions contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. Copyright © 2019. Publication schedule is quarterly. Annual membership dues for TCTA are $175, $5 of which is allocated to a one-year subscription to THE CLASSROOM TEACHER. Subscriptions for nonmembers are $10 per year. POSTMASTER: Please send changes of address, articles and/or photographs to: Editor, THE CLASSROOM TEACHER, PO Box 1489, Austin, Texas 78767-1489. TCTA is located at 700 Guadalupe, Austin, Texas 78701. PERIODICALS POSTAGE PAID AT AUSTIN, TEXAS.


PUBLiC educAtion

Lawmakers make major changes to education in 2019 The 2019 legislative session was expected to be educationfocused and, indeed, lawmakers were committed to funding and implementing major changes in public schools. Among the key bills that passed were House Bill 3 (school funding, salaries and much more), House Bill 18 (training and resources regarding student mental health services), Senate Bill 11 (school safety), and House Bill 3906 (state standardized testing). New laws resulting from the passage of those bills and many others are reflected in this update to TCTA’s annual Survival Guide. While these major laws will have wide-ranging effects on the education system, some lesser-known provisions will impact teachers’ daily work in the classroom. One new law (SB 944) requires employees who maintain public information (for example, a school-related email exchange with a parent) on a private device such as a personal computer or phone to back up or archive the information in its original form. SB 11, one of the school safety bills, will require that employees have access to a phone or other communication device in the classroom that allows for immediate contact with emergency responders. And with the passage of SB 4310, teachers cannot be penalized for not strictly following the recommended scope and sequence for a subject in the required curriculum, if the teacher determines that more or less time is needed to tailor instruction to their students’ needs. Check out TCTA’s bill summaries at bill_summaries for comprehensive information on changes in education policy resulting from the 2019 session.

Be AwARe More than 860 Texas districts now operate as Districts of Innovation, the vast majority choosing exemptions from the school start date law, and hundreds also claiming exemptions from class size limitations, teacher certification requirements and other important laws. More erosions of state law are available to districts through recent reforms that allow (or even encourage) districts to partner with charters and similar entities, thereby deregulating the affected campuses. (See page 35.) In 2015, legislation passed authorizing Districts of Innovation (DOIs). The presence of this new deregulation option complicates the status of education law in Texas. Through a process involving local committees and input from the school board, staff and the community, districts obtaining DOI status can exempt themselves from most provisions of the Education Code (see page 35). This Survival Guide must now be viewed in a revised context as a resource detailing the rights and protections that should apply in public schools. It is crucial that employees stay informed of any local exemptions. And as always, members who have questions about their rights and responsibilities should call TCTA’s Legal Department at 888-879-8282.

2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide




This section previews some new laws that will go into effect in the 2020-21 school year and beyond.

Bills require more topics for teacher training

House Bill 18, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019, added quite a few required topics to training that school districts must provide educators. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, school districts must provide training on: •

recognizing signs of mental health conditions and substance abuse;

strategies for establishing and maintaining positive relationships among students, including conflict resolution;

how grief and trauma affect student learning and behavior and how evidence-based, grief-informed, and traumainformed strategies support the academic success of students affected by grief and trauma; and

preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidents of bullying.

This training must be provided on an annual basis as part of employee orientation to all new school district/openenrollment charter school educators and to existing school district/open-enrollment charter school educators on a schedule adopted by TEA, and must use a best practice-based program recommended by the Health and Human Services Commission/TEA. HB 18 includes a TCTA-initiated provision that allows for the training to include two or more of the listed topics together. Also beginning in 2020-21, school districts may provide training in positive behavior intervention and support; strategies including classroom management, district discipline policies, and the student code of conduct; and digital learning. HB 3 requires all school districts/open-enrollment charters to ensure that, not later than the 2021-22 school year, each K-3 classroom teacher has attended a teacher literacy achievement academy and that, beginning with the 2021-22 school year and subsequent school years, all K-3 teachers must have attended a teacher literacy achievement academy prior to the teacher’s first year of placement in any of those grade levels. (Current law already provides for the commissioner to make literacy achievement academies available for K-3 reading teachers to voluntarily attend.)

ACE turnaround plans affect teacher pay

Recent legislation (HB 4205) created an “ACE” (accelerated campus excellence) turnaround plan as an option for campuses that have been rated unacceptable for two consecutive school years. Like all campus turnaround plans, the ACE plan must be prepared by the school district in consultation with the campus intervention team and allow parents, the community and stakeholders an opportunity to review the plan before it is submitted for approval to the board of trustees. The plan

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must include written comments from the campus-level sitebased decision-making committee, if applicable; parents; and teachers. However, unlike other campus turnaround plans, an ACE plan must include a detailed description of employment and compensation structures for the principal and teachers, and the principal assigned to the campus has final authority over personnel decisions. Additionally, the commissioner is authorized to determine whether the plan meets the applicable statutory provisions in deciding whether to approve the plan. At least 60% of the teachers assigned to the campus must be teachers who have demonstrated instructional effectiveness during the previous year. For a teacher who was in the district the previous year, effectiveness is based on the teacher’s impact on student growth as determined through a locally developed value-added model that measures student performance on at least one assessment selected by the district, and an evaluation based on classroom observation. For a teacher who was not in the district the previous year, effectiveness is determined through data and other evidence indicating that he/she would have performed in the top half of teachers in the district. The significant amount of authority given to the commissioner to deem a campus ACE plan’s employment and compensation structures acceptable is cause for concern. The commissioner’s decision regarding approval of an ACE plan is final and not appealable. Last, the final authority given to the principal of an ACE campus over personnel decisions is also cause for concern. With the exception of a provision allowing one campus rated “unacceptable” in the 2017-18 school year to submit an ACE turnaround plan for the 2019-20 school year, the ACE turnaround plan provisions do not go into effect until the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. It will be important for teachers and support personnel at struggling campuses to pay close attention to school district attempts to create ACE turnaround plans, and to review and comment on such plans. Since any campus turnaround plan must include written comments from the campus site-based decision-making committee, this serves as yet another example of the need for teachers and instructional personnel to participate on their campus SBDM committees (see page 8).

Student assessment changes

HB 3906 made some significant changes to the state assessment program, some of which will be phased in and implemented in future years. Upcoming changes include: •

A three-year phaseout of the stand-alone grades 4 and 7 writing test. Instead, several questions designed to assess writing will be incorporated in the STAAR Reading test in grades 3-8 (new ELAR TEKS are designed to support an integrated approach to teaching reading and writing). Effective beginning Sept. 1, 2021.

Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, no more than 75% of questions in an assessment can be in multiple choice format.



Bills change certification/CPE requirements

HB 2424 requires the State Board for Educator Certification to establish a program to issue micro-credentials to educators in fields of study related to an educator’s certification class (classroom teacher; school counselor, school librarian, principal, etc.) and to approve continuing education providers to offer micro-credential courses. A micro-credential received by an educator must be recorded as part of the educator’s public certification records. HB 3217 eliminates the statutory prohibition against education as an allowable academic major for a teaching certificate, as well as the limit of no more than 18 semester credit hours of education courses at the baccalaureate level allowable in granting a teaching certificate. HB 18 makes a number of changes to continuing professional education requirements, to be adopted by SBEC rule no later than May 1, 2020: •

TEA must, in consultation with the State Board of Education, develop a transition plan to administer all required state assessments electronically no later than the 2022-23 school year. TEA must report on the plan to state leadership and the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020, along with a recommended timeline for statewide implementation of electronic administration.

School districts must permit students enrolled in courses requiring use of a graphing calculator to use calculator applications on a computing device. (Effective with the 2019-20 school year.)

The commissioner must adopt or develop optional electronic interim assessment instruments for each subject and for each grade level subject to assessment under the state assessment system; such assessments must be predictive of the applicable state assessment for that subject/grade level and may not be used for accountability purposes. (Effective with the 2019-20 school year.)

HB 3 requires the commissioner to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a public higher education institution to conduct a study to determine whether, for each applicable grade level, each STAAR assessment in grades 3-8 during the 2018-19 school year or scheduled to be administered during the 2019-20 school year is written at the appropriate reading level for students in that grade level and includes only questions/ passages that are not higher than the grade level at which the assessment is administered. The commissioner must report the result of the study to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2019. HB 1244 requires that the U.S. History end-of-course exam include 10 questions randomly selected by TEA from the civics test administered as part of the naturalization process. Effective beginning with students entering ninth grade during the 201920 school year.

Lifts the 25% cap on required topics for educator CPE.

Adds to the required topics for classroom teacher CPE: educating diverse student populations, including students eligible for Section 504, Rehabilitation Act, students with mental health conditions or who engage in substance abuse, students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and how mental health conditions, including grief and trauma, affect student learning and behavior. Provides that two or more of the required topics can be included in a given training course.

Adds to the required topics for counselor CPE: counseling students concerning mental health conditions and substance abuse, including through the use of griefinformed and trauma-informed interventions and crisis management and suicide prevention strategies; and effective implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program under Section 33.005.

Provides that SBEC shall adopt rules allowing an educator to fulfill up to 16 hours of CPE requirements by participating in an evidence-based mental health first aid or grief/ trauma-informed care program that is offered through a classroom instruction format with in-person attendance.

HB 3 made several changes to teacher certification, including requiring that, beginning with certificates issued by SBEC to teach prekindergarten through sixth grade after Jan. 1, 2021, a teacher certification candidate must demonstrate proficiency on the science of teaching reading on the certification exam. As of Sept. 1, 2019, HB 3 repealed statutory provisions establishing Master Math, Reading, Science and Technology certificates, providing that SBEC must recognize a Master teacher certificate formerly issued under these provisions as a “legacy” certificate until the certificate expires. For current certification/CPE requirements, see pages 15-18. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Voice

Legislative involvement: You can make a difference Throughout 2018, educators continued to build on the successes of teacher involvement in the elections, ensuring that the 2019 session would focus on Texas public schools.


Although the state increased funding to schools by more than $6 billion and made provisions for increased employee salaries, public school supporters still have work to do. Not all employees received meaningful raises, and the cost of health insurance and quality of benefits for both retired and active teachers have reached a crisis point.

The Honorable Greg Abbott Office of the Governor PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428 Information and Referral Hotline: 800-843-5789 Web-based email form:

Teachers can support their own profession most effectively by electing more education- and teacher-friendly lawmakers and protecting the ones already elected. This fall, teachers should be actively involved in helping to recruit candidates for legislative offices and finding worthy candidates to support. The filing period runs from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9, 2019, for races in 2020.

Campaign season

If you’re aware of a candidate you would like to support, getting involved early is a great way to establish the groundwork for a long-term working relationship. Cover all of “the basics” outlined below. If you would like to help a particular candidate get elected, take at least three of the actions listed in the “what’s next” section.

The basics

Know your election dates. The primary elections are March 3, 2020, with early voting from Feb. 18-28. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, and early voting runs Oct. 19-30. Identify the candidates. After the filing deadline has passed, go to for information on the candidates in your legislative districts. Check candidates’ voting records and/or education issue positions. Look at the “issues” page of the candidates’ websites and attend debates and town hall meetings to learn about their goals for public schools and teachers.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve determined there is a teacher-friendly candidate you would like to support, here’s how you can help: Contact the candidate to offer your assistance with the campaign. TCTA does not endorse candidates, so you will need to offer assistance as an individual, not as a TCTA representative. Spread the word. Tell your friends and family, colleagues, church acquaintances and others about the candidate and urge them to vote. Inform them of the candidate’s pro-education positions, and direct them to his/her campaign website. Get local teachers excited and involved. Talk to your colleagues about how they can help the candidate’s campaign. Plan to

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Gov. Greg Abbott

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

The Honorable Dan Patrick Office of the Lieutenant Governor PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2608 Phone: 512-463-0001 Web-based email form:

All state senators

The Honorable (Full Name) Texas Senate PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068 Web-based email form at (on senator’s page)

All state representatives

The Honorable (Full Name) Texas House of Representatives PO Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 Web-based email form at (on representative’s page) carpool to your voting location and then proudly wear your “I VOTED!” sticker. Hold a candidate forum. includes information on planning a candidate forum that can help you get started. Check to see if the candidate has requested a contribution and/ or mailing labels from ACT For TCTA (TCTA’s political action committee). TCTA does not endorse candidates, so campaign contributions and single-use mailing labels are ways we can provide support for pro-education candidates. Take advantage of early voting. Teachers (and other busy people) often find it difficult to get to polling places on Election Day. Early voting provides an opportunity to vote at a convenient time. Make a financial contribution — even a small one. As little as $25 can help pay for yard signs, bumper stickers, phone calls and other tools that allow a candidate to carry on a conversation with voters. For example, a $25 donation will cover at least two yard signs, and just a few signs on a single street can have a

YOUR Voice

positive impact. Or it can pay for an hour’s worth of time from a couple of block-walkers. Consider becoming a fundraiser yourself by convincing a few friends or colleagues to match your contribution. Suddenly, your $25 can become $100 or $200, and make a big difference in any campaign.

Contacting your legislators

The best times to make contact with your state senators and representatives are before their peak busy times — legislative sessions and campaign season. Whether you write, call or visit in person, it’s always best to start with a thank you, identify yourself as a constituent, tell a little about yourself, then get to the point of the communication. Map out the issues you’d like to cover and do your homework.

Legislators expect you to be an expert on classroom issues, not state law, but having some familiarity with the basics is a must. Always be professional; try to relate all issues, including those concerning teacher pay and benefits, back to your students; and be concise. If you’ve scheduled a face-to-face visit, follow up with a thank-you note. TCTA avoids providing form letters for our members — research and experience tell us that policymakers routinely ignore such communications. Individual communications relating personal experiences are the best way to get a point across. TCTA provides you with the background information you need to get started, and we’re happy to answer any specific questions you may have before you make those legislative contacts. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Voice Site-based decision-making committees more important than ever District- and campus-level site-based decision-making committees were designed to ensure that teachers, parents and community members have an active voice in local education matters. Teacher representatives on the committees are to be elected by the teachers of the district/campus. The committees may develop an appraisal process and performance criteria for district teachers, and must be consulted if the district adopts a local process and criteria for appraisal instead of using the process recommended by the commissioner of education. Most importantly, the district committee must approve any District of Innovation plan. Since a DOI plan can eliminate basic rights, it is critical that the district committee’s composition complies with the law. (See page 35.) A district seeking a waiver from rule or law must submit to the commissioner an application and written comments from either the campus- or district-level committee. The superintendent must regularly consult with the district-level committee, and the principal must regularly consult with the campus-level committee.

the committee also shall include at least one professional staff representative primarily responsible for educating students with disabilities. The professional staff representatives on the committee must be nominated and elected by the professional staff of the district. Board policy also must provide procedures for the selection of parents to the committee, as well as community members and business representatives, in a manner that provides for appropriate representation of the community’s diversity. Members should review district policies for specific committee requirements. District-level committees also assist the superintendent in developing, reviewing and annually revising the district’s improvement plan. The plan must include provisions for a comprehensive needs assessment addressing student performance, measurable district performance objectives and strategies for improving student performance.

Campus-level committees

District-level committees

The Texas Legislature has provided specific procedures for the selection and composition of the district-level committee. At least two-thirds of the elected professional staff representatives must be classroom teachers. If practicable,

Campus-level committees assist the principal in developing, reviewing and revising the campus improvement plan. The committee is to be involved in decisions in the areas of planning, budgeting, curriculum, staffing patterns, staff development and school organization. Staff development must be primarily campus-based and developed and approved by the campus-level committee. Districtwide staff development may be used only if it is developed and approved through the district-level SBDM process.

ReSOURCeS FOR TeXAS eDUCATORS Texas Classroom Teachers Association PO Box 1489, Austin, TX 78767-1489 888-879-8282 | 512-469-9527 (fax) U.S. Department of Education 800-USA-LEARN | Every Student Succeeds Act Texas Legislature Online Texas Education Agency 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701 512-463-9734 | 512-463-9838 (fax) Regional Education Service Centers

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TEA Special Education Information Line 800-252-9668 TEA Texas Gateway Texas Education Code Texas Administrative Code/SBOE and Commissioner of Education Rules and_Rules/ Texas School Safety Center State Board of Education 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701 512-463-9007

State Board for Educator Certification 1701 N. Congress Ave., 5th Floor Austin, TX 78701 512-936-8400 Teacher Retirement System 1000 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701 800-223-8778 or 512-542-6400 Social Security Administration 800-772-1213 Texas Department of Family and Protective Services 800-252-5400 (24-hour hotline)


Find your footing with these tips for new teachers Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin your teaching career, whether you are a student teacher or in your first paid teaching assignment.

Interaction with colleagues

Find a mentor. Regardless of whether your school district assigns you a mentor as part of a formal mentoring program, it’s useful to have someone to provide guidance and the benefit of experience. There’s more to successfully navigating a new position than just knowing where the coffee is; find a successful veteran who is well-regarded by peers and make a new friend. An experienced educator may serve not only as a tremendous resource for materials and ideas, but also as part of a much-needed support network. Be sure to appreciate the guidance you get from experienced educators. Recognize your probationary status. Understand that the first couple of years of teaching are the legal equivalent of a “test drive.” Under the statutes governing teacher contracts, you are a probationary employee (see page 11). As such, you will likely be scrutinized more carefully than a veteran employee. It’s easier legally for your district to make a change to your employment while you are on probationary status and, as the term implies, they’re trying you out. Your contract can be nonrenewed at the end of the school year for any reason (or no reason) while on probationary status, as long as you are not the victim of illegal discrimination under federal law for reasons such as race, sex, national origin, or religion. This means that even if you think you’re doing a good job, if your principal doesn’t like you or you aren’t regarded as working well with others, you may find yourself seeking employment elsewhere. As a result, we suggest: •

Avoid antagonizing your principal, if at all possible. This may not be the time to complain loudly in a faculty meeting. The person with the most influence on the decision of whether your employment is continued is your campus principal, so be mindful of the balance of power. Make a concerted effort to work well with all of your colleagues, from your fellow teachers to the classroom aides to the principal’s secretary. A successful career in a district begins with what is perceived as a “good fit” between you and the rest of the faculty.

Diligence on the job

Deal with parental complaints professionally and promptly. Many parents are wary of new teachers, knowing that your experience is limited. If you fail to address any concerns they raise, their next stop is likely to be the principal’s office. “Too many parental complaints” is a reason often cited when probationary teachers are not invited to return to their employing districts.

Pay attention to any red flags regarding your performance. Even if the concerns are not documented in writing, if your principal or another supervisor comments critically on your performance in any regard, whether it’s cutting it close on your arrival time each morning or maintaining discipline in the classroom, take heed and make appropriate adjustments. Seek out and obtain training to enhance your skills. TCTA provides members with free online professional development, which can help you meet certificate-renewal requirements. If any problems with your performance are noted, your supervisors will likely be pleased if you immediately seek out training to help you improve.

Issues of professionalism

Remember your role. Though you may look young and, at the high school level, may not be much older than some of your students, remember that you are their teacher, not their peer. To behave otherwise is a significant mistake that could result in loss of your current position or even your certificate. Specifically: •

Never entertain students at your home.

Avoid the temptation to share inside jokes, flirt or make any risqué remarks. It will come back to haunt you and ultimately undermine your authority in the classroom.

Dress modestly and professionally. Crushes are rampant.

Don’t fraternize with students outside of school-sponsored activities. You can be supportive of your students without being buddies.

Never sanction the consumption of alcohol or drugs by students, either explicitly or implicitly.

Avoid any sort of off-color or profane remark; remember that your students are not adults and what may be amusing at the moment won’t look good in a transcript.

Also see “Professional boundaries with students” on page 24. Do your internet surfing at home. Many teachers are surprised to learn that their online activities on school computers are not private. Any use of school equipment should be directly related to your employment. Remember that the web is a very public forum. Though you don’t check your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door, most teacher contracts contain language that can mean your personal life may have some bearing on your continued employability, especially if your conduct can be considered to diminish your classroom credibility. Many students delight in learning details about their teachers’ lives beyond the classroom, and the discovery of anything you wouldn’t want your school board to see can pose problems. Keep that in mind as you tweet or post updates on Facebook, Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



Instagram or other online platforms that might reveal too much information to an unintended audience. Be prepared for anything. It’s tough duty to be the center of attention all day every day, and expecting the unexpected helps. Your days will be much easier if you have a headache remedy, nail clippers and safety pins in your desk drawer (but remember, never provide aspirin or other medication to a student without official approval). Use your planning and preparation period wisely. Not only does this opportunity potentially ease the burden you will shoulder in grading papers, preparing lesson plans, etc., it also offers you a chance to decompress a bit before resuming your role as teacher. Avoid the temptation to participate in gripe sessions in the lounge if they occur at your school; not only are your remarks likely to be repeated to others, but it can be demoralizing for you to listen to complainers.

Professional resources

Know that everybody starts off as a novice. Experience counts, but so does the enthusiasm you bring to your new profession. As you build on your student teaching success, keep in mind that each school district, campus and student will present unique challenges, as will being the “teacher of record” and the added professional responsibility that post entails. If you have trouble, seek out the help you need without hesitation. Go to your mentor. If you are having trouble with issues that your teacher training may not have fully prepared you to address (student discipline comes immediately to mind), a talented veteran can give you amazingly helpful guidance. Take advantage of the training opportunities offered by TCTA. Both our website, with its free online training, and our meetings at the local and state levels offer you the opportunity for professional growth. Log in at to get some CPE, and connect with local CTA leaders to learn more about local and state meetings. If you think an employment-related legal problem may be developing, call our Legal Department at 888-879-8282 immediately. Our legal staff is experienced in helping you address concerns identified by your supervisors, suggesting

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House Bill 3, passed in 2019, provides mentor allotment funding for school districts implementing a mentoring program to be used for scheduled release time or a reduced teaching load for mentor teachers and their assigned classroom teachers, mentor stipends and mentoring support through providers of mentor training. The HB 3 mentoring program requires that a mentor be assigned to a teacher with less than two years of experience no later than the 30th day of the new teacher’s employment. The new teacher must be assigned a mentor for at least two years, and the mentor must meet with the new teacher a minimum of 12 hours each semester. Classroom observations may count toward the 12 hours of meeting time. Mentoring sessions must address orientation to the context, policies and practices of the school district, data-driven instructional practices, specific instructional coaching cycles, including coaching regarding conferences between parents and the classroom teacher, professional development, and professional expectations. ways you can enhance your position, and helping you remain employable if your first position is not a good fit. Make sure TCTA has your personal email address. We will send you the latest information about issues that may affect your future as an educator, especially during legislative sessions. We highly recommend that you send us your home or personal email address so we can reach you year-round. Check the TCTA website regularly. You’ll find helpful information on issues ranging from student discipline to duty-free lunch that can answer questions and better equip you in the classroom. We also include important news in eUpdate (our emailed newsletter) and on social media. Refer to this Survival Guide as needed. While this publication does not substitute for the advice of an attorney, it does provide up-to-date information on educationrelated topics that is essential for Texas teaching professionals. Keep it in a handy place — you will find yourself reaching for this publication throughout the year.


Teacher contracts The Texas Education Code provides for three basic types of teacher contracts: probationary, continuing and term.


Teachers must know which type of contract they have before they can determine their statutory rights. The box at right provides a comparison of Texas’ three contract types. These statutory provisions do not apply to charter schools and may be modified by school districts with a District of Innovation plan.

