Putting Some Teeth into the Texas Paperwork Reduction Act

The Education Code has contained a so-called Paperwork Reduction Act pretty much in its current form since 2003, but the law has not always lived up to its stated intent to “limit redundant requests for information and the number and length of written reports that a classroom teacher is required to prepare.” Hence we are pleased to report that a state appeals court has recently decided a case out of Ysleta ISD that puts some teeth into the law’s restriction on lesson-plan requirements.

The decision in Ysleta ISD and Commissioner of Education v. Porter addresses the lesson-plan provision of Texas Education Code Section 11.164, which says a “teacher may not be required to prepare any written information“ except for a lesson plan that outlines in a “brief and general manner the information to be presented” in class. The court affirmed that a school district may only require a teacher to “produce in writing what is listed in the statute.” Accordingly, it determined that a school district may only require that a teacher write a lesson plan that “outlines the information presented, which by definition includes what is taught and the activities used to teach the lesson.”

As the court put it:

The phrase, “information to be presented,” is intended to prohibit school districts from requiring lesson plans that contain anything other than an outline, which is brief and general, of the information that a teacher plans to teach during a particular class period and the activities the students will do in order to learn the subject matter.

The court of appeals, applying that interpretation to the information at issue in the Ysleta case, agreed with the trial court that certain information could not be required because it was not information taught to the students:  assessments, differentiated activities and/or modifications for special populations, and cognitive level. In each of these instances, the court found that these items are not information taught to the students and so cannot be required. Texas AFT general counsel Martha Owen has prepared a helpful matrix illustrating what the court said could and could not be required in a lesson plan:

 SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS

FEATURE/ELEMENT PERMISSIBLE NOT PERMISSIBLE
Lesson plan template X
TEKS or TAKS objectives* X
Resources students will use X
Assessments X
Cognitive levels X
Differentiated Activities/ Modifications X

 

*Just referenced, not written out

Source: Ysleta ISD and Commissioner of Education v. Porter, et al., __S.W.3d ____, 2015 WL 1735542 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi 2015, no pet.).

 

 

 

Tags: