The chasm dividing school curriculum and technology departments just got narrower.

Today, Burleson ISD launched BISD Tech and T-TESS, a website designed to help district teachers weave technology into classrooms to improve student learning and thereby gain a higher score on the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, or T-TESS.

The new standard by which Texas teachers are professionally appraised, T-TESS replaced the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) on September 1, 2016.

Designed to capture the holistic nature of teaching, T-TESS centers on a feedback loop between teachers and students – with emphasis on how learners respond to an educator’s instructional practices. The four T-TESS Domains – which cover planning, instruction, learning environment, and professional practices/responsibilities – are divided into 16 subdomains, known throughout Texas-educator circles as Dimensions.

The BISD Tech and T-TESS website fulfills a need in Burleson schools. Phase 2 of the district’s 1:1 technology rollout begins in fall 2017. Chromebooks will be issued to all students in grades 9–12, completing a two-phase initiative that began in September 2016, when Chromebooks were delivered to 3rd- through 8th-graders district wide.

With school-issued devices soon to be in the hands of most district students, the BISD Learning Technologies Department wanted to give teachers a portal through which they could examine lessons, classroom procedures, and professional development alongside technology tools, sound instructional concepts, and T-TESS requirements. In addition, the department sought to give BISD principals a resource they could reference when evaluating instructional practices observed in 1:1 classrooms. Thus, BISD Tech and T-TESS was born.

Visitors to the site get their technology and T-TESS questions answered in five easy steps – beginning with the homepage, which prompts users to select one of four T-TESS Domains.

Step 2 reveals a list of Dimensions, or subcategories of the chosen Domain. Users select a Dimension which takes them to Step 3. There, visitors review the T-TESS rubric for the chosen Dimension, along with a list of technology-infused instructional strategies harnessed to meet requirements in the Distinguished column, or the highest rung of the T-TESS Dimension rubric.

Clicking an instructional strategy moves an educator to Step 4, where he or she peruses a list of technology tools utilized in the instructional strategy. At this point, the teacher or administrator can choose to explore a technology tool by clicking a link leading outside BISD site. Or, the educator can dive one more level to explore a list of questions to consider when integrating the instructional strategy or tool in class.

Throughout spring and summer 2017, the BISD Learning Technologies Department is offering more than 170 hours in professional development sessions – all of which are designed with the higher scales of T-TESS Dimensions in mind.

Matthew Kitchens
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Bridging T-TESS and Technology: A Helpful Resource for Teachers and Principals
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