Definition: A probationary contract is for one year only; it may be renewed for two additional one-year periods. (A local school board may authorize a fourth probationary year.) Teachers transferring to a new district who have been employed in public schools for at least five of the previous eight years are probationary for only one year, although the district has the option to offer a nonprobationary contract. A teacher who returns to a district after a two-year lapse in employment receives a probationary contract. Discharge during term (year) or suspension without pay: The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district. Good cause is defined as failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated districts. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer, unless the district has declared a financial exigency, in which case the procedures applicable to an endof-term discharge for a term contract can be used by the district. The request for a hearing must be received by the commissioner of education within 15 days. Discharge — ­ end of term (year): The discharge must be in the best interest of the district, as determined by the board; it is not appealable. A teacher must receive district notice of the discharge at least 10 days before the last day of instruction. State law does not entitle a probationary teacher whose contract is not being renewed to a hearing before the local board.

Important provisions


Teacher contracts are governed by Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code. The definition of “teacher” for purposes of Chapter 21 is a principal, supervisor, classroom teacher, counselor or other full-time professional employee who is required to hold a certificate issued by the State Board for Educator Certification (as well as educational diagnosticians and nurses).

Resignation — A teacher wishing to resign must do so prior to 45 days before the first instructional day of the school year or obtain permission from the district. Failure to comply could be considered contract abandonment and result in certification sanctions. Return to probationary contract — A teacher may be returned to probationary status in lieu of discharge only if he/she agrees. A certified employee also may be placed on a probationary contract if he/she accepts an assignment in a new position that requires a different class of certification, such as administrator, counselor or librarian. Void contract — A contract is void and can be terminated without a hearing if the teacher does not hold a valid certificate or permit or fails to fulfill the requirements for renewal or extension of a certificate or permit, including failure to comply with a criminal background check or conviction of certain felonies where the victim is younger than 18. Pursuant to legislation initiated by TCTA, a certificate does not lapse if there is a delay in processing by SBEC. A district may not terminate a teacher’s contract that is void if no later than the 10th day after it is void, the teacher takes necessary measures to renew, extend or validate the permit with SBEC (see pages 15-18). A contract also may be voided if a district becomes aware that the teacher is convicted of any felony other than one that is grounds for automatic certificate revocation.

Definition: This contract has an indefinite duration. The contractual rights last until the teacher resigns, retires or is discharged for good cause. There is no need for annual nomination or reappointment. Discharge during term (year) or suspension without pay: The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district. Good cause is defined as failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated districts. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer. The local school board must be given notice of appeal within 10 days and the commissioner of education must be notified within 15 days. Discharge — ­ end of term (year): The action must be for good cause. The same standards and rights apply as outlined for discharges during the year. Releases may be allowed for necessary reduction of personnel, with those reductions primarily based on teacher appraisals. If the district has declared a financial exigency, the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge for a term contract can be used by the district.


Definition: A term contract may not exceed five school years; it is usually for one or two years. In term contract districts, teacher contracts are regularly considered for renewal by the local school board. Discharge during term (year) or suspension without pay: The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district, or as a result of a financial exigency that requires a reduction in personnel. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer, unless the district has declared a financial exigency, in which case the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge can be used by the district. The request for a hearing must be received by the commissioner of education within 15 days. Discharge — ­ end of term (year): The discharge must be for reasons contained in the district policy. Teachers must receive district notice of renewal or nonrenewal at least 10 days before the last day of instruction. A teacher’s appraisal must be considered if it is relevant to the discharge. The teacher is entitled to a school board hearing, except that school districts with more than 5,000 students may use an attorney who does not represent districts or school employees to hold the hearing. The decision can be appealed only if it is arbitrary, capricious, unlawful or not supported by substantial evidence. The teacher has 15 days to request a hearing. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



Salaries The Texas Education Code establishes a state minimum salary schedule that must be implemented by Texas public school districts for specific public education professionals: Texas classroom teachers, full-time librarians, full-time counselors and full-time school nurses (RNs only). There is no state minimum salary for any other position. Provisions regarding the state minimum salary schedule do not apply to charter schools and may be modified by school districts with a District of Innovation plan.

State minimum salary schedule

Thanks to a TCTA-drafted provision in state law, the minimum salary is tied to increases in the basic allotment, the basic level of school funding. Districts that pay above the state minimum salary schedule are not required to pass through step increases as long as each covered employee is paid at least the state minimum for each step for each 10 months of employment. Salaries may even be reduced subject to the restrictions below, so it is important to be aware of any local polices relating to compensation.

Compensation increases

HB 3 required districts (including charter schools and DOIs) to increase compensation for non-administrative employees using at least 30% of any new, additional funding. This provision is ongoing, with the intent that increased state funding in future years will result in higher salaries. More details regarding the new salary requirements are available at

Salary reductions

Several decisions of the commissioner of education provide that any salary reduction must be adopted no later than the date that an employee can resign from a district without penalty (45 calendar days prior to the first day of instruction). A district that intends to reduce the salary of an individual teacher or other educator subject to the minimum salary schedule must notify the employee by the same deadline. School districts enacting a widespread reduction in salaries for classroom teachers due to financial conditions also must reduce the salaries of administrators and other professional employees by a commensurate percentage.

incentive PAy

Recently passed legislation provides a financial incentive for local school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to adopt optional local teacher designation systems that designate a certified teacher as a master, exemplary or recognized teacher. The designation, which can last up to five years, must be based on single or multi-year appraisals that comply with the staterecommended appraisal system (T-TESS) or a locally developed appraisal process and performance criteria developed by the district- and campus-level committees established under law and adopted by the board of trustees. Although the commissioner of education must establish performance and validity standards for these designation systems, a teacher holding a National Board Certification may be designated as recognized. The commissioner’s performance standards may not require a district to use a state assessment instrument to evaluate teacher performance.

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STATe MiNiMUM SALARY SCHeDULe FOR 2019-20 Years Experience* Minimum Salary 0 $33,660 1 $34,390 2 $35,100 3 $35,830 4 $37,350 5 $38,880 6 $40,410 7 $41,830 8 $43,170 9 $44,440 10 $45,630 11 $46,770 12 $47,850 13 $48,850 14 $49,810 15 $50,710 16 $51,570 17 $52,370 18 $53,140 19 $53,860 20 and over $54,540 *Total years of creditable experience as of Sept. 1. These amounts were raised for 2019-20 by HB 3.

Districts and open-enrollment charters with adopted local optional teacher designation systems, which the commissioner has ensured meet statutory requirements and prioritize highneeds campuses, are eligible to receive a teacher incentive allotment for each designated classroom teacher as follows: • Master teacher: $12,000, or an amount not to exceed $32,000 (as determined by a high needs and rural multiplier) • Exemplary teacher: $6,000, or an amount not to exceed $18,000 (as determined by a high needs and rural multiplier) • Recognized teacher: $3,000, or an amount not to exceed $9,000 (as determined by a high needs and rural multiplier) A district must annually certify that at least 90 percent of the allotment was used for compensation of teachers employed at a campus at which the teacher for whom the district received the allotment is employed.


Paraprofessional wages/rights under FLSA The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) came about in 1938 as a result of the Great Depression. It was part of the New Deal championed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is a federal law that sets minimum wages and currently requires overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week. Most paraprofessionals in Texas schools are covered by the overtime and minimum wage requirements of the FLSA; most teachers are not.


Generally, the FLSA requires that employees who work more than 40 hours in a one-week period be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their normal hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40. Some factors to consider: •

Workweek: The employer can begin the workweek on any day of the week and at any hour of the day, but it must be a period of 168 hours during seven consecutive 24-hour periods. Most workweeks are the same as calendar weeks, running from Sunday through Saturday, but a workweek could start on Tuesday and run through Monday, for example. To determine if someone has worked in excess of 40 hours, each workweek must be reviewed independently.

Hours worked: Generally, employees who are “engaged to wait,” meaning they are told to be available to do something, can count the “waiting” time as work hours. If an employee is completely relieved of all duties until a certain definite time, and can use the time as the employee sees fit, the “waiting” time does not count as work hours. Once an employee starts the workday, all time spent traveling must be counted as hours worked; however, traveling between home and the workplace does not count.

Overtime and minimum wage eligibility

If you are paid hourly and not categorized as an executive, administrator or professional (teacher, counselor, etc.), you are probably entitled to receive overtime pay. Covered employees include secretaries, education aides, hall and lunchroom monitors, custodial workers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, security personnel and warehouse workers. A teacher who spends more than 50 percent of working hours within one week in a paraprofessional role (e.g., driving a bus) may be able to claim overtime. Both salaried and hourly workers may be entitled to overtime pay. Those in the executive, administrative or professional category who are paid hourly may receive overtime pay. Employees such as education aides or others in the covered employee categories are likely entitled to overtime pay even if they are salaried.

Current minimum wage

The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Volunteer work

A covered employee can volunteer to work without pay if Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



(1) the employee performs services different from those the employee usually performs; (2) the employee offers to perform the services freely and without coercion; and (3) the services support a civic, charitable or humanitarian purpose. The district must compensate the employee if the work does not satisfy all these criteria. A finance clerk cannot “volunteer” to take money and keep the books for a fundraising event, and an administrator cannot imply that “team players” volunteer; i.e., “no volunteer work, no job,” to encourage an “offer” to volunteer.

Compensatory time

A school district can require an employee to take compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay if the employee agrees to that arrangement in writing before performance of the work. If the employee has not signed an agreement to accept compensatory time, the employee can object to a request to do so and insist on receiving overtime pay. An employer must honor an employee’s request to use compensatory time within a reasonable time after the request unless the use of compensatory time would “unduly disrupt” the employer’s business. The proper calculation of compensatory time is 1.5 times the hours worked in excess of 40. Upon termination of employment, any unused compensatory time accrued by an employee must be paid to the employee.

Rest and meal breaks

The FLSA does not require an employer to provide rest breaks or meal breaks to employees. If a rest break is 20 minutes or longer and the employee is completely relieved of duties, it is not counted as time worked even if the employee is required to remain on school premises. The employee must then make up

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the time during that week in order to work a full 40 hours. The only time meal periods do not count as hours worked is if they are at least 30 minutes long, the employee is completely relieved of all duties, and the employee is not required to remain at the duty post.

Nursing mother breaks

The FLSA requires all employers subject to the FLSA to provide reasonable break times to mothers who wish to express breast milk for one year after a child’s birth. Employers must provide a location other than a multiple-user bathroom for the mothers to express milk. This location must be free from intrusion from co-workers and the public. An employee does not have to be paid for this time. This requirement does not apply to an employer with fewer than 50 employees if the employer would experience “undue hardship” as a result of providing such breaks. This provision applies only to employees covered by overtime and minimum wage requirements. It does not apply to exempt employees, including teachers. However, as a result of legislation passed in 2015, all Texas public employees (including teachers) now must be provided reasonable break time and a space other than a multiple-user bathroom to express breast milk.

Reporting FLSA violations

TCTA members with questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act may call TCTA staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor/Wage and Hour Division is charged with enforcing the FLSA and may be reached toll-free at 866-4USWAGE (487-9243). The department maintains a website at

YOUR Job Educator certification/continuing professional education The State Board for Educator Certification was created in 1995 by the Texas Legislature to regulate and oversee certification, continuing education and standards of conduct of public school educators. The SBEC comprises 15 members, 11 of whom are voting members appointed by the governor; of the four nonvoting members, one represents the Texas Education Agency, one represents the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, one is a college of education dean, and one is a person who has experience with an alternative certification program not affiliated with an institution of higher education. Among the 11 voting members are four public members and seven practitioners: four teachers, two administrators and one counselor.

Certificate renewal periods and CPE requirements

Teacher certificates issued after Aug. 31, 1999, are subject to a five-year certificate renewal period, with a 150-hour continuing professional education requirement that must be met through an SBEC-approved provider. (TCTA offers more than 45 hours of free CPE videos for members at Counselor, librarian, educational diagnostician and master teacher certificates issued after Aug. 31, 1999, have a 200-hour CPE requirement for every renewal cycle.

Educators who add another class of certificate during a renewal cycle can prorate the additional CPE hours required by the new certificate for the remainder of the renewal cycle. Certificates issued before Sept. 1, 1999, are exempt from these rules. Educators adding new certificate areas should be aware that while their current certificates retain the “lifetime” designation, any certificates added after Aug. 31, 1999, are renewable and subject to the continuing education requirements. Education aides are required to be certified but are not subject to the continuing education requirements. Note: Non-certified personnel are exempt from CPE requirements and are not subject to certificate sanctions.

Certification by exam

TCTA-initiated legislation allows certified teachers to become certified in another area or level simply by passing the applicable certification exam, without having to complete an educator preparation program or obtain additional college credit hours. Certification by exam is not available for teachers of students with visual impairments, for the EC-3 certificate, or for certificates other than the classroom teacher category of certificate (e.g., school counselor, learning resources/school librarian, educational diagnostician). Teachers adding certificates via exam can register for the applicable certification exam by indicating that they are obtaining certification by examination and will not have to receive a bar code for the exam from an educator preparation program.

Certification exam retakes

Retakes of certification exams are limited to four times per exam unless SBEC waives the limitation for good cause. The retake limitation does not apply to candidates seeking a standard Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate. Applicants for good cause waivers must pay a $160 fee and demonstrate successful completion of a specified number of educational activities hours directly related to the relevant certification exam competencies that the candidate failed to pass in the certification exam. The number of required educational activities hours increases the further away a candidate’s score is from meeting the passing standard. Candidates are required to wait progressively longer periods of time before applying for a good cause waiver with each successive unsuccessful exam attempt, up to the limit of five attempts. Good cause determinations are administratively handled with appeals available to the SBEC. Waiver applications are available on the TEA website at Texas_Educators/Certification/Educator_Testing/.

Disciplinary alternative education program teachers

DAEP teachers are required to be fully certified.


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YOUR Job Applied STEM teachers

TeXeS AdministRation

Persons seeking certification to teach applied STEM courses must pass the certification test administered by the recognized group that created the curriculum on which the STEM course is based.

Most TExES tests are administered via computer at specially equipped test centers, most on a continuous basis. For more information on test dates and registration, visit the Pearson website at, or click on the Texas Educators link on the TEA website at www.tea.

Out-of-field assignments

SBEC rules require that a certified teacher assigned out of field must consent to the activation of an emergency permit and be advised of the conditions of the emergency permit. A teacher who refuses to consent to activation of an emergency permit may not be terminated or nonrenewed or otherwise retaliated against because of the teacher’s refusal to consent to the activation of the emergency permit. However, a teacher’s refusal to consent shall not impair a school district’s right to implement a necessary reduction in force or other personnel actions in accordance with local school district policy.

State law allows the commissioner to adopt rules establishing exceptions to these certification exam requirements for out-ofstate/out-of-country certified educators. The commissioner’s rules require that applicants requesting an exemption from Texas educator certification exam requirements meet the following requirements:

Maximum length of service without standard certification

A) obtain a bachelor’s degree from an institution of higher education that, at the time it conferred the degree, was accredited or otherwise approved by an accrediting organization recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board;

Without obtaining initial, standard certification, an individual may not serve for more than three school years in the same assignment while holding an intern, probationary, emergency or one-year certificate.

(B) complete a state-approved educator preparation program, including student teaching or a teaching practicum, in the state where the standard certificate was issued;

Out-of-state/out-of-country certification

An out-of-state certified educator who has submitted all required documents but has not yet performed satisfactorily on the applicable Texas certification exam(s), or an exam similar to and at least as rigorous the applicable Texas certification exam administered by his/her home state/country, has at least one full year from final SBEC review of his/her credentials to complete all Texas certification requirements.

(C) pass the examinations required by the state department of education or country of licensure for issuance of the standard certificate; (D) hold a standard certificate issued by the state department of education or country of licensure that is equivalent to a Texas standard classroom or professional class certificate;

PAReNT NOTice OF NON-CERTifieD/inAPPROPRiATeLY CERTifieD TeACHeRS State law requires that a school district that assigns an inappropriately certified or uncertified teacher to the same classroom for more than 30 consecutive instructional days provide written notice of the assignment to the parent/ guardian of each student in that classroom. The statute defines “inappropriately certified or uncertified teacher” as an individual serving on an emergency permit or one who does not hold any certificate or permit (does not include someone serving on a school district teaching permit or for whom a waiver of certification has been granted by the commissioner, or to non-certified people hired by DOIs that claim exemption from certification requirements). The statute also exempts certified teachers who are teaching a class/classes outside their area of certification from the parent notice requirement. Additionally, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that school districts provide timely notice to a student’s parents if a student has been assigned, or has been taught for four or more consecutive weeks by, a teacher who does not meet

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applicable state certification or licensure requirements for the grade level and subject area in which the teacher has been assigned. State law provides that school districts that provide the notice required by ESSA are not required to provide the notice required by state law. ESSA also requires that, upon request, parents of students receive timely information about whether the child is provided services by paraprofessionals and, if so, their qualifications, and whether their child’s teacher: •

has met state qualification and licensing criteria for the grade levels and subject areas in which the teacher provides instruction;

is teaching under emergency or other provisional status through which state qualification or licensing criteria have been waived; and

is teaching in the field of discipline of the certification of the teacher.

YOUR Job (E) for an applicant certified as a classroom teacher, have one academic year of verifiable, full-time experience serving in the role and documented on a service record; and (F) for an applicant certified in a professional class area only, have two academic years of verifiable, full-time experience serving in the role and documented on a service record.

Failure to obtain/maintain certification/permit

Failure to obtain or maintain certification or a permit renders an employee’s contract void, unless the employee timely fulfills renewal requirements but suffers a bureaucratic delay causing the certificate/permit to lapse. Districts may terminate an employee’s contract that is void, unless the employee requests and takes necessary steps to receive an extension from SBEC to renew the certificate/permit within 10 days after the contract becomes void. For more information about contracts, see page 11.

Extension of certification renewal deadlines

Certification renewal deadlines can be extended in hardship situations involving catastrophic illness or injury of an educator or immediate family member. Military service members receive two additional years to complete all renewal requirements.

Criminal background checks/fingerprinting

All applicants for certification who have not previously held a certificate issued by SBEC are required to undergo fingerprinting and a national criminal history background check prior to becoming certified. Additionally, any individual enrolled/ planning to enroll in an educator preparation program for teacher certification or planning to take a certification exam, who has reason to believe that he/she may be ineligible for certification due to a conviction or deferred adjudication for a felony or misdemeanor offense, can ask TEA to issue a criminal history evaluation letter regarding the person’s eligibility for a teaching certificate. The fee for such a request is $50. For more information on fingerprinting and the national criminal history background check, see page 31.

Virtual certificates online

Anyone holding a valid Texas public school educator certificate can view his/her certificate through the secure Certificate Lookup at The virtual certificate is the official record of an educator’s certification status, eliminating the need for school districts and individuals to keep paper copies on file. The virtual certificate satisfies the requirement of the Texas Education Code to present a certificate prior to employment with a school district. Virtual certificates are posted immediately upon approval, and a printable version is available.

More information

If you have certification questions, call TEA’s credentialing division at 512-936-8400, option 2. More information on certification and how to become a teacher is available via the Texas Educators link on the TEA website, 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Job ACCePTABLe CPe ACTiViTieS FOR CeRTiFiCATe ReNeWAL If you have a standard renewable certificate or you have voluntarily opted in to the certificate renewal system, you must obtain CPE from an SBEC-approved provider to renew your certificate. Existing school district-provided in-service should count toward the CPE requirement, as may other activities such as college coursework, professional seminars, mentoring and self-directed study. TCTA is an SBEC-approved provider. Members can earn CPE hours through TCTA’s free 3. digital learning, digital teaching, and online seminars at integrating technology into classroom instruction; One semester credit hour earned at an 4. educating diverse student populations, accredited institution of higher education including: is equivalent to 15 CPE clock hours. a. students with disabilities, including At least 80 percent of the CPE mental health disorders; activities must be directly related to the b. students who are educationally certificate(s) being renewed and focus disadvantaged; on the standards required for the initial c. students of limited English proficiency; issuance of the certificate(s), including: and 1. content area knowledge and skills; d. students at risk of dropping out of 2. professional ethics and standards of school; conduct; 5. understanding appropriate relationships, 3. professional development, which should boundaries, and communications encompass topics such as: between educators and students; and a. district and campus priorities and 6. how grief and trauma affect student objectives learning and behavior and how b. child development, including research evidence-based, grief-informed, and on how children learn trauma-informed strategies support the c. classroom management academic success of students affected d. applicable federal and state laws by grief and trauma through a program e. diversity and special needs of student selected from the list of recommended populations best practice-based programs and f. increasing and maintaining parental research-based practices provided by involvement TEA and the Texas Department of State g. integration of technology into Health Services.” educational practices Teachers renewing their certificate(s) on h. ensuring that students read at or or after June 1, 2019, must complete CPE above grade level activities directly related to each of the i. diagnosing and removing obstacles above topics. to student achievement j. instructional techniques Not more than 25 percent* of the required Not more than 25 percent* of the required CPE activities for a classroom teacher must include instruction regarding: 1. collecting and analyzing information that will improve effectiveness in the classroom; 2. recognizing early warning indicators that a student may be at risk of dropping out of school;

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CPE activities for a school counselor must include instruction regarding: 1. assisting students in developing high school graduation plans; 2. implementing dropout prevention strategies; and 3. informing students concerning: a. college admissions, including college financial aid resources and

application procedures; and b. career opportunities. School counselors renewing their school counseling certificate(s) on or after June 1, 2019, must complete CPE activities directly related to each of the above topics. An educator may fulfill up to 12 clock hours of required CPE activities by participating in a mental health first aid training program offered by a local mental health authority under the Texas Health and Safety Code, §1001.203. The number of clock hours of CPE an educator may fulfill under this subsection may not exceed the number of clock hours the educator actually spends in a mental health first aid training program. An educator may receive credit toward CPE requirements for: • completion of an instructional course on the use of an automated external defibrillator that meets the guidelines for AED training approved under Texas Health and Safety Code, §779.002; • completion of suicide prevention training that meets the guidelines for suicide prevention training approved under the TEC, §21.451; and • completion of education courses that use technology to increase an educator’s digital literacy and assist the educator in the use of digital technology in learning activities that improve teaching, assessment, and instructional practices. State law provides that continuing education requirements for educators teaching students with dyslexia must include training on new research and practices in the area. For more information on CPE requirements and a list of SBEC-approved providers, click on the Texas Educators link at Some districts also require professional development as a condition of employment. While each district can decide what it will count for local employment purposes, it cannot decide what will count for CPE purposes. *Note: See page 5 for upcoming changes.


Charter school employees For more information on Texas charter schools, including their state evaluations, visit Charter_Schools.

Protections Although charter school employees are public employees, they are not entitled to all of the same legal protections as employees of Texas public school districts. These include contracts, state leave and class-size limits. However, charter school employees are protected by state immunity laws and limitations on liability, and they are required to participate in the Teacher Retirement System. REMINDER: In Districts of Innovation, depending on the district’s specific plan, teachers may be limited to the same rights and benefits as charter school employees. As of the most recent legislative session, the law specifies that open-enrollment charter school employees are considered public employees with regard to the law that prohibits public employees from striking or entering into a collective bargaining agreement. This change also would encompass the statute allowing public employees to file a grievance regarding wages, hours and conditions of work.

Qualifications State law does not require charter school teachers and principals to be certified, except in the case of teachers assigned to teach in special education or bilingual programs, in which case the appropriate state certification is required. State law also requires open-enrollment charter school teachers and principals to have a baccalaureate degree. Charter schools must perform criminal history checks on prospective employees and volunteers. HB 3, passed in 2019, includes a provision subjecting open-enrollment charter schools to the Whistleblower Act and makes them subject to the do-not-hire registry.

Assessment and accountability All charter schools are required to administer the state assessments and are part of the state accountability system, though many are part of the alternative accountability system.

Pledge requirement Charter schools are required to, once during each school day, recite the Pledges of Allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags. This must be followed by a moment of silence.

Charter school basics The commissioner of education may grant a charter for an open-enrollment charter school to an eligible entity: an institution of higher education, a private or independent institution of higher education, a 501(c)(3) organization, or a governmental entity. The initial term of a charter is five years. The commissioner has authority over monitoring and revoking charters.

Currently, the total number of charters that may be granted in Texas is 305, up from the 2018 cap of 285. (There is no limit on the number of charter campuses that can be approved under a granted charter.) Also, an unlimited number of charters can be granted to institutions of higher learning, including junior or community colleges; dropout recovery schools; or detention, correctional or residential facilities established for juvenile offenders. SB 11, passed in 2019, provides that open-enrollment charter schools are subject to the provisions of the omnibus school safety bill.

District-charter partnerships Under a 2017 law, districts can form a partnership with a charter school to provide services to or operate a campus, including as an alternative to intervention under the state accountability statutes. Campus employees must be consulted regarding provisions to be included in the contract between the district and the charter school. See page 35 for more information. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) Teachers may be appraised annually, through either a locally developed process approved by the district and campus site-based decision-making committees, or the commissionerrecommended appraisal process —T-TESS.

The commissioner-recommended Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System has three major components: student growth, goal-setting and professional development, and observation.

Student growth

Prompted by a May 3, 2017, settlement of lawsuits filed by TCTA and three other statewide teacher groups over teacher appraisal requirements, TEA agreed to eliminate from its teacher appraisal rules the requirement to use one or more of the specified student growth measures in individual teacher appraisals, for both the staterecommended and locally developed appraisal systems. Instead of requiring that teachers be appraised based on one or more specified student growth measures including student learning objectives, student portfolios, pre-and-post test results on district-level assessments, or value-added data based on student state assessment results, the rules simply require that a teacher be appraised based on how the individual teacher’s students progress academically in response to the teacher’s pedagogical practice as measured at the individual teacher level by one or more student growth measures. As a result of the lawsuit, TEA clarified that under a locally adopted teacher appraisal system, in addition to considering how the individual teacher’s students progress, the district may also consider how groups of teachers’ students progress. Although TEA rules require that, if calculating a single overall summative appraisal score for teachers, the performance of teachers’ students shall count for at least 20 percent of a teacher’s summative score, as a result of the lawsuit settlement TEA clarified that under a locally adopted teacher appraisal system, there is no required weighting for each measure. If a district provides a single overall summative rating to teachers (which they are not required to do), they can weight each component, including student growth, at a level determined by the district. As of 2019, TCTA-backed legislation requires the commissioner to ensure that teachers cannot be assigned an area of deficiency on their appraisal solely on the basis of disciplinary referrals or documentation regarding student conduct in the commissioner-recommended appraisal process. It does not prohibit a teacher from being assigned an area of deficiency based on documented evidence of a deficiency in classroom management obtained through observation or a substantiated report. It applies the same standard to a locally developed appraisal process.

Goal-setting & professional development

Teachers new to a district or in their first year of T-TESS must

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develop their goal-setting and professional development plan, participate in a GSPDP conference with their appraiser, and submit the plan to their appraiser within six weeks of completing the T-TESS orientation. For all other teachers, the rules require that a teacher take the GSPDP from the previous year and revise it as needed based on changes to the context of the teacher’s assignment during the current school year, and submit it to the appraiser within the first six weeks of instruction. All teachers are required to maintain the GSPDP throughout the school year to track progress toward their goals and participation in the professional development activities included in the plan. They also are required to share their GSPDP with their appraiser prior to their end-of-year conference, and the GSPDP is used by the appraiser to determine the teacher’s ratings for the goal-setting and professional development dimensions of the T-TESS rubric. The GSPD/self-assessment informs the scoring of two of the dimensions in Domain 4 of the observation rubric.


There are five performance levels under T-TESS: distinguished, accomplished, proficient, developing and improvement needed.


Each teacher will be appraised based on four domains (Planning, Instruction, Learning Environment, and Professional Practices and Responsibilities) consisting of a total of 16 dimensions. The evaluation of each of the dimensions will consider all data generated in the appraisal process. The data for the appraisal of each dimension will be gathered from pre-conferences, observations, post-conferences, end-of-year conferences, the GSPDP process, and other documented sources. Teachers are required to receive at least one classroom observation of a minimum of 45 minutes, but by written, mutual consent of the teacher and the certified appraiser, the required minimum may be conducted in shorter time segments. The time segments must aggregate to at least 45 minutes.

Frequency of and timelines for observations

Each school district must provide teachers with a calendar for appraisals within three weeks from the first day of instruction. The appraisal period for each teacher must include all of the days of a teacher’s contract. Observations during the appraisal period must be conducted during the required days of instruction for students during one school year, and the appraisal calendar will only exclude observations in the two weeks following the day of completion of the T-TESS orientation in the school years when an orientation is required. Annual appraisals are required for all teachers, except that a teacher may receive a full appraisal less frequently if the teacher agrees in writing and the teacher’s most recent full appraisal resulted in summative ratings of at least proficient on nine of the 16 dimensions, and did not identify any area of deficiency,


Teacher appraisal results are confidential. However, recent legislation makes it mandatory (instead of discretionary) for a school district or open-enrollment charter school to provide a requesting district, open-enrollment charter or private school at which a teacher or administrator has applied for employment a document evaluating the applicant’s performance, and for districts to give TEA these documents for purposes of a TEA investigation. Additionally, recent legislation provides that, for districts opting to implement a new local teacher designation system, in which teachers receive “designations” based on appraisal results (see “incentive pay” on page 12), TEA must collect information necessary to set standards for, evaluate and provide technical assistance for these systems, including information that is otherwise confidential (i.e., appraisal results). However, the new law provides that such information remains confidential (i.e., TEA must keep the appraisal results confidential). defined as a rating of “improvement needed” or its equivalent, on any of the 16 dimensions or the performance of teachers’ students. (A full appraisal must still be conducted at least once every five years under state law, though district policy could stipulate a lesser number of years.) Teachers not receiving an appraisal in a given year must participate in the GSPDP process. A modified end-of-year conference will address their progress on the GSPDP, the performance of their students and the following year’s GSPDP.

Conferences/written summaries

After a teacher’s first year of appraisal under T-TESS in the district, an observation pre-conference must be conducted prior to announced observations. A post-observation conference must occur within 10 working days after an observation and must include a written report of the rating of each dimension observed that is presented to the teacher only after a discussion of the areas for reinforcement and areas for refinement. At the post-observation conference, an appraiser can allow for a revision to an area for reinforcement or refinement based on the post-conference discussion with the teacher. Although additional observations and walk-throughs do not require a post-observation conference, they do require a written summary within 10 days if the data gathered during the additional observation or walk-through will impact the teacher’s summative appraisal ratings. Texas Education Code Sec. 21.352 allows districts to “require that appropriate components of the appraisal process, such as classroom observations and walkthroughs, occur more frequently as necessary to ensure that a teacher receives adequate evaluation and guidance. A school district shall give priority to conducting appropriate components more frequently for inexperienced teachers or experienced

teachers with identified areas of deficiency.”

End-of-year conference

An end-of-year conference between the teacher and appraiser must occur no later than 15 working days before the last day of instruction. A teacher’s written summative annual appraisal report must be provided to the teacher within 10 working days of the conclusion of the end-of-year conference and no later than 15 working days before the last instructional day. The end-of-year conference must include a review of the appraisal data collected throughout the current school year and previous school years, if available; an examination and discussion of the evidence related to the teacher’s performance on the four dimensions of Domain 4, as well as of evidence related to the performance of teachers’ students, when available; and an identification of potential goals and professional development activities for the teacher for the next school year.

Responding to a negative appraisal

A teacher can provide a written response/rebuttal to a written observation summary, written summative annual appraisal report, or any other written documentation associated with his/ her appraisal, as long as the teacher submits the response/ rebuttal within 10 working days of receiving the documentation. However, a teacher is prohibited from submitting a written response to a written summative annual appraisal report for the ratings in Domains 1, 2, and 3, if those ratings are based entirely on observation summaries or written documentation already received by the teacher earlier in the appraisal year. Additionally, a teacher can only respond to Domain 4, and the student growth component, after receiving the written summative annual appraisal report. Teachers who disagree with their appraisal can request a second appraiser, if they do so within 10 working days of receiving a written observation summary or a written summative annual appraisal report. However, a teacher is prohibited from requesting a second appraiser in response to a written summative annual appraisal report for the ratings of dimensions in Domains 1, 2, and 3, if those ratings are based entirely on observation summaries or written documentation already received by the teacher earlier in the appraisal year. Finally, teachers can file a timely grievance per district policy.

Appraiser qualifications

An appraiser must be either a campus administrator or “supervisory staff whose job description includes the appraisal of teachers and who is not a classroom teacher,” who has received training and is certified as an appraiser. Classroom teachers can serve as certified appraisers on the same school campus at which they teach if they are the chair of a department or grade level whose job description includes classroom observation responsibilities. For more information on T-TESS, including a look at the observation instrument, go to 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



FAQs: When placed on administrative leave If you are told you will be placed on administrative leave, the following questions may come to mind:

The principal says I am being placed on administrative leave with pay. Can he do this?

Yes, this is legally permissible. Normally, the principal is acting on the superintendent’s behalf. Most school district policies provide that: “A term (or probationary) contract employee may be suspended with pay or placed on administrative leave by the superintendent during an investigation of alleged misconduct by the employee or at any time the superintendent determines that the district’s best interest will be served by the suspension or administrative leave.”

What should I do?

First and foremost, obey the directive, whether oral or in writing, and immediately leave your campus, if told to do so.

May I return to my classroom to pick up personal belongings?

This is a reasonable request that you should make to your principal. Unless instructed otherwise, remove only necessary personal items from the campus, leaving behind instructional and other work-related items, including student records.

Do I need to contact TCTA?

YES. You should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 as soon as possible to make your attorney aware of the district’s actions and provide additional information as necessary.

What happens next?

If you did not receive written notice at the time you were placed on administrative leave, your district will usually quickly provide written verification of your employment status. This notice usually states that you have been placed on administrative leave with pay, and it may provide a general statement as to the reason(s) for such action. The letter may further advise you to remain available during your normal working hours. In most cases, your presence on district property will be prohibited, as will be discussion of the investigation and related matters with colleagues, parents and students. Finally, such notice usually provides the name and telephone number of a district contact person in case you have questions. Note: Strict adherence to all district directives is absolutely necessary to avoid the possibility of any further employment repercussions. Any deviation from the district’s instructions should be authorized in writing by proper district personnel.

What if my colleagues ask about the situation?

You must firmly inform them that you may not discuss any matters related to the investigation.

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Doesn’t the district have to tell me exactly what they are investigating, or the specific allegations underlying my suspension? No, not at this initial stage.

What about my due process?

Due process rights are not involved at this time based on the minimal employment action taken by the district and because you remain on full salary.

While I’m suspended, may I be required to perform certain duties?

Yes, you may be required to provide lesson plans, grades, etc., as directed by your supervisor or other administrative personnel.

Does my suspension mean the district believes I am guilty of wrongdoing?

Not necessarily. The district is taking this action to conduct a timely and proper investigation. Such action is usually in the best interests of all concerned, including you.

How can my TCTA attorney help me?

Your TCTA attorney will want to become thoroughly familiar with any relevant information leading up to the district’s action. If you are aware of specific allegations, the TCTA attorney may ask you to provide a draft preliminary statement regarding the matter. If you are required to provide a statement prior to contacting TCTA, always retain a copy of the statement. Your TCTA attorney also may be in contact with the district on your behalf to monitor the progress of the investigation. Make sure that your attorney is aware of any further district contact with you.

How long may the district keep me on leave?

It depends on the circumstances of your situation and how long it takes to fully investigate and review allegations or other matters.

What are the possible outcomes of the investigation and my suspension?

Generally speaking, there are three possible outcomes. You may be notified that you are to return to work with no further district action. The district also may elect to return you to activeduty status with minimal negative employment action, such as a directive, reprimand, growth plan, or in some situations, a reassignment. Return to duty as directed, but consult further with your TCTA attorney in these cases. If the investigation leads district administrative personnel to believe that you have engaged in serious misconduct, the district may change your status to administrative leave without pay pending further employment action. Immediate contact with your TCTA attorney will be necessary for further advice and appropriate representation.


FAQs: When called to the principal’s office If you are notified by email, written memo or orally through the campus secretary that the principal wants to meet with you, the following questions may come to mind:

Do I have to go to the meeting?

Yes. Your immediate supervisor has provided you with a directive. Your failure to follow this directive could be considered an act of insubordination and result in formal disciplinary action, as well as negatively impact your appraisal. If the meeting time poses a direct conflict with another previously scheduled activity, immediately contact your principal to discuss an alternate meeting time.

Can I be required to meet with my principal during my planning time?

Unless the meeting involves conferencing with a student’s parent(s), such a requirement would not be proper. However, unless you have a direct scheduling conflict, you should exercise your best professional discretion in favor of attending the meeting. Your principal should not abuse this professional courtesy.

In many cases, the principal will have another party, such as an assistant principal, present to serve as a witness, take notes, etc. Again, you may request the attendance of a colleague for the same purpose. At the least, you should make complete notes of the meeting for later reference. Depending on the subject being discussed, any notes taken or recordings made by the administration may be available to you upon written request pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act.

Is the meeting confidential?

It depends. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) will apply in situations involving student records and related student information (see page 34). Confidentiality also will apply in the context of teacher evaluations (see page 21). However, under certain circumstances, be aware that any information you provide may ultimately be shared with other school personnel and officials, as well as outside parties such as the Texas Education Agency, State Board for Educator Certification, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, law enforcement agencies and possibly others. If you suspect that a meeting with school personnel will involve

Do I have a right to have an attorney present? potentially serious allegations, call the TCTA Legal Department In most cases, your right to have legal counsel or another representative present is limited to formal grievance hearings or hearings concerning the proposed nonrenewal or termination of your employment contract. You may request that your administrator allow you to have a friend, colleague or other representative present during the meeting. Granting the request is within your supervisor’s discretion.

What if my principal schedules a grievance conference at the last minute?

You have a legal right to have an attorney or other representative present at the grievance conference. Your principal (or other administrator) is obligated to provide notice of the meeting in a timely manner to allow for your designated representative’s presence.

May I record the meeting?

Normally, the decision to allow audio recording of a meeting with your principal will be within your principal’s discretion. However, at any meeting or proceeding at which the substance of a grievance is discussed, an employee is allowed to make a recording, thanks to a TCTA-initiated law passed in 2009. It is not illegal for an educator to secretly record discussions to which he/she is a party, though such recordings are rarely useful. However, some school districts have policies prohibiting such practices. More importantly, the commissioner of education has held that secretly recording such conversations is an unprofessional act and may be good cause for termination of employment.

at 888-879-8282 for consultation prior to the meeting, or as soon as possible.

Do I have to answer questions in the meeting?

In most cases, you should answer questions and/or provide your side of an issue in a professional manner and tone. Your principal may take action deemed appropriate for the situation if you fail to satisfactorily address his/her questions. An acceptable alternative may be to advise the principal that you would prefer to respond after consultation with the TCTA Legal Department and/or other legal counsel. This would be especially true if the meeting (unexpectedly) includes district or other law enforcement personnel or a DFPS investigator. A school district employee may not be required to speak with or provide a written statement to law enforcement or DFPS personnel.

Do I have to sign a write-up, reprimand or document if I disagree with it?

Your signature on such a document does not usually constitute agreement, foreclose any remedies you may have in a given situation, or waive any other rights. This type of document usually states that your signature verifies your receipt of the document only, not your agreement to the substance of the document. If not, you may always indicate this restriction in writing above your signature. In addition to writing a response or rebuttal to such a document, members may wish to contact the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282 for further advice and consultation with a staff attorney. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide



Professional boundaries with students Teachers are perceived as role models in the community, and the laws and regulations that mandate appropriate standards of conduct reflect that expectation. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to adverse employment action, certification sanctions and criminal consequences.

Sexual relationships with students

Sexual contact or indecent exposure with a minor is a felony that requires the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. It also is a felony for any school district employee to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, even if that student is of the legal age of consent. This prohibition includes students enrolled in schools where the teacher is not employed. A person who is a member of the Teacher Retirement System and is convicted of certain felonies that involve sexual abuse of a student or minor will be ineligible to receive a service retirement annuity from the retirement system. In 2019, lawmakers responded to concerns about educator misconduct by mandating that the Texas Education Agency shall maintain and make available through an internet portal a registry of persons not eligible for employment in a school district, district of innovation, open-enrollment charter school, or other charter entity, education service center, or shared services arrangement. Private schools are provided access to the registry. Furthermore, new law provides that the person who is the subject of a report alleging specified misconduct (the person was terminated or resigned and there is evidence the person abused or committed an unlawful act with a student or minor or was involved in a romantic relationship or solicited or engaged in sexual contact with a student or minor) is entitled to a hearing on the merits of the allegations. In the event that a report of

TCTA ONLiNe TRAininG ON PROFeSSiONAL BOUNDARieS Watch TCTA’s free online continuing professional education video “Texting Your Way Into Trouble: How to Keep Your Relationships With Students Professional,” at to earn 1.25 CPE credit hours. alleged misconduct is sent by the superintendent or equivalent to TEA, they shall promptly send notification that the person has 10 days to request a hearing and provide a written response. If the person does not submit a written response to show cause why the commissioner should not pursue an investigation, the agency will make available through an online portal information indicating that the person is under investigation for alleged misconduct. If the person does not request a hearing in a timely fashion, the commissioner shall make a determination as to alleged misconduct based on the report submitted to TEA. If the commissioner determines that the person engaged in the described misconduct, the person will be added to the do-not-hire registry. If the person requests a hearing and the final decision determines that the person did not engage in the alleged misconduct, the agency will immediately remove from the portal the information indicating the person is under investigation for alleged misconduct. A school district must complete an investigation into allegations of educator misconduct, even if the educator resigns from the school district. School districts must notify the parent or

electRONiC mediA And social netwoRKing School districts are required by law to adopt a policy regarding electronic communications between employees and students. Most districts’ policies extend standards of conduct to use of electronic media and social networking sites, and the Code of Ethics imposes limitations on such communications. Educators are held to the same standards of conduct in their use of electronic media and social networking as for any other public communication. All communications with students or minors, whether electronic or in person, should be professional and appropriate. Many districts have even adopted policies specifying that teachers may communicate with their own children and their children’s friends using personal social networking sites, but may not do so with current or former students with whom there is no separate social relationship. Some districts have policies that designate only specific individuals who may send text messages to students and place

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time limitations on when educators may communicate with students. TCTA-initiated legislation that was passed in 2017 says that teachers may decline to disclose their personal email or cellphone number to students.

Continuing education requirements

Information about inappropriate relationships, boundaries and communications between educators and students must be included in the content presented in each educator preparation program. Continuing education requirements specify that instruction regarding understanding of appropriate relationships, boundaries and communications between educators and students must be covered in not more than 25 percent of the training required of a teacher every five years. (See page 5 for upcoming changes to CPE requirements.)


guardian of a student with whom an educator allegedly engaged in an improper relationship, regardless of whether the educator resigned or was terminated. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act prohibits school employees from aiding another school employee in obtaining a new job if there is probable cause to believe there has been sexual misconduct with a minor or student. Applicants for many school district positions must submit a pre-employment affidavit disclosing a charge, adjudication or conviction based on an inappropriate relationship with a minor. If an individual is found to have engaged in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor, regardless of age or enrollment status in the district, the State Board for Educator Certification will permanently revoke that educator’s teaching certificate.

Solicitation of a romantic relationship

Solicitation of a sexual or romantic relationship with a student also can result in adverse employment action and certificate sanctions, even if the relationship is not ultimately consummated. The criminal prohibition of online solicitation of a minor includes communications between an employee at a school and a student. A person commits this offense if they knowingly solicit a minor to meet with another person with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact with the person. Conviction of online solicitation of a minor is a felony. SBEC may sanction the teaching certificate of an individual who has engaged in deliberate or repeated acts that can be reasonably interpreted as soliciting a sexual or romantic relationship. Prohibited acts include, but are not limited to: •

Communications tending to show that the educator

solicited a romantic relationship with the student; •

Making inappropriate comments about a student’s body;

Making sexually demeaning comments to a student;

Making comments about a student’s potential sexual performance;

Requesting details of a student’s sexual history;

Requesting a date;

Engaging in conversations regarding the sexual problems, preferences or fantasies of either party;

Inappropriate hugging, kissing or excessive touching;

Suggesting that a romantic relationship is desired after the student graduates, including post-graduation plans for dating or marriage; and

Providing the student with drugs or alcohol.

Educators should take care to avoid situations in which professional boundaries become poorly defined. Inviting students to your home, meeting them for social activities that are not school-sponsored, or developing personal relationships with them can create the perception of inappropriate conduct. Avoid such situations with students in the absence of previously existing social relationships with them.

Suspected child abuse

An educator who believes that any student or minor may be a victim of sexual abuse is required to make a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours of becoming aware of the possibility of the abuse. This responsibility may not be delegated to someone else, and failure to make the required report is a criminal offense. For more information, see page 33. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities

Key laws affecting teachers Following are some of the key statutes on teacher rights, working conditions and related topics. These laws apply to school districts and campuses that operate under the Texas Education Code and are not necessarily applicable to the following: charter schools; programs, campuses or districts that have waivers from the commissioner of education; Districts of Innovation; or alternative education programs.

number of days of the teacher contract year to devote to staff development and teacher preparation days. Staff development must be predominantly campus based and must be developed and approved by the campus site-based decision-making committee. It may include training in: technology; conflict resolution; discipline strategies and preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting bullying.

Your time

The district also may use staff development that is designed and approved by the district-level site-based decision-making committee. The district must provide scientifically based staff development relating to the instruction of students with disabilities to educators who work primarily outside of special education and who do not possess the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the individualized education programs of students receiving instruction from the educators.

School start date and last day of school

The first instructional day must be no earlier than the fourth Monday in August; districts may not receive a waiver from this requirement. (Note: More than two-thirds of Texas districts have exempted themselves from this law through the District of Innovation process.) Legislation that took effect in 2015 adds a requirement that a school district may not schedule the last day of school for students before May 15. Each district must operate so that it provides 75,600 minutes of instruction, including intermissions and recesses for students.

Length of instructional day

The instructional day must be at least 420 minutes, including intermissions and recesses. State law does not address the length of a teacher’s workday.

District-offered staff development also may count toward the continuing professional education requirement for standard certification. However, it is the teacher, not the district, who determines whether any district-offered staff development also will count toward the teacher’s required CPE hours. School districts must provide training in the following: •

Prevention techniques for and recognition of sexual abuse, trafficking and all other maltreatment of children, which must be provided, as part of new employee orientation, to all new school district and open-enrollment charter school employees and to existing employees on a schedule adopted by TEA until all employees have taken the training. The district must maintain records of who received training.

Early mental health intervention and suicide prevention training to teachers, counselors, principals and other appropriate personnel. (The training is required at elementary campuses only to the extent sufficient funding and programs are available.) The district must maintain

Required days of teacher service

The 10-month teacher contract year requires a minimum of 187 days of service. Recent TCTA-initiated legislation allows school districts anticipating providing fewer than 180 instructional days during a school year to also reduce the number of required teacher days of service proportionately without a reduction in an educator’s salary.

Professional development

A Texas public school district has the discretion to determine the

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YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities records of who received the training, with relevant employees receiving the training at least once. •

Suicide prevention training annually to all new employees as part of new employee orientation and to existing employees on a schedule adopted by TEA. The training may be satisfied through independent review of suicide prevention training material that complies with TEA guidelines and is offered online.

