TCTA | Teachers in Dallas file grievance over appraisals
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Teachers in Dallas file grievance over appraisals

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Several teachers in Dallas ISD filed a grievance regarding their appraisal. The district denied the grievances, claiming that they had not been filed in time, according to the district's grievance procedure. The teachers appealed that decision and it was ultimately considered by the Texas Supreme Court, which held that although it would not rule on the teacher's arguments regarding their appraisal, the grievances had been filed in a timely manner and should be considered by the district.

Dallas Independent School District developed an evaluation procedure called the Teacher Excellence Initiative. On May 22, 2014, the district's board of trustees voted to adopt TEI beginning with the 2014-15 school year. All teachers were informed about the new system. For example, the district published a "Guidebook" in May 2014 that explained TEI and informed teachers that their annual final evaluations for the 2014-15 year, called scorecards, would be sent in the fall of 2015. Teachers were given a day and a half of training on TEI in August 2014.

The scorecards affected teacher pay. Each scorecard rated a teacher based on three categories: classroom performance, student achievement, and student perception. The student achievement component is based in part on students' standardized test scores, including the STAAR test. STAAR results were not available until after the 2014-15 school year ended, which meant the scorecards could not be prepared before the year ended. On Sept. 18, 2015, teachers received their scorecards for the 2014-15 school year.

Some Dallas ISD teachers were unhappy with TEI and with their scorecards. Under the district's procedures, a grievance must be filed "no later than 10 [business] days from the date the employee first knew or, with reasonable diligence, should have known of the decision or action giving rise to the grievance or complaint." The scorecards were distributed on Sept. 18, 2015, and grievances were filed by the unhappy teachers 10 business days later, on Oct. 2.

The district dismissed the teachers' grievances, finding that they were aware of the TEI process when it was adopted in 2014. The teachers appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas, which reversed this decision.

The Supreme Court held that the commissioner of education did have authority to consider the appeal and that the affected teachers had not been “aggrieved” until the date they received their scorecards (Sept. 18, 2015). For this reason, the grievances filed within the local grievance policy deadline from that date (on Oct. 2, 2015) were timely. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the commissioner and ordered him to consider the grievances.

The grievances are still pending further review by the commissioner. We will provide updates once the courts have issued further rulings.