Seizure disorder training: Recent legislation requires all school nurses, and other school employees in regular contact with students to complete a TEA-approved online course of instruction regarding seizure recognition and related first aid. TEA must approve the online courses by Dec. 1, 2019.

Bleeding control station training: Recent legislation requires school district peace officers, security personnel and any other personnel who might reasonably be expected to use a bleeding control station to take a TEA-approved training on use of the station.

(See page 5 for upcoming professional development changes.)

School safety training

Recent legislation requires school district/open-enrollment charter school multihazard operations plan to include: •

emergency response training for district employees, including substitute teachers; and

training on integrating psychological safety and suicide prevention strategies into the district’s plan from an approved list of recommended training established by the commissioner and the Texas School Safety Center for members of the school safety and security committee, counselors, mental health professionals, educators, and other district personnel as determined by the district.

Threat assessment and safe and supportive school program teams must report to TEA the number and percentage of school personnel trained in suicide prevention or grief/traumainformed practices, mental health or psychological first aid for schools, training related to a safe/supportive school program or any other program identified by the commissioner. School districts must adopt policies requiring integration of trauma-informed practices in each school environment, which must include training to increase staff awareness of traumainformed care. The training must be provided through a program selected from the list of recommended best practice-based programs and research-based practices established under the Health and Safety Code. The law includes TCTA-initiated provisions that the training must only be provided as part of any new employee orientation for all new school district educators, and to existing school district educators on a schedule adopted by the agency by rule that requires educators to be trained at intervals necessary to keep educators informed of Continued

Discipline Corporal punishment is defined as deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline. It does not include physical pain caused by reasonable physical activities associated with athletic training, competition or physical education. It also does not include the use of restraint (subject to state law and TEA rules). Educators may use corporal punishment only if the board of trustees has adopted a policy allowing the use of corporal punishment, unless the student’s parent, guardian or other person having lawful control over the student has previously provided a written, signed statement prohibiting the use of corporal punishment for the student. Such a statement must be provided each school year. If you administer corporal punishment, comply strictly with your district’s policy, because it is a potential area of liability for educators. Use of “aversives” prohibited. Aversive techniques, techniques or interventions that are intended to reduce the likelihood of behavior reoccurring by intentionally inflicting on a student significant physical or emotional discomfort or pain, are explicitly prohibited following the passage of two bills (HB 3630/SB 712) in 2019. Notably, in addition to some obvious techniques prohibited, these bills also prohibit using a technique or intervention that ridicules or demeans the student in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning or mental health of the student or constitutes verbal abuse; constitutes a use of timeout that precludes the student from being able to be involved in and progress appropriately in the required curriculum and, if applicable, toward the annual goals included in the student’s individualized education program, including isolating the student by the use of physical barriers; or deprives the student of the use of one or more of the student’s senses (unless it does not cause the student pain or discomfort or complies with the IEP or BIP). The bill makes clear that a teacher is not prohibited from removing a student from class under current discipline laws. Additionally, teachers should be aware that HB 3630 also prohibits denying a student adequate supervision. Use of force. A professional employee may not be subject to disciplinary proceedings for the use of reasonable force against a student to the extent justified under Section 9.62 of the Texas Penal Code. This provision allows an educator to use non-deadly force “when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is necessary to further the special purpose or to maintain discipline in a group.” A professional employee may be disciplined for violating a district’s policy relating to corporal punishment, but may not be disciplined for using reasonable force for such actions as breaking up a fight.

2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities developments in the field. School districts are required to maintain records that include the name of each district staff member that participated in the training and must report annually to TEA the number of teachers, principals and counselors employed by the district who completed the training and the total number of teachers, principals and counselors employed by the district.

Personal and other types of leave

Under state law, each school employee is entitled to five days of personal leave per year with no limit on accumulation. School districts have the discretion to provide additional personal leave beyond this minimum. Pursuant to a TCTA-initiated law, school employees may choose the order in which they take state and locally granted personal leave days. The district may adopt a policy governing the use of personal leave, although legislative intent was that such policies should manage only the scheduling of personal days (for example, prohibiting the use of personal leave on student assessment days, the last day of school, etc.). A district may not limit the reasons for which personal leave may be taken. This prohibition applies to state personal leave but may not apply to local personal leave. As a result, districts granting local leave may presumably restrict the purposes for which it can be used (e.g., requiring an employee to have a medical reason to request local sick leave), though this issue has not been litigated. The law also allows up to two years of paid assault leave for teachers to recover from injuries suffered in a work-related assault. If an employee requests assault leave in writing, the district must grant it immediately, and the leave may not be deducted from the employee’s accrued personal leave (unless the claim is found to be invalid). A TCTA-initiated law clarifies that a district may not deny assault leave based on the mental capacity of the assailant. Districts must provide at least 180 calendar days of unpaid disability leave for any educator whose condition (as certified by a physician) interferes with the performance of work duties. Before returning to duty, the educator must give the district at least 30 days’ written notice and a doctor’s statement of fitness. Temporary disability leave covers inability to perform work duties due to pregnancy and postnatal recovery, but not child care. An educator’s employment contract may not be terminated while he/she is on a leave of absence for temporary disability. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, districts with 50 or more employees must allow up to 12 weeks of family leave for a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform his/her job or for such condition of a spouse, parent or child. Any employee who has been employed for at least 1,250 hours during the preceding 12-month period also may take 12 weeks of leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. The district may pay the employee during leave, but this is not required. A TCTA-initiated law provides that employees on military leave

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may use any accumulated sick or personal leave and clarifies that school employees may take up to 15 days of military leave without loss of leave time for service in the reserves or state military forces. Districts also may adopt policies providing for fully paid leave during military service as part of the consideration of employment in a district. Most districts’ leave policies are designated as DEC(local) and can be found by searching for the district’s name and policy online.

Paperwork reduction

A TCTA-initiated law on paperwork requirements provides that: •

Districts must limit redundant requests for information and the number and length of written reports that a teacher must prepare.

Reports that teachers may be required to prepare are limited to a specific list that essentially covers grading, lesson plans, attendance reports, reports related to the health or safety of students, accreditation information or material related to a grievance or other legal matter. Teachers may be required to prepare only unit or weekly lesson plans that outline, in a brief and general manner, the information to be presented in each period at the secondary level or in each subject or topic at the elementary level. The complete list is available at

School boards are required to review paperwork requirements and transfer to noninstructional staff any reporting tasks that could be reasonably accomplished by that staff.

Districts may collect other essential information, but such situations require the agreement of the teacher.

The commissioner of education must review paperwork that TEA requires of districts and adopt a policy that limits written reports and other paperwork that TEA requires a principal or teacher to complete.

Your classroom Class size

Each district must maintain an average ratio of no more than 20 students for one teacher. For kindergarten through grade 4, the district may not enroll more than 22 students in a class except during the last 12 weeks of the year. Districts with high migrant populations may exceed the 22-to-1 ratio during a different 12-week period than the last 12 weeks of the year, but the period must be specified by the district. Districts that obtain waivers from the limit must provide written notice to parents of each affected students, unless larger class sizes are part of a District of Innovation plan. Districts must specifically identify how student safety will be ensured if PE class-size ratios exceed 45to-1. Note: This is a popular District of Innovation exemption.

Pledge and one minute of silence

Students must recite the pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags once each day, followed by one minute of silence during which

YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities students may reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student. The teacher or employee in charge must maintain silence during this period. Parents may excuse their children from these activities with a written request.

Teacher grading authority

Pursuant to a TCTA-initiated law, an examination or course grade issued by a teacher is final and may not be changed unless it is erroneous, arbitrary or inconsistent with a school board-approved district grading policy. A school board’s determination with regard to a grade is final and may not be appealed unless the appeal relates to a student’s eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities. Grades must be based on a student’s relative mastery of the subject, and teachers may not be required to award a minimum grade for an assignment

without regard for the quality of the student’s work. However, a district’s grading policy may allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo an assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade. Some districts refused to change policies that require the assignment of a minimum grade on progress reports and report cards. At TCTA’s request, the then-commissioner of education clarified that the law applies to grade averages as well as individual grades. Several districts filed suit against the commissioner requesting that he be enjoined from enforcing the law in accordance with his interpretation and asking the courts to declare that the law does not apply to grade averages. The district judge ruled that the commissioner’s letter was a correct interpretation of the law. Another law provides that “Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral Continued

DUTY-FRee LUNCH; PLANNiNG AND PRePARATiON TiMe Every teacher is entitled to a duty-free lunch and planning and preparation time. Except for a few minor changes made in 1995, the statutes have essentially remained the same since enactment.

Duty-free lunch Texas Education Code, Sec. 21.405 By law, each classroom teacher and full-time librarian gets at least a 30-minute lunch period “free from all duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction and supervision of students.” According to a Texas attorney general opinion, the term “duty” would include a directive that teachers remain on campus during lunch, because it would relate to student instruction or supervision. Districts cannot require teachers to stay on campus during their 30-minute lunch even if the campus is “closed” for students. The law provides exceptions (personnel shortages, extreme economic conditions or unavoidable/unforeseen circumstances) that give districts the right to require teachers to supervise lunches, but not more than one time per week. The rules adopted by the commissioner of education set the bar very high before these exceptions apply. Scheduling problems do not create unforeseen circumstances. They exist when an epidemic, illness or natural or man-made disaster leaves no one available to do the duty. An extreme economic condition exists when hiring a person to supervise lunch would cause the district to raise taxes to the extent that the district might face a tax rollback election. A personnel shortage exists only after all available nonteaching personnel have been assigned to the duty and the district has diligently recruited community volunteers to help. There is no exception in the law that allows a district to require a teacher to eat lunch with students on standardized testing days.

However, a decision of the commissioner holds that a one-time violation of the law would not be cause to appeal to TEA.

Planning and preparation time Texas Education Code, Sec. 21.404 The law entitles every teacher to planning and preparation time, during which the district cannot require the teacher to engage in any activity other than parent-teacher conferences, evaluating student work and planning. Teachers must have at least 450 minutes of planning time every two weeks in increments of not less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. Examples: A teacher could have five 90-minute conference periods within a two-week period, rather than a 45-minute conference period each day. A district can provide 50-minute blocks of planning time daily, exceeding the minimum requirement, but it could not provide 50 minutes one day and 40 minutes the next. A district cannot schedule a 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. instructional day, and then give teachers 3:15 to 4 p.m. to plan after the students leave. According to the commissioner of education, if a district gives teachers no more than the statutory minimum planning time, the district cannot ask teachers to engage in group planning during one of those planning periods. Example: A district that schedules 50-minute planning periods every day could ask teachers to plan as a group one day every two weeks, but the district could not take one planning period for group planning and another for staff development. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school districts. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.”

Your students’ health

Diabetes management plan

Each student with diabetes must have a diabetes management and treatment plan developed by the parent and the student’s doctor. Principals of schools with students with diabetes must seek out school employees (other than health care professionals) to serve as unlicensed diabetes care assistants. A principal must attempt to ensure that the school has at least one unlicensed assistant if it employs a full-time nurse; if it has no full-time nurse, the school must have at least three unlicensed assistants. School employees may not be penalized or disciplined for refusing to serve as diabetes care assistants. The assistants are trained by a health care professional on: recognizing symptoms, understanding proper actions to take, understanding the details of the student’s health plan, performing finger-sticks and checking urine ketone levels, administering glucagon and insulin, recognizing complications requiring emergency care, and understanding recommended schedules and food intake. Before an assistant is allowed to help a child, the parent must sign an agreement, which states that the parent understands that an unlicensed assistant is not liable for civil damages. Schools must allow students to selfcheck and self-medicate in accordance with the student’s health plan. TCTA added language to this law to avoid the creation of potential liability for school employees.

Psychotropic drugs

A school district employee may not recommend that a student use a psychotropic drug (a drug intended to affect perception, emotion or behavior), suggest a particular diagnosis, or prohibit a student from attending a class or participating in a schoolrelated activity because of the parent’s refusal to consent to the student using a psychotropic drug or having a psychiatric evaluation. This law does not, however, prohibit a school district employee who is a registered nurse, advanced nurse practitioner, physician or appropriately credentialed mental health professional from recommending that a child be evaluated by an appropriate medical practitioner. It also does not prohibit an employee from discussing a student’s behavior or academic progress with the student’s parents or another school employee.

Head lice

State law requires school boards to adopt a policy requiring a school nurse who becomes aware that a student has lice to provide written or electronic notice to the parent of the child as soon as possible (no more than 48 hours) and to the parents of

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children in the same classroom within five days. The notice must include information about treatment and prevention and the notice to other parents may not identify the child with lice.

Texas public school nutrition policy Districts participating in the federal child nutrition programs must meet required nutrition standards for foods served by school food service or sold during the school day by the food service department, individuals and groups. Food that is given away during the school day (such as by parents for special occasions) is no longer subject to state regulations, but is subject to locally adopted nutrition policies. Details are available at

Donation of surplus food A law passed in 2017 allows districts to donate food, including surplus food from cafeteria meals, to be distributed on campus to students in need.

Your employment

Federal job protections following military leave The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act provides job protections after service in U.S. military forces under certain conditions, including providing the employer advanced written or verbal notice of the service. See an interactive online USERRA Advisor at www.dol. gov/elaws/userra.htm. State law provides similar protections for public employees who serve in state military forces.

YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities

Educator certification

The Texas Education Code requires the certification of teachers. The State Board for Educator Certification regulates and oversees state teacher certification standards and educator preparation, as well as disciplinary procedures and a code of ethics. The code provides a specific statement of the conduct that is expected from Texas educators and a list of enforceable standards. For more information, see pages 15-18.

Criminal background checks and fingerprinting

State law requires virtually all individuals who will have direct contact with students in the public school system to undergo some type of criminal history review. Certified educators, classroom substitutes and aides must submit fingerprints and be subject to national criminal history background checks. Individuals who have been convicted of certain serious crimes are ineligible for employment by a public school and may be subject to suspension or revocation of their teaching credentials. Criminal history information collected by a school district, the Department of Public Safety, SBEC or TEA is confidential. An educator may obtain a copy of his/her own criminal history. All applicants for certification who have not previously held a certificate issued by SBEC are required to undergo fingerprinting and a national criminal history background check prior to becoming certified. Additionally, any individual enrolled/planning to enroll in an educator preparation program for teacher certification or planning to take a certification exam, who has reason to believe that he/she may be ineligible for certification due to a conviction or deferred adjudication for a felony or

misdemeanor offense, can ask TEA to issue a criminal history evaluation letter regarding the person’s eligibility for a teaching certificate. The fee for such a request is $50.


Most complaints regarding a public school employee’s rights or conditions of employment should be addressed through the district’s grievance procedure. The time limits for initiating a grievance are extremely short, typically 15 days or less from the time the employee knew or should have known of the event for which the grievance is filed. Legal rights to appeal could be permanently lost if these time limits are not followed. For this reason, members with potential school employment-related problems should call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-8798282 immediately for advice. Pursuant to a TCTA-initiated law, a grievance alleging a violation of law by a supervisor need not be filed with the same supervisor. Another TCTA-initiated law allows an employee to make an audio recording of any meeting or proceeding at which the substance of a grievance is discussed. Still another TCTA-initiated law allows teachers to be represented via teleconferences, subject to availability of necessary equipment. During the 2019 session, the law protecting employees from any adverse employment action for reporting abuse or neglect in good faith was expanded. Previous law only protected against termination or suspension. Adverse employment action is “an action that affects an employee’s compensation, promotion, transfer, work assignment, or performance evaluation, or any other Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities employment action that would dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report of abuse or neglect.”

Communication with school board members

A TCTA-initiated law provides that school district employment policies may not restrict the ability of a district employee to communicate directly with a school board member on matters relating to the district’s operation. However, an employment policy may prohibit such communication relating to an appeal in which such communication would be inappropriate pending a final decision by a school board.

Job postings

A TCTA-initiated law requires school districts to allow employees the opportunity to apply for open professional positions, and to post notices of job vacancies for at least 10 school days on the district’s website or on a bulletin board at a place convenient to the public in the district’s central administrative office and at each campus office. Districts are allowed to fill a position without such notice if the position affects student safety and security or if the district must fill a vacant teaching position during the school year.


A school board member cannot vote to hire a person who is related to any school board member within the third degree by consanguinity or within the second degree by marriage. The first degree is a parent or child. The second degree is a grandparent, grandchild, sister or brother. The third degree is a greatgrandparent, great-grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew. There are exceptions. One applies to school bus drivers in counties where population is less than 35,000 people. Another is the continuous employment exception. If a person is an employee of a school district for at least 30 days prior to the appointment of the public official, the employee may continue in employment and other members of the governing board may vote to rehire, promote, increase the compensation of, or dismiss that employee, but the relative of the employee must abstain from voting. If a district has delegated final hiring authority to the superintendent for a class of employees, then the above provisions apply both to school board members and to the superintendent for decisions relating to that class of employees. For example, if a district has delegated the final hiring authority to the superintendent for all classified employees, the superintendent could not hire his/her son, daughter, spouse or any other person within the prohibited degree of relationship as a classified employee.

Your protection

Qualified immunity from liability

Texas law affords teachers and other professional employees (including aides, school nurses and student teachers) fairly strong immunity from liability for actions taken as part of their duties. Generally, an employee is immune from liability as long as he/ she is on duty, exercising judgment or discretion, and not using excessive force or being negligent in the discipline of students.

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While the definition of corporal punishment specifically excludes physical pain associated with athletic training, competition or physical education, it is possible that the assignment of rigorous physical activity such as laps, pushups, etc., could be interpreted by a court as a disciplinary action, not subject to the qualified immunity from liability, so such activity should be assigned only for training or conditioning and not as punishment. Note that this immunity from liability applies only to lawsuits in state courts. Also note that having immunity from liability does not prevent lawsuits from being filed against school employees, so all employees should have professional liability insurance such as that provided to TCTA members. Pursuant to a TCTA-initiated law, a school district may not require an employee to assume liability for an act for which the employee has qualified statutory immunity. This immunity specifically extends to student property such as cellphones and tablets in the possession of a school employee pursuant to the employee’s duties (i.e., confiscated by the employee). School districts and administrators may not require such employees who act in good faith to pay for student property that is lost, stolen or damaged.

Instructional materials or technology

TCTA-initiated legislation specifies that a school board may not require a district employee who acts in good faith to pay for instructional materials or technology that are damaged, stolen, misplaced or not returned, unless the school employee has entered into an agreement with the district in exchange for personal use of a computer or tablet.

Political activity/professional associations and payroll deduction of dues

Teachers may not be prohibited from participating in political affairs in the community, state or nation. Teachers also continue to have the right to join or to refuse to join any professional association, and a school board member or administrator may not directly or indirectly require or coerce a teacher to join any group, club, committee, organization or association. On an employee’s request, a school district must provide payroll deduction of professional dues in the amount and the number of pay periods the employee specifies. Under state law, the deductions must be made until the employee requests in writing that they be discontinued. The district may charge an administrative fee, but it cannot be greater than the actual administrative cost or the lowest fee the district charges for similar salary deductions, whichever is less. The attorney general has issued an opinion that says school districts do not have the authority to use payroll deductions to collect political action committee contributions. Although the opinion is advisory only, some districts refuse to accept payroll deductions that include political action committee contributions. TCTA members may make contributions to our political action committee, ACT For TCTA, by check or credit card. See act_for_tcta or call 888-879-8282.

YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities

Child abuse or neglect reporting requirements Teachers are often the first adults to whom abused children turn for help, and educators — those who see the children every day and can observe their appearance and behavior — are considered a primary source for helping to spot and stop a child’s suffering.

Reporting requirements and immunity provisions

Texas law requires any professional who suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to make a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or any local or state law enforcement agency within 48 hours. However, if the suspected abuse or neglect involves a person responsible for the care, custody or welfare of the child, the report must be made to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services only. Reports must be made of any type of suspected abuse or neglect, not just acts of physical abuse. The obligation to report includes abuse that may occur in the future. Failure to report is a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, 180 days in jail or both.

Abuse defined

The definition of abuse includes physical, sexual or mental abuse, and also failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being abused. The contents of a report must include, if known: 1. the name and address of the child; 2. the name and address of the person responsible for the


Call the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ 24-hour, toll-free telephone hotline to report suspected abuse or neglect: 800-252-5400. Nonemergency reports of child abuse also can be made online at care, custody or welfare of the child; and 3. any other pertinent information concerning the alleged or suspected abuse or neglect. Those reporting are not required to have proof that a child is being abused but must have reasonable cause to know or suspect abuse. As long as the report is made in good faith, the reporter is protected from civil and criminal liability. The commissioner of education has enacted rules supporting state law that require school district policies to inform employees of their immunity from liability for good faith reports as well as the penalties for failure to report. Districts must provide training to new teachers on recognition and prevention of child abuse and/or neglect, including sexual abuse. For more information, see pages 26-27.

Strict confidentiality provided

The Texas Family Code specifically states that both a child abuse report and the identity of an individual making a report are confidential and may be disclosed only by order of a court or to a law enforcement officer for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation. A court may not order the disclosure of a reporter’s identity or a child abuse report unless a motion has been filed and the judge has conducted a private review of the requested information and determined that the disclosure is essential to the administration of justice, and is not likely to endanger the life or safety of the child or reporter.

Your responsibility to report

It is suggested that, as a professional courtesy, you inform an administrator of your suspicions of abuse; however, this action does not satisfy or negate your responsibility under Texas law to make a report within 48 hours. The Texas Family Code states that “a professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report.” Rules developed by the commissioner of education stress that district procedures may not undermine state law by requiring school personnel to report suspected child abuse to administrators prior to making the report to the proper authorities. Additional information on child abuse/neglect and reporting requirements is available on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website at 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities Student records confidentiality requirements and parental rights Federal law protects the confidentiality of student education records as well as personally identifiable information contained in such records. At the same time, federal and state laws guarantee parents access to this information.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act applies to education agencies or institutions that receive federal funds. FERPA gives personnel designated by the district as having a “legitimate educational interest” the right to access and view student records without prior parental consent. In addition, for employees who have a legitimate educational interest in the behavior of a student, a district does not need consent to release information from discipline records arising from conduct that “posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community.” District employees are charged with maintaining the strict confidentiality of student records and may release such information only with written consent of the parent, guardian or (in some cases) the student. FERPA establishes a penalty for violations of the law. A 2005 amendment to Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code requires districts to annually notify parents of FERPA provisions relating to release of student directory information, such as name, address and phone number. Parents may elect not to disclose such information or limit such disclosure.

Closed school board meetings about students

A school district is not required to conduct a hearing in open session if it will disclose identifiable information about a student younger than 18. This prohibition does not apply if the student is 18 or older, or if the parents/guardians request an open hearing.


The laws regarding test security apply equally to state and local tests. Texas Education Code Sec. 39.030 makes a student’s state test scores confidential. They may be released only as permitted by FERPA. Public release of test information cannot contain the names of students or otherwise implicitly identify the students, but may contain information regarding ethnicity, grade, subject, etc. TEA prohibits encouraging or helping another person to breach test security, and requires reporting of known violations. A supervisor who gives directions inconsistent with the rules should be referred to the test administrator.

Peer grading

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Falvo v. Owasso ISD, a case in which a parent alleged that a teacher violated FERPA by permitting students to grade each other’s work and call out grades. The court unanimously held that peer grading did NOT violate FERPA, and praised the practice as a learning experience. The court also said it was not deciding whether a grade book is an educational record under FERPA.

Medical files

Under Sec. 38.009 of the Texas Education Code, a school administrator, nurse or teacher is entitled to access district student medical records for reasons established by district policy.

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A student cannot be required to undergo tests to determine a medical condition or status. Any person who views medical records must maintain the confidentiality of the records.

Parental rights under the Texas Education Code

Parents are entitled to: access their child’s records, including attendance records, test scores, grades, disciplinary records, health records, student evaluations and reports of behavioral patterns; review teaching materials, including textbooks and aids; and review each test the child takes after it is administered to the child’s class. A 2002 Texas attorney general opinion addressed the question of whether a parent has unrestricted access to a child’s school counseling records. The opinion stated a very narrow exception to the general rule that all student records are available to parents. Under FERPA, a public school may withhold a minor child’s counseling records from a parent only if the records are kept in the sole possession of the counselor, are used only as the counselor’s personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the counselor. In addition to the FERPA standards, state law provides that a licensed mental health practitioner may withhold a minor child’s records only if the practitioner determines that the release of such records “would be harmful to the patient’s physical, mental or emotional health.” According to the Texas attorney general, a licensed mental health practitioner includes a licensed professional counselor but not a school counselor certified by SBEC.

Situations requiring written consent of parent

A parent must consent in writing before a school employee may conduct a psychological examination, test or treatment (except with regard to investigation of child abuse), or make a video- or audiotape of a child (unless the recording is used only for purposes of safety and discipline, including student safety in special education settings, co- or extracurricular activities, purposes related to regular instruction, or media coverage of the school). A parent may remove a child temporarily from a class or activity that conflicts with religious or moral beliefs.

Student searches

Public school students are entitled to be free of unreasonable searches pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, although the standard for initiating a student search by school officials is less stringent than the probable cause requirement applicable to searches by law enforcement officials. School officials may search students if there is reasonable suspicion of finding evidence of wrongdoing. The scope of the search must be reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not be excessively intrusive in light of the student’s age and sex and the nature of the infraction. The U.S. Supreme Court approved the search of a student’s purse when the student was caught smoking and there was reasonable suspicion that the student’s purse contained cigarettes. In a 2009 opinion, the Supreme Court held that a search that required a female student to strip to her underwear and pull the garment away from her body to look for prescription-strength ibuprofen was not reasonable. Due to the potential for civil rights liability, only trained administrators should conduct searches.

YOUR LegAl Rights And Responsibilities Be aware: Deregulation may lead to loss of teacher rights Education policymakers in Texas are often in the position of balancing a desire for local control against the need for state regulation. School district administrators and board members typically favor deregulation at the state level, using the argument that local officials can best make decisions based on the needs of the community. But deregulation can result in losses of legal rights and protections for teachers, students and parents. State laws such as the state minimum salary schedule, duty-free lunch, planning periods, teacher disciplinary rights, and more are essential components of teacher working conditions and the learning environment. In recent years, rather than repealing state regulations, lawmakers have chosen to provide more opportunities for bypassing them. Generally, waivers and exemptions are limited to the same laws that do not apply to charter schools. Certain laws, including those pertaining to graduation requirements, testing and accountability, health and safety, special education and bilingual programs (also protected under federal law), and extracurricular activities, cannot be waived or exempted. The following are the major ways districts can bypass state laws. Employees should pay close attention to school board meetings at which these options are discussed, and should be aware of the exemptions from law that their district has taken.


Districts have long had the ability to request waivers from the commissioner of education for certain laws. Districts must continue to apply for waivers if needed (the longest period for a waiver, only applicable to certain types, is three years) and must follow specific procedures outlined in state law and administrative rule. Common waivers include those regarding staff development, timelines for accelerated instruction, modified days due to state testing, teacher and superintendent certification, student attendance, and class sizes.

Districts of Innovation (DOIs)

Authorized by the legislature in 2015 under the premise that deregulating districts would lead to innovations in education, DOI plans have instead focused on administrative conveniences such as hiring uncertified educators and increasing class sizes. DOI plans do not have to be approved by the commissioner, but must be developed and approved by a local committee and voted on by the school board. A district can initiate the process to become a District of Innovation by either a resolution adopted by the board of trustees or a petition signed by the majority of the members of the district-level committee. If a district chooses to proceed, the plan describing the education program and the laws from which the district seeks exemption must be approved by a majority of the district committee before a vote by the school board. Because a District of Innovation can exempt itself from many laws, including those protecting teacher rights and benefits, the district committee’s role is crucial (see page 8). More than 860 Texas districts have converted to DOIs.

The vast majority of DOI plans (more than 820) include an exemption from the law governing the school start date. Other very popular exemptions include teacher certification (700+), probationary contract limits (430+), and class sizes (370+), but more than 100 education laws on the books ranging from bidding/purchasing requirements to the entirety of Chapter 21 (employee rights and benefits) have been excluded by at least one DOI plan.

Turnaround campus charters

The 2015 DOI legislation included another deregulation option, suggesting district charters as a “turnaround” option for campuses identified as unacceptable for two consecutive school years. District charter campuses are only subject to certain laws, similar to those that apply to an open-enrollment charter. Charter schools are not required to follow much of the Texas Education Code, and certain teacher rights and benefits (including contract provisions, duty-free lunch, planning time, or the ability to remove disruptive students from classrooms) could be taken away. Under legislation passed in 2019, the law was expanded to allow the designation of a campus as an “ACE” (accelerated campus excellence) school. The ACE plan must be approved by the commissioner, and provides for the commissioner and the school principal to have significant authority over personnel issues. See page 4 for more information.

SB 1882 partnerships

Senate Bill 1882, a law passed in 2017, allows a school board to partner with an open-enrollment charter school or other eligible entity (such as a university or nonprofit) to operate a district campus, including as an alternative to state intervention under accountability statutes. Districts can receive additional funding for taking advantage of this program. On paper, SB 1882 offers districts flexibility in the partners they approach and the type of campus they decide to operate. It also allows districts with one or more failing schools a chance to turn them around without accountability sanctions. But districts that choose this process give up control of their campuses to an outside entity, which could spell trouble for teachers, students and parents. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students

Curriculum/programs The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are the state standards for Texas public schools.

Foundation and enrichment TEKS

The foundation TEKS are those in English language arts and reading, mathematics, science, social studies (including economics), Spanish language arts and English as a second language. The enrichment TEKS are those in languages other than English, fine arts, health, physical education, technology applications, career and technology education, religious literacy and personal financial literacy. The TEKS for grades K-8 math and one or more courses offered for high school graduation must include personal financial literacy instruction. The health curriculum must emphasize both physical health and mental health. Implementation resources for both the foundation and enrichment TEKS can be accessed at

Physical education/physical activity requirements State law requires that at least 50 percent of a PE course (on a weekly basis) comprise actual student physical activity at a moderate or vigorous level, while meeting the needs of students of all ability levels, including students with a mental disability. Districts must establish goals that include class-size ratios small enough to ensure student safety.

State law/rules require all students enrolled in full-day pre-K, kindergarten or grades 1-5 in an elementary school setting to participate in moderate or vigorous physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes daily or 135 minutes weekly in a TEKSbased PE class or a TEKS-based structured activity, including structured recess. Students must participate in moderate or vigorous activity at least 30 minutes per day for at least four semesters during grades 6-8 (exemptions are allowed for students who participate in an extracurricular activity that includes vigorous exercise). Districts with block scheduling are permitted to require moderate or vigorous physical activity for

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at least 225 minutes during a two-week period. School districts and open-enrollment charter schools are required to conduct annual physical assessments for students in grade 3 or higher who are enrolled in a PE course.

Middle school fine arts

State Board of Education rules clarify that students must complete only one fine arts course during the entirety of grades 6-8.

Optional flexible year/school day program

State law allows school districts to use a flexible year program to provide up to 4,200 fewer minutes of instruction than required by law to all students other than at-risk students, so that additional instruction can be provided to students who did not or are not likely to perform successfully on the state assessment or who otherwise would not be promoted to the next grade level. State law also allows school districts to provide an optional flexible school day program for students who have dropped out of school, are at risk of dropping out, or as a result of attendance requirements, will be denied credit for one or more classes.

District curriculum scope and sequence

School districts must now ensure sufficient time is provided for teachers to teach and students to learn the essential knowledge and skills for that subject or grade level when adopting a recommended or designated scope and sequence for a subject in the required curriculum. If a teacher determines that the students need more or less time in specific areas to demonstrate proficiency in the TEKS, then the school district may not penalize a teacher who does not follow the recommended or designated scope or sequence for a subject. A district may take appropriate action with regard to a teacher for conduct based upon documented evidence of a deficiency in classroom instruction that has been observed or if based upon third-party information that has been substantiated and documented.

YOUR Students

Student assessment The current state student assessment system, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, began in 2011-12.

2019-20 STAAR ReQuiRements


Grades 3-8 assessments

The STAAR system annually tests students in grades 3-8 and tests high school students via end-of-course exams. High school students must pass Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology and U.S. History end-of-course exams to graduate. The STAAR system annually tests students in grades 3-8 and tests high school students via end-of-course exams. High school students must pass Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology and U.S. History end-of-course exams to graduate. Individual graduation committees must be established for students in 11th or 12th grade who have failed up to two of the EOCs. The committee determines whether a student can graduate despite failing the exams (see page 40). A student who fails the Algebra I or English II EOC but receives a proficient score on the Texas Success Initiative in the corresponding subject satisfies the EOC passage requirements. Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, assessments for grades 3-8 may not have more than three parts. Each part must be designed so that, in grades 3 and 4, 85% of students will be able to complete that part within 60 minutes; and in grades five through 8, 85% of students will be able to complete that part within 75 minutes. The time allowed for the test may not exceed eight hours and may occur in multiple parts over more than one day. These requirements do not apply if, as determined by commissioner-appointed assessment advisory committees, the assessment would no longer comply with federal law or be valid and reliable. These requirements also do not apply to a classroom portfolio method of assessing writing. The Algebra I EOC must be administered with the aid of technology but may include one or more parts that prohibit the use of technology. English I and II EOCs no longer must assess writing within the same assessment instrument. EOCs can be administered in multiple parts over more than one day. Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, the testing schedule for STAAR cannot include a test administration on the first instructional day of a week. This limitation does not apply to a classroom portfolio method of assessing writing if student performance under this method is less than 50 percent of a student’s overall assessed performance in writing.

Students who opt out

State law provides that parents are not entitled to remove their child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test. TEA requires that students who are in attendance on the day of testing and choose not to participate or refuse to mark their answers, and who are in grades 3-8 or are taking an EOC for the first time, will have their tests submitted for scoring as is

Grade 3 Reading, Math Grade 4 Reading, Math, Writing** Grade 5 Reading*, Math*, Science Grade 6 Reading, Math Grade 7 Reading, Math, Writing** Grade 8 Reading*, Math*, Science, Social Studies *Promotion requirement **Stand-alone writing test to be phased out. See page 5.

Grades 9-12 end-of-course assessments English I and English II Algebra I Biology U.S. History (meaning they will be recorded as failing the test). See also

Limits on testing

Field tests: Separate field testing of existing tests can be conducted no more than once every other year. TEA must notify each school district before the beginning of the school year of any required participation in field testing. Benchmark tests: Districts are prohibited from administering more than two benchmark tests per state assessment, excluding administration of college prep assessments such as the PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP exams, etc. A parent can request additional benchmark tests. Districts also are prohibited from administering any locally required test designed to prepare students for state-administered tests on more than 10 percent of instructional days; campus site-based decision-making committees may approve an even lower percentage of days. Test administration: Procedures must minimize disruptions to school operations and the classroom environment. Limits on removal from class: School districts are required to adopt policies that limit removal of students from class for remedial tutoring or test preparation for more than 10 percent of the school days on which the class is offered, unless the parent gives written consent.

Vertical scale scores

As required by law, TEA developed a vertical scale for assessing student performance on the English STAAR for reading and math in grades 3-8 and Spanish STAAR for reading and math in grades 3-6. Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students Measure of annual improvement

TEA is required to determine the annual improvement necessary for a student to be prepared to perform satisfactorily on grades 5 and 8 state assessments as well as the EOC exams required for graduation.

Student report for teachers

A school district is required to prepare a report of the comparisons made under the measure of annual improvement and provide it to teachers at the beginning of the school year for incoming students (a TCTA suggestion) as well as for students from the prior school year.

Student assessment data portal

TEA established a student assessment data portal for use by school districts, teachers, parents, students and public institutions of higher education at

Special education students

STAAR Alternate: This test is designed to assess students in grades 3-8 and high school receiving special education services who have significant cognitive disabilities. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act puts a 1 percent cap at the state level on the number of students who can be assessed in this manner. Texas was granted a waiver from the cap in 2018-19.

Student promotion/accelerated instruction

Texas’ Student Success Initiative, which prohibits the social promotion of students, places emphasis on the STAAR test for determining whether a student advances to the next grade

level in grade 5 (a fifth-grade student must pass the math and reading STAAR tests to be promoted to grade 6) and in grade 8 (an eighth-grade student must pass the math and reading STAAR tests to be promoted to grade 9). For all other grades, districts must adopt a policy regarding student advancement. It must include: consideration of the student’s score on the state


2019-20 STUDeNT ASSessmeNT CALeNDAR (DATES SUBJECT TO CHANGE) The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness is used for grades 3-8 and for the high school end-of-course assessments.

December 2019

All makeups must be completed by the end of Dec. 13.

December 2019 Assessment Window April 2020

All makeup sessions for April 7-8 STAAR must be completed by the end of April 10.

May 2020

All makeup sessions for May 7-14 STAAR must be completed by the end of May 15.

10 12 10-13

7 8

7 8 12 13

*This is an excerpted version of the calendar, last updated July 31, 2019. The complete calendar, including retest dates, is available at assessment/calendars.

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May 2018 Assessment Window


TEST* STAAR English I STAAR English II STAAR Algebra I STAAR Biology STAAR U.S. History STAAR Grade 4 and Grade 7 Writing STAAR Grade 5 and Grade 8 Math STAAR English I STAAR Grade 5 Reading STAAR Grade 8 Reading STAAR English II STAAR Grade 8 Science STAAR Grade 8 Social Studies STAAR Grades 3-4 Math STAAR Grades 6-7 Math STAAR English III STAAR Grades 3-4 Reading STAAR Grades 6-7 Reading STAAR Grade 5 Science STAAR Algebra II STAAR Algebra I STAAR Biology STAAR U.S. History

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assessment to the extent applicable; the recommendation of the student’s teacher; the student’s grade in each subject/course; and any other necessary information determined by the district. Each time a student fails a state assessment, the district must provide the student with accelerated instruction, which may require participation before or after normal school hours and may include participation outside of the normal school year. The maximum class size for accelerated instruction in grades 5 and 8 is 10 students per instructor. A student in grade 5 or 8 who fails to complete accelerated instruction cannot be promoted. A student in grade 5 or 8 who fails the state assessment but is promoted must be assigned in all foundation curriculum subjects to teachers who meet all state and federal qualifications to teach those subjects and grades. The first time a student fails the STAAR in grade 5 or 8, he/she must be provided at least two opportunities to retest. On the third try, the district may administer an alternative assessment approved by the commissioner, and the student may be promoted if he/she performs at grade level on the alternative assessment. After a student fails the STAAR a second time, a grade placement committee must be established to prescribe the accelerated instruction program the student must receive. The GPC includes the principal or designee, the student’s parent or guardian, and the teacher of the subject of the failed STAAR test. In the case of a special education student, the GPC is the Admission, Review and Dismissal committee. If the student fails the STAAR a third time, he/she must be retained unless the GPC unanimously determines that if promoted and given accelerated instruction, the student is likely to perform at grade level. In this case, the student must be provided with accelerated

instruction, even after promotion.

Test results release

TEA must notify districts and campuses of test results no later than the 21st day after the administration date. The school district must disclose to each teacher the test results of the students that teacher taught.

Test details release

On or before Sept. 1 each year, the commissioner must make available on the TEA website ( the number of questions on the assessment instrument, the number of questions that must be answered correctly to achieve satisfactory performance, the number of questions that must be answered correctly to achieve satisfactory performance under the college readiness performance standard, and the corresponding scale scores for each of the state assessments.

Test release schedule Tests must be released every three years. However, TEA can defer releasing tests to the extent necessary to develop additional tests.

Test security

It is a class C misdemeanor to intentionally disclose any portion of a test that is likely to affect the individual performance of one or more students on the assessment.

Scheduling during STAAR testing week

UIL competitions may not be scheduled on Monday through Thursday, or the last testing day, of the primary STAAR assessment week. This provision does not apply to retesting. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


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Graduation requirements Alternate graduation path

Legislation passed in 2015 provides juniors and seniors who have failed up to two end-of-course exams with an alternate route to graduation. A school district or open-enrollment charter must form an individual graduation committee for each student that this legislation applies to, though a student cannot qualify to graduate under the law before the 12th grade. The committee is made up of the principal (or designee); the teacher of the course whose exam the student failed; the department chair or lead teacher for the teacher of the course; and the student’s parent, or a designated advocate, or the student if the student is at least 18 or an emancipated minor. In determining if the student is qualified to graduate, the committee must consider many factors, including: the recommendation of the student’s teacher, the student’s grade in the courses of the exams he failed, the actual score on the exams the student failed, attendance, and performance on such tests as the SAT, ACT, IB, TELPAS or TSI. In order for a student to be eligible to graduate and earn a diploma, the student must successfully complete all of the curriculum requirements for graduation. The student’s individual graduation committee must recommend additional requirements that must be completed in order for the student to graduate. These include: additional remediation, completion of a project related to the subject area of the end-of-course exam the student failed, or a portfolio of work samples in the subject area of the course. The vote of the individual graduation committee must be unanimous in order for the student to graduate, and the decision of the committee is final and not appealable. The legislature extended this provision to Sept. 1, 2023.

Foundation Program requirements

All students entering high school must enroll in the courses necessary to graduate under the Foundation Program and the courses necessary to earn at least one endorsement. Though the State Board of Education rules no longer require students to earn a speech communications credit, they do require that, to receive a high school diploma, each student must demonstrate proficiency in the major components of speech, including delivering clear verbal messages and applying valid critical thinking and problem-solving processes. English — four credits: Students must earn credits in English I, English II and English III. The fourth credit may be chosen from a list of approved courses. Math — three credits: Students must earn credits in Algebra I and Geometry. The third credit may be chosen from a list of approved courses that includes Algebra II, Statistics and many CTE courses. Science — three credits: Students must earn one credit in Biology, AP Biology or IB Biology. The other two credits may be selected from a list of approved courses that includes Chemistry, Physics and many CTE courses; one credit must be earned from a listed laboratory-based course.

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Social studies — three credits: Students must earn credits in U.S. History Since 1877 (one credit), U.S. Government (one-half credit) and Economics (one-half credit). The third credit may be chosen from World History or World Geography. Languages other than English — two credits: These credits may be earned in any two levels of the same language or two credits in computer programming languages, including computer coding, to be selected from a list of courses adopted by SBOE, including Computer Science I, II and III. Upon completion of the first credit, if the student demonstrates an unlikelihood of completing the second credit, the student may substitute Special Topics on Language and Culture, World History or World Geography if there is no local district requirement for their completion; computer programming languages; or another credit listed for languages other than English. Physical education — one credit: Students are required to earn one credit in PE. They may do so by participating in a private or commercially sponsored physical activity program offered on or off a school campus and outside of the regular school day, if approved by the commissioner of education. PE credit also may be earned through participation in athletics, JROTC, drill team, marching band or cheerleading. Students unable to participate in physical activity due to a disability or illness may substitute an academic elective credit or a course or activity offered by a school district that is developed with an institute of higher education and local business that will allow students to enter a career or technology training program in the region, an institute of higher learning without remediation, an apprenticeship training program, or an internship required as part of accreditation toward an industry-recognized certificate. Fine arts — one credit: Students must earn one fine arts credit. They may earn it in a traditional fine arts course or in a course such as Digital Art and Animation or 3-D Modeling and Animation or other approved courses. Electives — five credits: These credits must be selected from an SBOE-approved list or from a locally developed course that does not satisfy a specific course graduation requirement.


Entering ninth-graders must choose and specify in writing which endorsement they intend to earn. A student may graduate under the Foundation Program without earning an endorsement only if, after the student’s sophomore year, the school counselor has informed the student and the student’s parent of the benefits of graduating with an endorsement and the parent then gives the counselor written permission (on a form adopted by TEA) for the student to graduate without earning one. To earn an endorsement, a student must earn at least 26 credits. School districts may define advanced courses and a coherent sequence of courses for an endorsement area. All endorsements require students to earn a fourth math and science credit. The fourth math or science credit may be

YOUR Students a college preparatory math course developed and offered pursuant to TEC §28.014. A student may not earn science credit in both Physics and Principles of Technology. A student must earn two additional elective credits to earn an endorsement. Each endorsement also has its own specific requirements. School districts are not required to offer all of the endorsements outlined below. If districts choose to offer only one endorsement it must be the multidisciplinary studies endorsement.

STEM endorsement

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is the only endorsement that requires Algebra II, Chemistry and Physics. A student pursuing a STEM endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either: • A coherent sequence of four or more CTE credits, including at least one advanced CTE course, and a course that is the third level or higher course in a sequence; or • A coherent sequence of four credits in computer science selected from an approved list; or • Three credits in mathematics by completing Algebra II and two additional math credits for which Algebra II is a prerequisite; or • Four credits in science by completing Chemistry, Physics and two additional science courses; or • Algebra II, Chemistry, Physics and a coherent sequence of three additional credits from no more than two disciplines represented by the options listed above.

Business and industry endorsement

A student earning a business and industry endorsement must complete all graduation requirements plus either: • A coherent sequence of courses for four or more CTE credits that includes at least two courses in the same career cluster, and an advanced CTE course. The courses may be selected from a list of career development or CTE innovative courses approved by the commissioner of education, but the final course in the sequence must be obtained from one of the career clusters relating to: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications; Business Management and Administration; Finance; Hospitality and Tourism; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Marketing; Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics; Career Prep I or II and Problems and Solutions if the course addresses a career from a field listed above; or • Four English elective credits to include three levels in public speaking, debate, advanced broadcast journalism, advanced newspaper journalism, or advanced yearbook journalism; or • Four technology applications credits selected from a list; or • A coherent sequence of four credits from the above options.

Public services endorsement

A student earning a public services endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either: • A coherent sequence of four or more credits in CTE with at least two credits from the same career cluster, and at least

one advanced CTE course, which includes any course that is the third or higher course in a sequence. The final course must be obtained from a CTE career cluster relating to Education and Training; Government and Public Administration; Health Science; Human Services; or Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; Career Prep I or II and Problems and Solutions if the course addresses a career from a field listed above; or Four courses in JROTC.

Arts and humanities endorsement

A student earning an arts and humanities endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either: • Five social studies courses; or • Four levels of the same language other than English; or • Two levels of the same language other than English and two levels of a different language other than English; or • Four levels of American Sign Language; or • A coherent sequence of four credits, selecting courses from one or two categories or disciplines in fine arts or innovative courses approved by the commissioner; or • Four English elective credits from an approved list.

Multidisciplinary studies endorsement

A student earning a multidisciplinary studies endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either: • Four advanced courses that prepare a student to successfully enter the workforce or postsecondary education without remediation from within one endorsement area or among multiple endorsement areas that are not in a coherent sequence; or • Four credits in each of the four foundation subject areas to include English IV and Chemistry and/or Physics; or • Four credits in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual credit selected from English, math, science, social studies, economics, languages other than English, or fine arts.

Performance acknowledgments and Distinguished Level of Achievement

A student can earn performance acknowledgments in several areas including: • outstanding performance in a dual-credit course • outstanding performance in bilingualism and biliteracy • outstanding performance on a College Board Advanced Placement test or International Baccalaureate exam • outstanding performance on the PSAT, ACT-PLAN, the SAT, or the ACT; or earning a nationally or internationally recognized business or industry certification or license. The performance acknowledgment will be noted on the student’s transcript. The requirements for the distinguished level of achievement are the same requirements to be eligible for admission to a public Texas university under the automatic top 10 percent law. To earn this distinguished level of performance, a student must successfully complete four credits in math, including Algebra II; four credits in science; and the remaining graduation requirements; and earn at least one more endorsement. See for more information. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


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Laws that impact the student-to-student relationship When a peer-to-peer student relationship crosses certain boundaries, students may face severe disciplinary action or criminal penalties. The Texas Education Code imposes requirements on districts for dealing with students who sexually assault, harass or bully other students. Legislation passed in 2017, commonly known as “David’s Law,” expands a school district’s role in off-campus cyberbullying and requires school districts to adopt certain practices and procedures to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, while legislation passed in the 2019 session provides more resources for teachers to recognize a student who is having an issue and potentially deal with the matter. Teachers should be aware of their responsibilities and liabilities in these situations.

non-reporting resource for interpersonal conflicts involving two or more students, including accusations of bullying.


Sexual assault

The definition of bullying includes cyberbullying and specifically states that it applies to conduct that occurs at school or a school-related activity, on a school bus, or off school property if the conduct interferes with the student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the operations of the school. It also requires that a school district adopt a policy that includes procedures for a student to anonymously report an incident of bullying and for providing notice of an incident of bullying to a parent or guardian of an alleged victim on or before the third business day after the incident is reported. The parent or guardian of the alleged bully also must receive notice within a reasonable time after the incident.


David’s Law defines “bullying” as a single significant act or pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression or conduct that will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging property or placing a student in fear of harm to him/herself or his/her property, or is severe enough to create an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment.

State law mandates that districts’ student codes of conduct prohibit bullying, harassment and “hit lists”; ensure that employees enforce the prohibitions; and provide methods for managing bullying and disciplining students. For example, a district must transfer a bullying victim, upon parental request, to a different classroom or campus. Also, a special education student may not be disciplined for such conduct until an ARD meeting has been held to review the conduct. A student may be placed in a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) or expelled for engaging in bullying that encourages a student to commit or attempt to commit suicide or by inciting violence against a student through group bullying. In the event that a student appears to be at risk of a mental health crisis or suicide, a threat assessment team may intervene in order to prevent the threat of injury or violence. The law requires a school counselor to serve as an impartial,

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School safety legislation in 2019 expanded the definition of hazing so that students and faculty may be found culpable if they are part of any student organization or team, not just a fraternity or sorority. The law no longer requires that a student’s mental or physical health or safety must be endangered for hazing to occur; for example, the law also notes that forcing or coercing a student to consume drugs or alcohol to the point where a reasonable person would believe they are intoxicated qualifies as hazing. A student who is the victim of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault by another student at the same campus must, upon parental request, be transferred to a different campus than the offender or to a neighboring school district. If the victim chooses not to transfer, the board must transfer the offender to a different campus, or an alternative education program (AEP) or juvenile justice alternative education program (JJAEP), if there is only one campus in the district at that grade level. Electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor via a practice commonly referred to as “sexting” is a criminal offense. A minor commits an offense by knowingly possessing or promoting by electronic means to another minor, visual material that depicts a minor engaging in sexual contact (which is broadly defined and may include some forms of nudity), if the actor produced the visual material or knew that another minor produced it. A school administrator who possesses the visual material in good faith due to an allegation of the offense of electronic transmission of material depicting a minor has a defense to the crime of possession of child pornography. To rely on that defense, the school administrator must allow law enforcement or other school administrators to access the material only as appropriate and take reasonable steps to destroy the material within an appropriate period. Since the defense applies only to administrators or law enforcement officials, teachers and other employees should avoid taking custody of such material and should call an administrator to deal with the material or device. The law also requires the development of programs that districts can use to address the legal, professional and social consequences of sexting and make them available to parents and students in a grade level the district considers appropriate. A student may be placed in a DAEP or expelled for releasing or threatening to release intimate visual material of a minor or of an adult student without the student’s consent.

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Reporting requirements related to electronic communications

An employee designated by the principal, other than the counselor, may make a report to the school district police department or local law enforcement if, after an investigation is completed, the principal has reasonable grounds to believe that a student has engaged in conduct that constitutes an assault or criminal harassment by repeated electronic communications. A reporting person may include the name and address of each student the person believes may have participated in the conduct. A person who makes this report is immune from civil or criminal liability or discipline resulting from the report.

Sexual harassment

The law pertaining to student-to-student sexual harassment states that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. A parent may sue a school district under Title IX for studentto-student sexual harassment if severe, persistent and highly offensive sexual misconduct impedes a student’s access to the benefits of an education, and the school district, with actual knowledge of the harassment, acted unreasonably in failing to stop the misconduct. Because of this, school employees should pay attention to the following: •

School district policies prohibiting peer sexual harassment require that employees who have knowledge of non-minor sexual harassment must report the conduct to a principal or to the district’s Title IX coordinator. Most policies do not distinguish “minor” from “non-minor” misconduct. Therefore, if any question exists, an employee should report as required to a principal or preferably to the Title IX coordinator.

Sexual harassment can occur among students of the same or opposite gender. Some district policies define sexual harassment to include sexual misconduct directed at a student solely on the basis of orientation.

An educator is required to report sexual harassment, even if the victim asks the educator to not report it.

If peer harassment rises to the level of child abuse, failure to report such abuse to the Department of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours by calling 800-252-5400 may put a teacher in legal and employment jeopardy. Failure to report as required by district policy could expose a teacher to a reprimand, or worse.

Dating violence

Each district must adopt and implement a dating violence policy as part of its district improvement plan. The policy must contain a definition of dating violence that includes intentional use of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse to harm, threaten, intimidate or control another person in a dating relationship. The policy must address safety planning, enforcement of protective orders, alternatives to protective orders, training for teachers and administrators, counseling for students and awareness education. The law allows a juvenile court to defer criminal adjudication proceedings in a case of dating violence to allow the juvenile to attend a 12-week teen dating violence court program designed to educate children who engage in dating violence and encourage them to refrain from the conduct. TCTA members being harassed, aware of harassment, or who have questions on the requirements related to bullying or sexual assault should call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


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Student discipline and violence The 86th Texas Legislature passed several bills in 2019 that make changes in the education code dealing with issues of school safety and student discipline. Some of these changes may alter your responsibilities when it comes to instruction and recognizing when a student may be having serious issues, while others are more directly related to matters of when a student is removed to a disciplinary alternative education program or other decisions must be made regarding the safety of the teacher and the students. As always, if a situation arises where you feel concerned about your options and/or legal rights and responsibilities regarding student discipline and classroom safety, please call TCTA’s Legal Department at 888-879-8282. Beginning this year, districts and teachers are required to provide alternative means of receiving coursework in foundation courses to a student who has been placed in in-school or out-of-school suspension. The district must provide at least one option that does not require internet access.

Student code of conduct

School districts and open-enrollment charter schools must develop student codes of conduct in conjunction with districtlevel and site-based decision-making committees. SCCs operate in conjunction with the discretionary and mandatory sanctions outlined in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. Teachers can expect administrators and the board to enforce the student code of conduct. The law requires that the SCC specify that consideration will be given to mitigating factors (self-defense, intent, disciplinary history, etc.) when determining whether a student will be suspended, expelled or removed to a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) or juvenile justice alternative education program (JJAEP), regardless of whether the decision relates to a mandatory or discretionary removal. The SCC must also include provisions regarding actions that would result in a student’s removal from a school bus. State law designates the SCC as the appropriate place for campuses to indicate if the use of progressive sanctions, and what those progressive sanctions will be, are the responsibility of the campus behavior coordinator (see below).

Campus behavior coordinators

A 2015 law initiated by TCTA requires each campus to have a designated campus behavior coordinator. This person may be the principal or other campus administrator selected by the principal, and will be the administrator primarily responsible for maintaining student discipline. Though district or campus policy establishes specific duties, the law states that a teacher may send a student to the CBC’s office to maintain discipline. The CBC must respond by using appropriate discipline management techniques that can reasonably be expected to improve behavior before the student may be returned to class. If the student’s behavior does not improve, alternate techniques

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must be used. Unfortunately, some Districts of Innovation have chosen to exempt themselves from this provision. Districts are now required to post on their website the email address and dedicated phone number for the person clearly identified as the campus behavior coordinator. If the district is exempt from the requirement to designate a CBC under a DOI plan, the district must post contact information for the campus administrator designated as being responsible for student discipline.

Discipline professional development

Administrators who oversee student discipline must, at least once every three years, attend training on school discipline laws, including distinctions between a principal’s discretionary discipline management technique and a teacher’s discretionary authority to remove a disruptive student from the classroom.

Teacher removal of students from class

State law gives teachers the means to protect a disciplined environment. Teachers can remove from class students who continuously or seriously disrupt learning. This process is a different, more formal process for addressing student discipline that is separate from sending a student to the CBC. A principal can assign the student to a DAEP, suspend or expel the student, or put the student in another teacher’s class. A teacher can refuse a student’s return to class, subject only to the right of the campus placement review committee to place the student back in the class as the best or only alternative placement. TCTA-initiated legislation ensures that a student

YOUR Students may not be returned to a teacher’s class without the teacher’s consent if the student had been removed by the teacher for assault causing bodily injury to the teacher. The teacher may not be coerced to consent, and the decision may not be overturned by a disciplinary review committee as with other removals. A teacher can document any conduct by a student that does not conform to the student code of conduct and submit it to the principal. A district cannot discipline a teacher on the basis of such documentation, per a TCTA-initiated bill. TCTA-initiated legislation provides that a student sent by a teacher to the CBC or other administrator’s office, or via a teacher removal from the classroom, is not considered to have been removed for the purposes of reporting data through PEIMS or other similar reports required by state or federal law. Recent legislation prohibits the use of timeout that precludes a student from progressing appropriately in the curriculum and annual goals in the IEP, including physically isolating the student; or a technique or intervention that deprives a student of one or more senses or results in a denial of supervision of the student; but specifies that these provisions do not prohibit a teacher from removing a student from class under current discipline laws.

Removal of students from school buses

A bus driver can send a student to the principal’s office to maintain effective discipline, and the principal must respond with appropriate discipline management techniques.

DAEP placement

The law identifies crimes for which teachers are required to remove students from class, and teachers can expect districts to enforce the mandatory placement provisions. Sec. 37.006 of the Education Code identifies crimes that require DAEP placement, including assault of a teacher. In some cases, a crime committed wholly apart from school, such as retaliation against a teacher, requires DAEP placement. Districts cannot assign a student younger than age 6 to a DAEP, unless the student brings a firearm to school. Schools cannot place elementary students with nonelementary students in DAEPs. Regardless of whether the disciplinary action is mandatory, the CBC must consider whether the student acted in self-defense, the intent or lack of intent at the time the student engaged in the conduct, the student’s disciplinary history, and whether the student has a disability that substantially impairs the student’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct. As of Sept. 1, 2019, students who engage in certain elements of the offense of harassment under the Texas Penal Code must be removed from class and sent to a DAEP, subject to the consideration of mitigating factors. Under the law, the student must be removed if the student: 1. initiates communication and in the course of the communication makes a comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene; 2. threatens, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person

receiving the threat, to inflict bodily injury on the person or to commit a felony against the person, a member of the person’s family or household, or the person’s property; 3. conveys, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the report, a false report, which is known by the conveyor to be false, that another person has suffered death or serious bodily injury; or 4. sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.” Similarly, new legislation provides that a student who is expelled for conduct that contains the elements of terroristic threat must be placed in a JJAEP. A student commits an offense if he/ she threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to cause a reaction of any type to the threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies; place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance or other public place;  cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas or power supply or other public service; place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.

Evaluation of DAEPs

The law requires DAEPs to provide for students’ educational and behavioral needs, and DAEPs’ educational mission is to enable students to perform at grade level. The commissioner of education, as required by law, adopted rules for the annual evaluation of DAEPs. Districts must administer a pre- and post-assessment of academic growth for students placed in DAEPs for 90 school days or longer. The instrument must be administered on the student’s initial placement and on the date of departure, or as near that date as possible. Procedures for administering the pre- and post-assessments must be developed and implemented in accordance with district policy.

Expulsion for serious criminal conduct

Chapter 37 specifies when districts are required or allowed to expel students who engage in very serious crimes, such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, or drug and alcohol offenses.

Expulsion and continued education

In most counties of more than 125,000 people, districts must educate expelled students in a JJAEP. Education of expelled students younger than age 10 must occur in a DAEP. If a student transfers, the new district may continue the expulsion.

Expulsion from a DAEP

A district can expel a student from a DAEP if he/she is Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students documented to have engaged in serious misbehavior, as defined by law, while in the DAEP despite documented behavioral interventions. “Serious misbehavior” is defined as deliberate, violent behavior that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others; extortion; conduct that constitutes coercion; public lewdness; indecent exposure; criminal mischief as defined by the Penal Code; personal hazing; or harassment of a student or district employee.

Prohibition on out-of-school suspension

State law prohibits placing a student under grade 3 in out-ofschool suspension unless the student engages in certain serious behaviors listed in the Education Code. School districts and charter schools, in consultation with the CBC, may develop and implement a program that provides a disciplinary alternative for students under grade 3 whose behavior makes them eligible for out-of-school suspension according to the student code of conduct. The program must: be age-appropriate and researchbased; provide models for positive behavior; promote a positive school environment; provide an alternative disciplinary course of action that does not rely on the use of in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or placement in a DAEP to manage student behavior; and provide behavior management strategies including positive behavior intervention/support, traumainformed practices, social and emotional learning, any necessary referrals for services, and restorative practices. New legislation in 2019 (HB 692) prohibits a district or charter school from placing a homeless student in out-of-school suspension except in the case of conduct including weapons, violence or drugs/alcohol on school property or during a schoolrelated activity. The campus behavior coordinator can coordinate with the district’s homeless education liaison to identify appropriate alternatives.

Placement of registered sex offender

Pursuant to TCTA-initiated legislation, a student who is a registered sex offender must be placed in a DAEP or JJAEP for at least one semester. The placement is reviewed after one semester and annually thereafter by a committee that includes a teacher from the school the student would attend, the student’s parole/probation officer (if none, then a representative of a local juvenile probation department), an instructor from the AEP, a school district designee and a school counselor. If a student transfers to a different district during the required alternative placement period, the new district may require the student to complete an additional semester without reviewing the placement or may consider the time previously spent in a DAEP. The student’s placement in the AEP continues until it is determined that placement in the regular classroom is not a threat to students or teachers, will not disrupt the educational process, and is not contrary to students’ best interests. Placement of a student receiving special education services must be reviewed by the ARD committee, which may request that the district convene a placement committee as described

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above to assist the ARD committee. If the student is not under court supervision, the district may place the student in a regular classroom, unless it is determined that such a placement is a threat to students or the teacher, will disrupt the educational process, or is otherwise not in students’ best interests.

School marshals

“School marshals,” whose identities are kept confidential, are school employees with special training who may exercise the authority given to peace officers, including making arrests, subject to regulations adopted by the school board or charter school governing authority. They may act only as necessary to prevent or abate an offense that threatens serious bodily injury or death to persons on school premises. Marshals must be appointed by a school district’s board of trustees or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school, but as of the 2019 legislative session there is no longer a limit on the number of school marshals per student. The marshal may carry a handgun on school premises under certain regulations. If the marshal’s primary duty involves regular contact with students, the marshal may not carry the weapon but may keep it in a locked and secured safe within reach. The gun may be loaded only with “frangible” ammunition that disintegrates on impact. The gun may be accessed only under circumstances justifying the use of deadly force. The Commission on Law Enforcement operates a training program available to any school employee who holds a concealed handgun license, and administers a psychological exam to determine fitness to carry out the duties of a school marshal. This program was expanded by the legislature in 2019.

Citations and graduated sanctions

A school district peace officer, law enforcement officer or school resource officer may not issue a citation to a child who is alleged to have committed a school offense (an offense committed by a child enrolled in a public school on property under the control and jurisdiction of a school district) that is a class C misdemeanor, other than a traffic offense. However, the school may file a complaint against the child with a criminal court if the district has developed a system of graduated sanctions that the child has failed to comply with or complete, or if the school district has not elected to adopt a system of graduated sanctions.

Notification to educators

Educators have the right to be notified about students under their supervision who have certain types of disciplinary or criminal history (see page 51).

Right to report a crime

TCTA-initiated legislation clarifies that school district or openenrollment charter school employees may report any crime they witnessed at school to any officer with the authority to investigate it. Districts and charters cannot adopt a policy restricting this right or requiring employees to report only to certain people or officers.

YOUR Students Student discipline Rights And Responsibilities Removal by teacher

• A teacher may send a student to the campus behavior coordinator to maintain effective classroom discipline. • A teacher may remove a student from class after documenting repeated interference with the teacher’s ability to communicate with the class OR if the student engages in behavior so unruly, disruptive, or abusive that it seriously interferes with instruction. • Following removal, the principal may place the student in a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP), in-school suspension, or another teacher’s class. • A teacher must remove from class and send to the principal any student who engages in conduct for which the student must be placed in a DAEP or for which the student may or must be expelled. • A conference must be held within three class days of the removal, during which time the student may not be returned to the regular classroom. • A removed student cannot be returned to the teacher’s classroom over the teacher’s objection unless the placement review committee finds that the placement is the best or the only alternative. If the teacher removed the student from class because the student engaged in an offense of assault causing bodily injury against the teacher, the student may not be returned to the teacher’s class without the teacher’s consent. The teacher may not be coerced to consent.


• Grounds for suspension may be developed by the district and must be defined in the district’s student code of conduct. • A student may be suspended for up to three days at a time. • A student in a grade below 3 cannot be placed in out-of-school suspension except for certain serious offenses involving a weapon, violence, or drugs/alcohol.

Removal to DAEP

• A school district must place in a DAEP, subject to consideration of mitigating factors, any student who, while on or within 300 feet of school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property, engages in the following: • Conduct punishable as a felony; • Conduct containing the elements of the offense of assault causing bodily injury; • Conduct containing certain elements of the offense of harassment; • Selling, giving, delivering to another person or possessing, using or being under the influence of marijuana, a controlled substance, a dangerous drug or an alcoholic beverage; • Commission of a serious act or offense while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage; • Conduct containing the elements of an offense relating to an abusable volatile chemical; or • Conduct containing the elements of public lewdness or indecent exposure. • A student, whether or not on school property or at a school event, must be placed in a DAEP for engaging in conduct that: • Constitutes retaliation, i.e., harming or threatening to harm by an unlawful act a school employee on account of the employee’s job-related duties; or • Involves a public school and contains the elements of the offense of false alarm, report or terroristic threat. • A student must be placed in a DAEP if, while off campus and not in attendance at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, the student receives deferred prosecution for the felony offense of aggravated robbery or offenses listed in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code, i.e., violent offenses against the person; a court or jury finds that the student has engaged in delinquent conduct including the felony offense of aggravated robbery or conduct defined as a Title 5 felony offense; or the superintendent or designee has a reasonable belief that the student engaged in the felony offense of aggravated robbery or conduct defined as a Title 5 felony offense. • A student may be placed in a DAEP if the superintendent or designee has a reasonable belief that the student, while off campus and not in attendance at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, has engaged in conduct defined as a felony offense other than aggravated robbery, or those offenses listed in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code, and the continued presence of the student in the regular classroom threatens the safety of other students or teachers or will be detrimental to the educational process. • A student who is required to register as a sex offender must be placed in a DAEP or JJAEP for at least one semester. • An elementary school student may not be placed in a DAEP with nonelementary school students. • Students younger than age 6 may not be removed to a DAEP, unless they bring a firearm to school. • When a student is removed to a DAEP, a conference is required within three days of removal. The school board or its designee must review a student’s status, including academic status, at least every 120 days. For high school students, progress toward graduation requirements must be reviewed and a specific plan developed.

Expulsion or removal to DAEP or JJAEP

A student may be expelled or placed in a DAEP or JJAEP if the student has received deferred prosecution for the felony offense of aggravated robbery or conduct defined as a felony offense in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; has been found by a court or jury to have engaged in the felony offense of aggravated robbery or delinquent conduct or conduct defined as a felony offense in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; is charged with engaging in conduct defined as the felony offense of aggravated robbery or a felony offense in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; has been referred to a juvenile court for allegedly engaging in delinquent conduct or conduct defined as the felony offense of aggravated robbery or a felony offense in Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; has received probation or deferred adjudication for the felony offense of aggravated robbery or a felony offense under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; has been convicted of the felony offense of aggravated robbery or a felony offense under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code; or has been arrested for or charged with the felony offense of aggravated robbery or a felony offense under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code. Before the placement, the board of trustees of a school district or the board’s designee must give an opportunity for a hearing. In addition, the board or the board’s designee must determine that the student’s presence in the regular classroom threatens the safety of other students or teachers, will be detrimental to the educational process, or is not in the best interests of the district’s students. (NOTE: Certain instances described here require expulsion.)

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YOUR Students Student discipline Rights And Responsibilities Expulsion

• A student must be expelled for committing any of the following serious offenses while on school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity: • Uses, exhibits, or possesses a firearm, illegal knife, club, or other prohibited weapon; or • Commits the elements of any of the following offenses: aggravated assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, arson, murder, capital murder, criminal attempt to commit murder or capital murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, continuous sexual abuse of young child or children, or drug- or alcohol-related offenses punishable as a felony. • A student must be expelled for committing any of the above offenses against any employee or volunteer in retaliation for or as a result of the person’s employment or association with a school district, without regard to whether the conduct occurs on or off school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property. • A student who engages in the conduct described above on school property of another district in this state or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity of a school in another district in this state may be expelled from school by the district which the student attends. • A student may not be expelled solely on the basis of the student’s use, exhibition, or possession of a firearm that occurs at an approved target range facility that is not located on a school campus; and while participating in or preparing for a school-sponsored shooting sports competition or a shooting sports educational activity that is sponsored or supported by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or a shooting sports sanctioning organization working with the department. • A student may be expelled if, while on or within 300 feet of school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related event, the student: • Sells/gives/delivers/possesses or is under the influence of marijuana, a controlled substance, a dangerous drug or an alcoholic beverage; • Engages in conduct containing the elements of an offense relating to an abusable volatile chemical; • Engages in documented serious misbehavior despite documented behavioral interventions, while placed in a DAEP on the program campus; or • Engages in conduct containing the elements of deadly conduct. • A student may be expelled if, within 300 feet of school property, the student: • Uses, exhibits, or possesses a firearm, illegal knife, club, or other prohibited weapon; or • Commits the elements of any of the following offenses: aggravated assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, arson, murder, capital murder, criminal attempt to commit murder or capital murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, continuous sexual abuse of young child or children, or drug- or alcohol-related offenses punishable as a felony. • A student may be expelled if the student engages in conduct against another student containing the elements of aggravated assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, murder, capital murder, criminal attempt to commit murder or capital murder or the offense of aggravated robbery, without regard to whether the conduct occurs on or off school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property. • A student may be expelled for committing assault against any employee or volunteer in retaliation for or as a result of the person’s employment or association with a school district, without regard to whether the conduct occurs on or off school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property. • A student may be expelled if the student: • Engages in conduct containing the elements of felonious criminal mischief; • Engages in school-related conduct involving false alarm, report or terroristic threat; or • Engages in conduct containing the elements of the offense of breach of computer security involving a computer, computer network or computer system owned by the district. • Students younger than age 10 may not be expelled, unless they bring a firearm to school. • A teacher must be informed by the district if one of the teacher’s students has committed any of the above offenses. (NOTE: A teacher must keep this information confidential, or risk certificate sanctions.) • A student must be given a hearing before expulsion occurs.

Emergency removal

• A principal (or designee) may order the immediate removal of a student to a DAEP or may order expulsion if the student’s behavior is such that it seriously interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate with the class or with the operation of the school, or if action is necessary to prevent harm to persons or property. • The student shall receive oral notice of the reason for the action at the time of the emergency placement. A proper due process hearing must occur within a reasonable time after the placement or expulsion.

Chapter 37 does not specify a minimum term of a disciplinary removal or expulsion, as these decisions are determined by local codes of conduct and school officials. Additional requirements for discipline of students with disabilities are included on pages 52-53. [This chart is excerpted from the Texas Education Code, Chapter 37.]

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YOUR Students

School safety and threat assessment teams The 2019 legislative session saw a renewed push for resources for student mental health and well-being in response to the charge to promote school safety. Districts are now required to incorporate digital citizenship into the curriculum, including the criminal consequences of cyberbullying. Though some money was allocated for districts to voluntarily add new security measures to their facilities, the approach the legislature took was to focus on personnel and students. In addition to the teacher training outlined on page 27, school districts also must establish threat assessment teams to serve each campus. These teams will evaluate threats and individuals and determine the appropriate intervention, which may include referral to mental health services. Threat assessment teams are separate and distinct from those that handle discipline. Lawmakers added $100 million to the school finance formulas

for a district to choose to use in several ways, including establishing or funding school-based mental health centers or hiring more counselors. As part of a multi-hazard emergency operations plan, districts must adopt policies for responding to active-shooter emergencies. The plan also must ensure that employees have classroom access to a phone or other electronic communication device allowing for immediate contact with emergency responders. School districts who fail to submit a multi-hazard emergency operations plan to the Texas School Safety Center may have a conservator appointed by the commissioner of education. The conservator is authorized to order the district to adopt, implement and submit a plan, and the commissioner is authorized to appoint a board of managers if the district fails to comply with the conservator’s order. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students Student conduct: Required notice to educators and confidentiality rules A classroom management issue can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation when the student involved has a propensity for violence or a criminal history of violent behavior. Because of this, Texas law requires law enforcement and school districts to notify educators of the presence of dangerous students in the classroom. Educators must protect the confidentiality of such information and are subject to harsh penalties for failure to do so.

Criminal conduct

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires the head of a law enforcement agency to orally notify a school district superintendent within 24 hours when he/she has information indicating that a student enrolled in the district has been arrested for certain types of offenses, such as assault, drug offenses or unlawful possession of a weapon. The superintendent must then immediately notify all instructional and support personnel who have responsibility for supervision of the student. On conviction, adjudication or deferred prosecution of any type of covered offenses, the prosecuting attorney must within 24 hours notify the superintendent, who must then within 24 hours notify all instructional and support personnel who have regular contact with the student. Statutory changes initiated by TCTA provide that the required notice to school personnel must include details of assaultive behavior or other violence, weapons used during the offense or conduct, weapons possessed during the offense or conduct, name of the person notified, and the date and time of the oral notice. State law also requires a school board that learns that a superintendent has failed to provide notice to applicable staff to report that failure to SBEC. Also, if a superintendent learns that the head of a law enforcement agency or designee failed to provide the required notice, the superintendent must report that failure to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Severe misconduct

When a student has engaged in conduct that requires placement in a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) or that may subject the student to expulsion, the Texas Education Code requires a principal to report the student’s misconduct to all educators who are responsible for the student’s instruction. Conduct that triggers this reporting requirement includes criminal conduct such as assault, drug offenses or unlawful possession of a weapon (as covered by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure reporting requirement discussed in the box on page 51). However, the reporting requirement in the Education Code is broader and also requires notice for additional types of conduct, such as making a false alarm or terroristic threat, committing an act that would be punishable as a felony, drug and alcohol

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offenses, and lewd conduct. Note that there is no requirement that the student be arrested or have criminal charges filed for this notice provision to apply, only that the underlying conduct contains the elements of the described offense.

Student transfers

Occasionally a district may enroll a student who transferred from another district or charter school while disciplinary action, such as placement in a DAEP, suspension or expulsion, is ongoing. The Education Code requires that the transferring school district inform the new school district of the disciplinary action and provide a copy of the order of disciplinary action. The new school district may then decide whether to require the student to complete the disciplinary action imposed by the transferring district. A student also may enroll in a new school district while on probation or parole. In this instance, the parole or probation officer must notify the new school district of the student’s status in the criminal justice system. Legislation initiated by TCTA requires that this notification occur within 24 hours of the transfer or re-enrollment. District officials must then notify all instructional and support personnel who have contact with the student within 24 hours.

Confidentiality requirements

When an educator receives notification of dangerous student conduct pursuant to any of these statutory provisions, the educator is required by law to maintain the confidentiality of that information. Additionally, the Educators’ Code of Ethics prohibits an educator from revealing confidential information about students. Disclosure of such confidential information could lead to the imposition of sanctions against an educator’s teaching certificate by SBEC and also could result in adverse employment action against the educator by the school district. Any educator who receives information about student misconduct should strictly protect the confidentiality of that information.

TCTA’s work to ensure safe classrooms

The provisions discussed in this section are largely the result of the TCTA lobby team’s efforts with the legislature over many years. TCTA believes that prompt notification to educators of potentially dangerous students contributes to campus safety. Educators who have access to information about a student’s criminal and disciplinary history can make appropriate decisions about how best to manage the potential risk the student presents to the safety of students or faculty. TCTA advises educators that they have a duty to respect the confidentiality of the information entrusted to them and to ensure that these students have access to the educational opportunities offered by the district.

YOUR Students WHAT Kind OF Student CONDUCT DO They HAVe TO Tell Me ABOUT? You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision has a criminal history for these offenses: • Any felony; • The following misdemeanors: unlawful restraint, indecent exposure, assault, deadly conduct, terroristic threat, engaging in organized criminal activity; • Unlawful use, sale or possession of a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia, or marijuana; • Unlawful possession of a weapon. (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 15.27) You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision is required

to register as a sex offender. (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 15.27) You are entitled to notification when a student under your supervision is subject to removal to a DAEP or expulsion for these acts: • False alarm, report or terroristic threat involving a public school; • Any of the following within 300 feet of a school: conduct punishable as a felony; assault; sale, delivery or possession of marijuana, controlled substance or a dangerous drug; possession, delivery or sale of alcohol, or being under the influence of alcohol; public lewdness;

indecent exposure; • Retaliation against a school employee; • Any of the following on school property or while attending a school-sponsored event: use, exhibition or possession of a firearm, illegal knife or club; conduct that contains the elements of aggravated assault, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault; arson; murder or attempted murder; indecency with a child; aggravated kidnapping; aggravated robbery; • Severe or persistent misbehavior while placed in a DAEP. (Texas Education Code §§ 37.006-37.007)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Federal law governing the education of students with disabilities requires that children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. Due to the inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms, more educators need to know the requirements of the federal IDEA 2004.

permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to intervention. Accordingly, states can permit the use of discrepancy models, but it is more likely states will use other models, such as the research-based “response to intervention.” For further information on RTI, see


The reauthorized IDEA allows schools to use up to 15 percent of the federal special education funds they receive to develop and implement coordinated, early intervention services for students in kindergarten through grade 12 (with a particular emphasis on students in kindergarten through grade 3) who have not been identified as needing special education or related services, but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment.

The law provides that a child shall not be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor is: (A) lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including in the essential components of reading instruction (as defined in section 1208(3) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965); (B) lack of instruction in math; or (C) limited English proficiency.

Specific learning disability

A student cannot be labeled with an SLD if the child’s low achievement is due to lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math. The U.S. Department of Education stated in comments accompanying the federal regulations that “whether a child has received ‘appropriate instruction’ is appropriately left to state and local officials to determine.” Additionally, the reauthorized law and regulations indicate that the traditional way of determining whether a child has an SLD, the “discrepancy” model, in which a severe discrepancy between IQ and achievement is found, is no longer in favor. The regulations provide that states must adopt criteria for determining whether a child has an SLD, and the criteria cannot require schools to use the discrepancy model, but instead must

Help for struggling learners


Federal law states that paraprofessionals who are “appropriately trained and supervised” can “assist” in providing special education and related services. State law clarifies that aides can only be used to support special education instruction. Special education instruction can be provided only by properly certified professionals, even in disciplinary alternative education programs. State rules require aides who work with special education students to be certified.

Referral for special education services

State rules clarify that if a student continues to experience difficulty in the general classroom after the provision of intervention, district personnel must refer the student for evaluation for special services. TEA has further clarified that Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students response to intervention is not required prior to any special education referrals, that a referral can be made at any time during the RTI process (a child need not advance through each tier of an RTI system before a special education referral is made) and that timely referral for evaluation under the IDEA is made if, after an appropriate amount of time, the student is not making adequate progress. Generally the district must conduct an assessment of the referred student within 45 school days of receipt of written consent for the evaluation from the parent/ guardian. Certain exceptions apply when parent consent is given close to the end of the school year.

TCTA ONLine TRAining ON RTi Watch TCTA’s online CPE video “Response to Intervention: A System of Support for Students and Teachers,” at to earn 1.25 CPE credit hours. The Individualized Education Program team must then meet to develop an IEP for the child within 30 days of the evaluation (or determination that the child needs special education services). The IEP must be implemented “as soon as possible” after the IEP team meeting, meaning without delay.

Discipline UndeR ideA Removal/change of placement

School officials can remove any child with a disability from his/ her regular school placement for up to 10 consecutive school days at a time, even over the parents’ objections. However, school officials cannot use this authority to repeatedly remove a child from his/her current placement if that series of removals constitutes a change in placement. A change in placement occurs when: • The removal is for more than 10 consecutive school days; or • The child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern: (1) because the series of removals totals more than 10 school days in a school year; (2) because the child’s behavior is substantially similar to the child’s behavior in previous incidents that resulted in a series of removals; and (3) because of additional factors such as the length of each removal, the total amount of time the child has been removed, and the proximity of the removals to one another.

Removal for more than 10 days

If a child with a disability is removed for more than 10 cumulative school days in a school year, a free and appropriate public education must be provided. Also, within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child, the school district must convene an individualized education program team [same as the admission, review and dismissal committee] meeting to determine whether the child’s behavior is related to the disability (manifestation determination). The reauthorized law clarifies that behavior is a manifestation of a disability only when it is caused by, or has a direct and substantial relationship to, the disability or when the conduct in question was the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the IEP. The IEP team also must develop a behavioral assessment plan or review and modify the plan if one has already been developed and implemented. If the IEP team concludes that a child’s behavior is not due to his/her disability, the child can be disciplined in the same way and for as long as nondisabled children, except that a FAPE must continue to be provided to the child with a disability. If the removal is not a

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change in placement, the IEP team must only meet if one or more members of the IEP team think modifications are necessary.

Removal for serious offenses

School authorities can remove a child from his/her regular school placement for up to 45 school days at a time, without regard to a manifestation determination, if the child has brought a weapon to school or to a school function; knowingly possessed or used illegal drugs or sold or solicited the sale of controlled substances while at school or a school function; or inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises or at a school function. Serious bodily injury is defined in U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 1365(h)(3) as a cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, or disfigurement; physical pain; illness; impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary, that involves a substantial risk of death; extreme physical pain; protracted and obvious disfigurement; or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

Removal to a disciplinary alternative setting

If school officials believe that maintaining a child’s current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the student or others in the child’s regular placement, they can ask an impartial hearing officer to order that the child be removed to an interim disciplinary alternative educational program for up to 45 days. If, at the end of the DAEP placement, school officials believe that it would be dangerous to return the child to the regular placement because the child would be substantially likely to injure him/herself or others in that placement, they can ask a hearing officer to order that the child remain in the DAEP for an additional 45 days. If necessary, school officials also can request subsequent extensions of these interim DAEP placements for up to 45 days at a time if they continue to believe that the child would be substantially likely to injure him/herself or others if returned to the regular placement.

YOUR Students Who must attend IEP team meetings?

Federal law requires that at least one regular education teacher be a member of the IEP team (or ARD committee) if the student is or may be placed in a regular education setting. (See page 54.) However, the law provides that members of the IEP team/ARD committee are not required to attend meetings if the parent of the student and the school district agree that the attendance of such member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting. If the member’s area of the curriculum is being discussed, the member can be excused by submitting written input on the development of the IEP prior to the meeting. The law also allows the parent and the school district to agree to make changes to an IEP after the annual IEP meeting without convening another meeting, but by making the changes in writing, allowing the IEP team to meet via conference call or video, and requiring school districts to consolidate IEP team meetings as much as possible.

Which regular education teacher must be on the IEP team (ARD committee)?

TCTA-initiated legislation provides that the regular education teacher who serves as a member of a student’s ARD committee must, to the extent practicable, be a regular education teacher responsible for implementing a portion of the student’s IEP.

What must the IEP contain?

The IEP must contain a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child. These are tools that will help school personnel work more effectively with the child and could include special training for the child’s teacher. The IEP must include enough information to enable teachers to understand what is required to effectively implement it. TCTA-initiated legislation passed in 2013 specifies that a student’s behavioral intervention plan is part of the IEP.

TEA model IEP form

TEA developed a model IEP form that includes only information required by state or federal law for school districts to use, if desired. Find the form on TEA’s website at

Who gets the IEP?

Federal regulations require that the child’s IEP must be accessible to each regular education teacher and anyone else responsible for its implementation as soon as possible after it is finalized and before beginning work with the child. (Texas rules require that each teacher of the child must have access to relevant sections of the IEP.) Each teacher who will provide services to the child must be informed of his/her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP and the specific accommodations, modifications and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP. Schools and teachers have continuing obligations to make good faith efforts to assist the child in achieving the IEP goals and objectives.

RestRAint of students With disAbilities TEA rules (19 TAC, Sec. 89.1053) limit the use of physical force or a mechanical device that would significantly restrict the free movement of all or a portion of a student’s body. The use of restraint must: • be limited to such force as is reasonable to address an emergency, • be discontinued when an emergency no longer exists, • be implemented to protect the health and safety of the student and others, and • not deprive the student of basic human necessities.


Actions that are not considered restraint include limited physical contact with a student to promote safety (e.g., holding a student’s hand), prevent a potentially harmful action (e.g., running into the street), teach a skill, redirect attention, provide guidance to a location, or provide comfort. Anyone who restrains a student must receive training within 30 school days, if not previously trained in restraint. The training must include prevention and de-escalation techniques, restraint alternatives, accepted practices and standards regarding behavior management. If an employee restrains a student: • a principal or designee must receive notice of the restraint that day, • a good faith effort must be made that day to notify the student’s parent(s), • written notice to the parent must be placed in the mail or given to the parent within one business day, and • the student’s eligibility folder must contain documentation of the use of restraint. The documentation of the restraint and the parent notice must include the “who, what, when, where and how” of the restraint, a description of the conduct requiring the restraint, and the alternatives and de-escalation attempted.

Timeouts and seclusion

The rules also include limitations on the use of timeout and seclusion. Timeout occurs when a student is separated from other students for a limited period in a setting that is not locked and in which the exit is not physically blocked by furniture, a closed door held shut from the outside, or another inanimate object. Recent legislation prohibits the use of timeout that precludes a student from progressing appropriately in the curriculum and annual goals in the IEP, including physically isolating the student; or a technique or intervention that deprives a student of one or more senses or results in a denial of supervision of the student; but specifies that these provisions do not prohibit a teacher from removing a student from class under current discipline laws. View the rules online at 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Students

Inclusion & ARDs for regular education teachers Federal rules for IDEA require that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities ... are educated with children who are nondisabled; and that ... removal of children with disabilities from the regular [classroom] occurs only if the ... disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” State rules provide that support services include, but are not limited to, co-teaching, direct instruction to special education students, collaborative planning, small group instruction, or other support services determined necessary by the admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee. TCTA-initiated legislation and TEA rules require school districts to develop a process for regular education teachers teaching special education students to request a review of and provide input into the development of a student’s individualized education program. The process must include a provision for a timely district response to the request and district notification to the student’s parent of the district’s response. TEA rules also require each school district to ensure that each teacher involved in a student’s instruction has the opportunity to request assistance regarding the implementation of the student’s IEP. State law and TEA rules provide that the regular education teacher who serves as a member of a student’s ARD committee must, to the extent practicable, be a regular education teacher who is responsible for implementing a portion of the student’s IEP. However, if issues considered at an ARD meeting do not

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require a specific teacher’s participation, the parents and the district can agree in writing that the teacher need not attend. If a specific teacher’s participation is required, the parents and the district can agree to have that teacher provide information in writing, in lieu of attending. State rules provide that all ARD committee members must have the opportunity to participate in a collaborative manner in developing the IEP. A committee decision concerning required elements of the IEP must be made by mutual agreement of the required members if possible. TCTA-initiated legislation and TEA rules require that each member of the ARD committee who disagrees with the IEP developed by the ARD committee is entitled to include a statement of disagreement in the IEP. TCTA members who have questions or problems regarding inclusion issues may call the TCTA Legal Department at 888879-8282.

Resources for teachers of students with special health needs

TEA is required to establish and maintain a website (https:// that provides resources for teachers of students with special health needs. It must include information on the treatment and management of chronic illnesses and how such illnesses impact a student’s well-being or ability to succeed in school. It also must provide information on food allergies that are common among students, including how to prevent exposure to a specific food when necessary to protect a student’s health and how to treat a student suffering from an allergic reaction to a food.

YOUR Benefits

Teacher Retirement System The Teacher Retirement System of Texas manages pension funds for Texas public education and some higher education employees, and it oversees the health insurance programs for active members (TRS-ActiveCare) and retirees (TRS-Care). TRS is governed by a nine-member board of trustees, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate. Many changes to TRS and its benefit structure have occurred in recent legislative sessions. These changes have made determining an individual employee’s retirement eligibility and benefits very complicated. We encourage TCTA members to call or email TCTA with general questions, or contact TRS directly for information about a specific situation. Per 2019 legislation, contribution rates to the TRS pension fund will increase over the next five years.

PensiON FUND CONTRiBUTiONS (a percentage of salary/payroll)

State Active members School districts*

2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 7.5% 7.5% 7.75% 8.0% 8.25% 8.25% 7.7% 7.7% 8.0% 8.0% 8.25% 8.5% 1.5% 1.6% 1.7% 1.8% 1.9% 2.0%

*Districts also contribute at the state rate on salary paid above the state required minimum salary. Employees contribute 0.65 percent of salary to the TRS-Care fund (retiree health insurance). The state contributes 1.25 percent of payroll, and school districts contribute 0.75 percent.

Standard retirement

Generally, a TRS member may retire with the standard benefit at: 1. age 65 with five or more years of service credit; or 2. with at least five years of service, any combination of age and years of service credit totaling at least 80 (the “Rule of 80”). Exceptions: • A member who enters TRS membership after Aug. 31, 2007, and who had at least five years of service credit as of Aug. 31, 2014, must also meet a minimum age of 60 for full retirement benefits. • A member who did not have at least five years of service credit as of Aug. 31, 2014, must meet a minimum age of 62 for full retirement benefits. Members described by these provisions can still retire upon meeting the Rule of 80, but will have benefits reduced by 5 percent for each year under age 60 or 62, as appropriate. A TRS member who entered the system prior to Aug. 31, 2007, and had at least five years of service credit as of Aug. 31, 2014, does not have to meet a minimum age requirement to retire with full benefits. Provisions regarding “entering the system” consider a person

who withdrew TRS funds, then subsequently returned to school employment, to have entered on the date of re-entry rather than the original date of membership. The TRS Benefits Handbook, available at, has full details on retirement eligibility.

Early retirement

An employee can opt for early retirement if he/she has at least 30 years of service credit but does not meet the Rule of 80, or is at least age 55 with five or more years of service. Penalties for early retirement can be quite severe, but depend on the employee’s age, years of service credit, and whether they meet certain “grandfather” provisions established in 2005 when the penalties for early retirement were increased. Employees considering early retirement can consult with a TRS benefits counselor or use the retirement calculators on the TRS website. If a member leaves TRS-covered employment before meeting the criteria for retirement with either full or reduced benefits, the member may withdraw the money contributed to date, plus interest earned, but will not receive an annuity. The interest earned on contributions was lowered from 5 percent to 2 percent; the lower rate applies to contributions made after Sept. 1, 2014. Note: Any employee retiring after Aug. 31, 2005, who does not meet the Rule of 80 or have at least 30 years of service credit will not be eligible for TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance.

Disability retirement

An employee with a mental or physical disability that is likely permanent and that prohibits further performance of his/ her duty may be eligible for disability retirement. An individual who qualifies for disability retirement and who has at least 10 years of service credit may opt for a disability retirement and receive an unreduced monthly annuity (calculated using the standard retirement formula), with a minimum annuity of $150. An employee who qualifies for disability retirement but has less than 10 years of service credit will receive a monthly benefit of $150 paid for the number of months that the employee worked in a TRS-covered position prior to retirement, the duration of the disability, or the duration of the employee’s life, whichever is least. Other key provisions affect how disability retirement works and whether it is the best option for an employee with a disability; members should review the TRS Benefits Handbook (at trs. or speak to a TRS benefits counselor for more details.

Partial lump-sum option

Retirees can select a partial lump-sum distribution of cash in exchange for a lower future monthly retirement benefit. This program is available only to members who are eligible for unreduced retirement benefits. The member must meet a Rule of 90 upon retirement to be eligible for the PLSO.* The maximum lump sum that may be taken is an amount equal to Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Benefits

36 months of a member’s monthly retirement benefit. For more information and to calculate the reduced standard monthly benefit under the PLSO, visit *An employee who, as a TRS member on Aug. 31, 2005, was at least age 50, or met the Rule of 70 (age and years of service credit total at least 70), or had at least 25 years of service credit does not have to meet the Rule of 90 upon retirement to be eligible for the PLSO, but must meet the requirement for normal (unreduced) retirement.

HOW TO CALCULATe YOUR TRS benefits To calculate TRS retirement benefits, use the following formula: 1. Multiply your years of service credit by 2.3 percent. (Example: if you have 30 years of service credit in TRS, 30 x 2.3 = 69 percent.)

Same-sex spouses

2. Determine the average of your five highest years of salary.*


3. Multiply your average salary (from step 2) by the number from step 1. This is your annual TRS standard annuity. (Example: $50,000 x 69 percent. This person’s standard annuity would be $34,500 per year.)

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015, TRS extends spousal benefits to same-sex spouses. A retiree can return to work full time after a complete break in TRS-covered employment (substitute service counts as “employment” for this purpose as do some types of volunteer work) of at least 12 consecutive months. The employee can then return to work in school employment without any loss of monthly TRS checks. An employee working at a school in any capacity, paid or unpaid, during the 12 months after retirement should contact TRS regarding their eligibility to return to work. A retiree can return to work part time or as a substitute after only a one-calendar-month break in service without penalty (a disability retiree returning part time or as a substitute may work no more than 90 days in the school year). An employee who retired prior to Jan. 1, 2011, can return to work full time with no loss of monthly TRS checks, even if the employee did not sit out 12 months before returning to work. Districts must make contributions to TRS (15.2 percent of salary) and TRS-Care (an amount set by TRS at $535 per month, due only on retirees participating in TRS-Care) on behalf of a rehired retiree. Pursuant to legislation initiated by TCTA, this surcharge is not required for employees who retired prior to Sept. 1, 2005. State law does not prohibit districts from reducing a retiree’s

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*An individual who, as a TRS member on Aug. 31, 2005, was at least 50 years old, or met the Rule of 70, or had at least 25 years of service credit should use the three highest years of salary for this calculation. Note the “Exceptions” on page 55 that describe reductions in the standard annuity based on age at retirement. salary to help offset the cost of the surcharge, though local policies may differ in this regard. However, districts cannot pay less than the amount to which the employee would be entitled under the state minimum salary schedule. A district participating in TRS-ActiveCare may be required to offer ActiveCare enrollment to a returning retiree, but the retiree may opt to remain in TRS-Care.

Active employee and retiree health insurance

TRS is responsible for the separate state health insurance plans that serve active employees (TRS-ActiveCare) and retirees (TRS-Care). More information about these plans is on page 58.

YOUR Benefits

Social Security benefits The vast majority of Texas school districts do not participate in Social Security, so most employees are entitled to Social Security benefits only if they paid into that system through other employment (for at least 40 quarters) or through their spouses. However, federal law reduces, or in some cases eliminates, the amount of Social Security benefits received in those situations.

Government Pension Offset

If you retire from a district that does not participate in Social Security but are eligible for benefits through your spouse, the GPO will reduce the amount of your spousal or survivor Social Security benefits by two-thirds of the amount of your TRS pension. (See for a more detailed explanation.) The GPO does not affect the amount of your TRS pension. An employee must work at least the last 60 months prior to retirement in a position that pays into both TRS and Social Security to be exempt from the GPO. See for an unofficial list of Texas school districts participating in Social Security.

TCTA TRAininG ON SOCiAL SecURiTY Watch TCTA’s free online continuing education video “Social Security Retirement Benefits: What You Need to Know,” at to earn 1.25 CPE hours.

Windfall Elimination Provision

If you work in a district not participating in Social Security but are eligible for Social Security benefits because of previous employment in which you paid into Social Security, you may be subject to the WEP. The effect of this offset is not generally as severe as that of the GPO, but it may still be significant. See for more information. TCTA continues to urge repeal of the offsets through our Washington lobbying efforts and has supported federal legislation that would implement a fairer calculation of the WEP penalty. Find a TCTA Q&A at

UNDeRSTANDiNG YOUR TRS Benefits Partial year of service

An employee who is not retiring must work at least 90 days during the school year to receive a year of service credit. An exception is made for individuals in their final year before retirement; they can receive the year of credit for working the full fall semester, even if it is less than 90 days. The “school year” for TRS purposes begins Sept. 1, so the 90-day count does not include any days worked prior to Sept. 1.

Purchase of credit

Teachers can purchase different types of service credit in the retirement system, including: 1. Previously withdrawn credit from prior service in Texas 2. Out-of-state service (up to 15 years) 3. Military service (up to five years)

the Rule of 80 for TRS-Care eligibility.

4. Credit for accumulated state leave (one year of credit for 50 unused state leave days)

A person with unreported service (including substitute service) must verify the service within five years of when it was rendered for it to be creditable.

5. Developmental leave (up to two years) 6. Work experience (for career/technology teachers only; up to two years) There are limits on the aggregate amount of time purchased, and the cost of different types of service credit varies among individuals (TRS can provide assistance in calculating the cost). Purchased service credit counts toward the requirement to meet

If your TRS annual statement excludes any eligible service or compensation credit, you must correct the error no later than May 31 of the year following the year in which the service was rendered in order to avoid paying an additional cost. After that time (but within the five-year period) you will pay the actuarial cost of the service, which will increase every year ­— so take care of the issue as quickly as possible. 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Benefits

Health insurance

The state offers health insurance coverage to both active and retired school employees.

Active employee health insurance (TRS-ActiveCare)

The state plan for active school employees has three levels of coverage. For 2019-20, enrollment in the highest level of coverage, ActiveCare 2, is limited to only those who were enrolled in that level in 2018-19. ActiveCare is administered by Aetna, with pharmacy benefits managed by CVS Caremark.


All districts and eligible employees, regardless of whether they participate in the state plan, are included in the funding contributed for school employee health insurance (unless the employee has waived coverage). The term “eligible employees” includes part-time employees working at least 10 hours per week, but excludes retirees who have returned to employment in the school (who are covered under TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance). The state provides $75 per month for each participating employee for health insurance coverage, and districts must contribute at least $150 per month per employee.


All school districts are eligible to participate in the statewide plan. Participation for districts with 500 or fewer employees is mandatory; those that are self-funded or participating in a co-op/ risk pool were given the opportunity to opt out when the program first began. Districts with more than 500 employees can opt in to the program. Districts choosing not to participate must still provide access to health insurance. The funding arrangement ($75 per month per participating employee from the state and at least $150 per month per employee from the district) will still apply. Individual employees may choose to waive coverage. A school employee married to another school employee can decide whether to be treated under the district health insurance plan as the primary employee or a dependent. Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015, TRS extends spousal benefits to same-sex spouses.

Portability of insurance/continuing coverage

Legislation initiated by TCTA requires a school district not participating in the state plan to provide for portability of insurance coverage, an essential benefit for employees transferring from one school district to another. This ensures that the employee cannot be refused coverage for a pre-existing condition if the employee has had insurance under another qualifying plan for at least 12 months and applies for coverage under the district plan no more than 63 days after coverage is terminated under the former coverage. (A 2009 TCTA-initiated law prohibits TRS from opting out of federal law that requires coverage of pre-existing conditions, thus maximizing portability between private sector/local district coverage and TRS-ActiveCare. The federal Patient Protection and

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2019-20 iNSURANCe RATeS* ActiveCare ActiveCare ActiveCare HD-1 Select 2** Employee only $378 $556 $852 Employee and spouse $1,066 $1,367 $2,020 Employee and child(ren) $722 $902 $1,267 Employee and family $1,415 $1,718 $2,389 *Rates and benefits under locally provided plans or stateapproved HMOs will vary. **Enrollment in ActiveCare 2 is limited to employees who were enrolled in ActiveCare 2 in 2018-19. Note: The premium costs listed do not take into account the required $75/month contribution from the state and $150/ month from the district (some districts contribute more). Actual premium costs for employees will be lower than the amounts in this chart. Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 also restricts the ability of a health care plan sponsor to opt out of the provisions of federal law that ensure portability.) Other TCTA-initiated legislation requires that districts continue to provide insurance coverage and funding through the summer months for employees who resign after the end of the instructional year.

Coverage options

TRS has approved three HMOs as an option for employees in participating districts. The benefits offered under these HMOs are significantly different from those offered under the ActiveCare Aetna plan, and details are available on the TRS website in the Active Members > TRS-ActiveCare section. Employees in the Panhandle and parts of North and Central Texas can participate in FirstCare; those in portions of the Rio Grande Valley can opt for Blue Essentials Access (the previous provider in this area was Allegian Health Plan); Central Texas employees and those in several West Texas counties can choose the Scott & White Health Plan. Some employees in Central Texas have access to both FirstCare and Scott & White plans.

Retiree health insurance (TRS-Care)

Details of the state’s health care coverage for retirees are available at TRS-Care plans and premiums changed significantly as a result of legislation passed in 2017. Employees retiring after Sept. 1, 2005, must meet the Rule of 80 or have at least 30 years of service credit to be eligible for TRS-Care. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, a retiree who is age 65 and eligible for Medicare will be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. A retiree under age 65 will be enrolled in a high deductible plan. There will no longer be a level of coverage that is free; however, a disability retiree who retired on or before Jan. 1, 2017, who is not Medicare-eligible will not have to pay a monthly premium for the high-deductible individual coverage (that exemption expires at the end of 2021). See the TRS website for complete details.



(effective Sept. 1, 2019-Aug. 1, 2020)



Deductible In-Network

$2,750 employee only $5,500 employee and family

$1,200 individual $3,600 family

$1,000 individual $3,000 family

Deductible Out-of-Network

$5,500 employee only $11,000 employee and family

This plan does not cover out-of-network services except for emergencies.

$2,000 individual $6,000 family

(per plan year) (per plan year)

Contact TRS for important info on differences between 1-HD deductibles and those of the other plans

Out-of-Pocket Maximum In-Network (per plan year)

$6,750 employee only** $13,500 employee and family

$7,900 individual $15,800 family

$7,900 individual $15,800 family

Out-of-Pocket Maximum Out-of-Network (per plan year)

$20,250 employee only** $40,500 employee and family

This plan does not cover out-of-network services except for emergencies.

$23,700 individual $47,400 family

Plan pays (up to allowable amount) Participant pays (after deductible)

80% 20% (40% of allowed amount for out-of-network services)

80% 20% (No out-of-network services, except emergencies)

80% 20% (40% of allowed amount for out-of-network services)

Office Visit

20% after deductible

$30 copay for primary $70 copay for specialist

$30 copay for primary $70 copay for specialist

Diagnostic Lab

20% after deductible

20% after deductible

20% after deductible

Preventive Care

Plan pays 100%

Plan pays 100%

Plan pays 100%

Teladoc Physician Services

$40 consultation fee (counts toward deductible and out-of-pocket maximum)

Plan pays 100%

Plan pays 100%

Prescription Drugs

Subject to plan year deductible.

$0 for generic drugs $0 for generic drugs $200/person for brand-name $200/person for brand-name

20% after deductible**** 25% after deductible*** 50% after deductible***

$15 copay $20 copay 25% coinsurance (min. $40)*** 25% coinsurance (min. $40)*** 50% coinsurance*** 50% coinsurance (min $100)***

20% after deductible 25% after deductible*** 50% after deductible***

$30 copay 25% coinsurance (min. $60)*** 50% coinsurance***

20% after deductible 25% after deductible*** 50% after deductible***

$45 copay $45 copay 25% coinsurance (min. $105)*** 25% coinsurance (min. $105)*** 50% coinsurance*** 50% coinsurance (min $215)***

20% after deductible

20% coinsurance


Drug deductible (per plan year)

Retail Short-Term

(up to a 31-day supply) • Generic copay • Brand copay (preferred list) • Brand copay (non-preferred list)

Retail Maintenance

(after first fill; up to a 31-day supply) • Generic copay • Brand copay (preferred list) • Brand copay (non-preferred list)

$35 copay 25% coinsurance (min. $60)*** 50% coinsurance (min $105)***

Mail Order and Retail-Plus

(up to a 90-day supply) • Generic copay • Brand copay (preferred list) • Brand copay (non-preferred list)

Specialty Drugs Participant pays

20% coinsurance (min $200; max $900)

*No coverage for non-network services; see TRS Enrollment Guide for more information. **The individual out-of-pocket maximum only includes covered expenses incurred by that individual. ***If the patient obtains a brand-name drug when a generic equivalent is available, the patient will be responsible for the generic copay plus the cost difference between the brand-name drug and the generic drug. ****Some drugs are covered 100%.

2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


YOUR Benefits

Tuition aid and housing assistance Several programs provide tuition aid, exemptions and grants, and housing assistance for educators. More information and links to the following programs are available at teacher_resources/financial_assistance.

Tuition/fee grants and exemptions Federal program

The federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program is a non-need-based program providing up to $4,000 per year to undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students who agree to teach for four years in a high-need field in a low-income school (within eight years of completing the program for which the TEACH Grant was awarded). Also eligible are current teachers or retirees with expertise in a high-need field pursuing a master’s degree, and current or former teachers pursuing certification through a highquality alternative certification route (Note: additional requirements apply). Go to for details. Federal budget cuts have led to reductions in TEACH disbursement.

Loan deferment/forgiveness

The Income-Based Repayment program caps monthly federal loan payments at an affordable level based on income and family size, and forgives any debt and interest that remains after 20 years for borrowers after July 1, 2014, or 25 years for borrowers before July 1, 2014. In some cases, borrowers may be eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program discharges any remaining debt after at least 10 years of full-time employment in public service, including jobs in public education. The borrower must have made 120 payments on or after Oct. 1, 2007, as part of the Federal Direct Loan program to obtain this benefit. (Since July 1, 2008, borrowers could consolidate into a Direct Loan to qualify. However, only payments made on the new Direct Consolidation Loan count toward the required 120 payments.) It covers federal Stafford, PLUS, or consolidation loans in the Direct Loan program. Borrowers with FFEL loans must switch to the Direct Loan program.

The Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Program provides up to $2,500 annually in loan repayment assistance for eligible teachers who:

Teachers who received federal student loans and now serve in a designated low-income school or in a subject-matter shortage area may be able to cancel or defer certain student loans. Some Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program benefits increased from $5,000 to $17,500 for teachers meeting the requirements.

1. submit an annual application to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board;

Housing assistance

State programs

2. are currently teaching full time at the preschool, primary or secondary level in a Texas public school; and 3. are certified and teach full time in a field OR at a campus identified by TEA as experiencing a teacher shortage in the academic year for which the application is submitted. The aggregate maximum for loan repayment amounts is $20,000. Participation in the program is limited to five years. Annual loan repayments are disbursed after verification of eligible teaching for a complete academic year, and are made co-payable to the participant and the holder of the loan. The Education Aide Exemption program allows any current school employee who has worked as an educational aide for at least one of the last five years to qualify for college tuition and fee exemptions while seeking teacher certification. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board oversees state tuition assistance programs. Call 800-242-3062. Applications are available for the Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program. Those who demonstrate high academic achievement as math or science majors are encouraged to teach math or science in Texas public schools for at least eight years, with the first four years at Title I schools. Selected applicants may qualify for up to $5,000 in student loan repayment assistance for each completed academic year.

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Educators are eligible for several programs benefiting homebuyers operated by the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation. The Homes for Texas Heroes and Home Sweet Texas Home Loan programs provide low-interest 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans to eligible homebuyers. Additionally, the Mortgage Credit Certificate program reduces tax liability. To qualify, homebuyers must meet program requirements, including income and home purchase price limits. State-certified K-12 teachers may be eligible for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Good Neighbor Next Door program. Go to for more information.

MoRe foR You

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015. ESSA is the main body of federal legislation governing public education.

Title I: Standards/Assessment/ Accountability/Educator Quality Standards

ESSA requires each state to establish challenging state academic standards in mathematics, reading/language arts, science and any other subject determined by the state, that are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the state and relevant career and technical education standards. ESSA allows states to adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities if they are aligned with the challenging state academic standards noted above and reflect professional judgment as to the highest possible standards achievable by such students.


States receiving Title I funds are required to assess reading/ language arts and mathematics every year in grades 3-8, as well as one year in the 9-12 grade span (Texas currently requires students to pass Algebra I and English I and II end-of-course exams to graduate). States also are required to administer a science assessment annually in at least one grade in each of the

following grade spans: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12. Texas meets these requirements. ESSA allows school districts to use locally selected, nationally recognized high school academic assessments in lieu of the state high school assessments, if approved by the state. However, the tests must be aligned with the state academic content standards, address the depth and breadth of such standards, and be equivalent in content coverage, difficulty, and quality to the state-designed assessments. They must also provide comparable, valid, and reliable data on academic achievement, as compared to the state-designed assessments, for all students and for each subgroup of students among all local school districts within the state. The Texas State ESSA Plan does not currently contain provisions addressing this. ESSA requires participation in the grades 4 and 8 reading and math sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress provided that the federal government pays for it.

Student participation requirements

ESSA requires states to annually measure the achievement of not less than 95 percent of the students in the state on the required state assessments and to explain how they will factor the 95 percent participation requirement — both for students overall and for each student group — into their accountability system. The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that a participation Continued 2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


MORe foR You rate of less than 95 percent on statewide math and reading/ language arts assessments will be included on the Closing the Gaps domain (the third domain in the state accountability system).

Special education students

ESSA puts a state-level cap of 1 percent on the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take an alternate state assessment, which must be aligned with challenging state academic standards. However, ESSA also allows states to seek a cap waiver from the U.S. secretary of education. Texas was granted a waiver from the cap for 2018-19.

English learners

States must assess students in English who have attended school in the U.S. for three or more consecutive school years, unless the state determines, on a case-by-case basis, that administering assessments in another language would likely yield more accurate and reliable information regarding what the student knows, in which case they can do so for an additional two consecutive years. Texas chose to assess and report the performance of the student on state math/ELA assessments in the first year of enrollment in a school, but exclude the results of these assessments in the state accountability system in the first year; and include the results in the second year and beyond.

8th-graders taking high school math assessments

ESSA allows states to exempt any eighth-grader from taking the eighth-grade math assessment if the student takes an end-ofcourse exam that the state typically administers to meet the act’s high school math assessment requirements, the results of which are used for reporting on/accountability for the eighth-grade math assessment, and the student takes an EOC in high school that is more advanced than the EOC taken in eighth grade, the results of which are used for reporting/accountability for high school math assessment. Texas will require eighth-graders taking the Algebra I EOC to take the SAT or ACT in high school.


ESSA requires that states adopt state accountability systems based on the challenging state academic standards for reading/ language arts and math, as well as on ambitious state-designed long-term goals for all students and separately for each subgroup of students. Texas uses Domain 3/Closing the Gaps of its 3-domain state accountability system to incorporate the accountability requirements of ESSA (for more information on the ESSA indicators in Domain 3, go to Based on the performance of schools and subgroups in schools on the indicators, states are required to “meaningfully differentiate” public schools in the state on an annual basis. The state ESSA plan provides that the Closing the Gaps score will be computed based on a weighted average of the indicators computed from the number of items meeting targets divided by the number of items evaluated.

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ESSA requires that states identify the bottom-performing 5 percent of Title I schools and any high school failing to graduate at least 67 percent of students for comprehensive support and intervention. For purposes of determining the lowest-performing 5 percent of campuses, the Texas State ESSA Plan provides that schools will be identified based upon their accountability rating in Domain 3 of the state accountability system as follows: the weighted average for Domain 3 will be scaled to grades and rank ordered to identify the bottom-performing 5 percent of campuses. ESSA also requires that states annually identify any campus with one or more “consistently underperforming” student subgroups under the accountability system for targeted support and improvement. The Texas State ESSA Plan defines “consistently underperforming” as having one or more student subgroups that do not meet interim goals for the Domain 3 indicators for three consecutive years.

Educator quality Teachers

One of the provisions eliminated by the Every Student Succeeds Act was the former NCLB requirement for all teachers of core academic subjects to be “highly qualified.” Instead, ESSA requires that state-submitted plans contain assurances regarding how the state will ensure that all teachers and paraprofessionals working in schools receiving Title I funds meet applicable state certification and licensure requirements, and a description of how low-income and minority children enrolled in these schools are not served at disproportionate rates by ineffective, out-of-field or inexperienced teachers, as well as the measures the state will use to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the state with respect to the above. The measure that TEA uses to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the state equity plan for teacher excellence is the Texas Equity Toolkit ( The plan provides that various strategies will be used to address equity gaps with regard to access to excellent teachers, as well as insufficient training and support for teachers. Strategies will include continued support of the implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (see pages 20-21) and the Educator Excellence Innovation grant program, as well as “lesson study,” an inquiry based, job-embedded professional development process where teachers work collaboratively to develop, teach, and assess research-based lessons.


ESSA requires states to continue the same professional standards for Title I paraprofessionals that were in place under the No Child Left Behind Act. For more information on paraprofessional requirements, go to


ACE schools 4, 35 Administrative leave 22-23 Admission, Review and Dismissal committee 54 Appraisal 20-21 Assessment 37-39 benchmark tests 37 calendar 38 changes 4-5 end-of-course 37-39 failure 38-39 promotion requirements 38-39 release of tests, details 39 schedule 39 security 39 special education students 38 STAAR 37-39 Bullying 42 Certification 15-18 by exam 15 continuing professional education requirements 15-18 criminal background checks/ fingerprinting 17, 31 exam 15 failure to maintain 17 out-of-field assignment 16 out-of-state/country 16 renewal 15-18 Charter schools 19 Child abuse/neglect 33 Class size 28 Continuing professional education (CPE) 15-18 Contracts 11 Corporal punishment 27 Criminal background checks/ fingerprinting 17, 31 Criminal conduct of students 50 Curriculum 36 David’s Law 42 Diabetes management plan 30 Discipline 27, 44-48, 52 Disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) 44-48 Districts of Innovation 35 District/campus partnerships 4, 19, 35

Donation of surplus food 30 Drugs, psychotropic 30 Duty-free lunch 29 Electronic/social media 9, 24 Evaluation, teacher 20-21 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 61-62 paraprofessionals 62 students 61 teachers demonstrating competency 61-62 special education 62 Fair Labor Standards Act 13-14 Family and Medical Leave Act 28 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 23, 34 Foundation graduation plan 40-41 Government Pension Offset 57 Grading authority 29 Graduation requirements 40-41 Grievances 22-23, 31 Head lice reporting 30 Health insurance 58-59 Immunity from liability 32 Inclusion 54 Individualized Education Program 52-53 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 51-53 Instructional day 26 Instructional materials 32 Internet use 9, 24 Job postings 32 Leave types 28 Legislative involvement 6-7 Limited English Proficient students 62 Mentor teacher 10 Military service 28, 57 Mortgage assistance 60 Nepotism 32 Nonrenewal 11 Nursing mothers 14 Nutrition policy 30 Overtime for paraprofessionals 13 Paperwork reduction 28 Paraprofessionals wages/rights 13-14 required qualifications 62

Parents complaints 9 rights 34 Payroll deduction 32 Physical education 36 Planning/preparation period 10, 23, 29 Pledge/one minute of silence 19, 28 Political activity/professional association membership 32 Principal, meeting with 23 Professional development 26-27 Professionalism 9, 24 communication with students 9, 24 electronic media/social networks 24 Promotion requirements (student) 38 Psychotropic drugs 30 Resignation 11 Restraint 53 Retirement — ­ See Teacher Retirement System Salary schedule 12 School board, communication with 32 School marshals 46 School safety 27, 49 School year (length, start date) 26 Sexual assault, harassment 42-43, 46 Site-based decision-making 8 Social networking/electronic media 24 Social Security 57 Special education students 51-54 ARD committee 54 assessment 4, 38, 51 discipline 52 eligibility and referral for services 51-54 inclusion 54 Individualized Education Program 51-53 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 51-53 referral 51 restraint 53 Specific Learning Disability 51 STAAR 37-39 Staff development 4, 26-27 State Board for Educator Certification 15-18

Students assessment 4,37-39, 61-62 code of conduct 50-51 corporal punishment 27 criminal conduct 50 diabetes management plan 30 discipline 27, 44-48 expulsion 45-48 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 23, 34 parental rights 34 peer grading 34 promotion 38 records, confidentiality of 34, 51 relationship with peers 42-43 with teachers 9, 23 removal from bus 45 removal from class 44-48 search 34 sex offender 24, 46 special education 51-54 suspension 44-48 Threat assessment 49 Teacher Retirement System 55-57 calculation of benefits 56 contributions 55 disability 55 early retirement 55 health insurance 58-59 partial lump sum option 55 retire/rehire 56 service credit 57 standard annuity 55 Testing — See Assessment Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills 36 Texas Examination of Educator Standards 16 Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System 20-21 Textbooks 32 Tuition aid (for teachers) 60 Use of force 27 What’s Ahead 4-5 What’s New 3 Windfall Elimination Provision 57

2019-20 TCTA Survival Guide


Texas Classroom Teachers Association PO Box 1489 Austin, TX 78767-1489 888-879-8282|


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OUR SeRvice is out of this woRld! Inside this Survival Guide you’ll find up-to-date information on educationrelated topics for Texas teaching professionals. This guide is put together by our lobby team and staff attorneys to help members understand their rights and responsibilities. We encourage you to read it, keep it and refer to it throughout the school year. TCTA is so much more than professional liability insurance. Members also benefit from access to experienced staff attorneys at no extra cost, our top-ranked teacher lobby team, our award-winning publications and our first-class service. Tell your colleagues about your experience and help them make The Educated ChoiceŽ to join TCTA.