Turn to Section 11.164 of the Texas Education Code. There you will discover the Paperwork Reduction Act. In its original form, it went into effect September 1, 1997. The amended version, passed during the 78th Legislative Session, went into effect September 1, 2003. Rather than interpreting it, I want you to read the law (highlights are mine) as it stands:

(a) The board of trustees of each school district shall limit redundant requests for information and the number and length of written reports that a classroom teacher is required to prepare. A classroom teacher may not be required to prepare any written information other than:

(1) any report concerning the health, safety, or welfare of a student;

(2) a report of a student's grade on an assignment or examination;

(3) a report of a student's academic progress in a class or course;

(4) a report of a student's grades at the end of each grade reporting period;

(5) a textbook report;

(6) a unit or weekly lesson plan that outlines, in a brief and general manner, the information to be presented during each period at the secondary level or in each subject or topic at the elementary level;

(7) an attendance report;

(8) any report required for accreditation review;

(9) any information required by a school district that relates to a complaint, grievance, or actual or potential litigation and that requires the classroom teacher's involvement; or

(10) any information specifically required by law, rule, or regulation.

(b) The board of trustees shall review paperwork requirements imposed on classroom teachers and shall transfer to existing non-instructional staff a reporting task that can reasonably be accomplished by that staff.

(c) This section does not preclude a school district from collecting essential information, in addition to information specified under Subsection (a), from a classroom teacher on agreement between the classroom teacher and the district.

I can tell you that during the 10-year span from 2003 until I retired in 2013, I lived through repeated violations of this Texas law. I believe most, if not all, Texas teachers would say the same, even today. Now there is legal precedence regarding this Texas law. I first read about Ysleta ISD and Commissioner of Education v. Edith Porter, Jennifer Adams, and Rita Vasquez Appeal from 261st District Court of Travis County (memorandum opinion by Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez) on the Texas AFT web site. The school district and the Commissioner of Education filed the appeal of the trial court’s judgment. Chief Justice Valdez rendered his decision, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment, April 13, 2015.

Look above at item number six regarding lesson plans. In this recent case, the appeals court affirmed that a school district may only require a teacher to “produce in writing what is listed in the statute.” As the Texas AFT web site reports from court documents: 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 further ruled that certain information, because it is not information taught to students could NOT be required:

1. Assessments

2. Differentiated activities and/or modifications for special populations

3. Cognitive level

Administrators can require that teachers use a lesson plan template and that they include the resources the students will use. Teachers can also be required to include TEKS and TAKS objectives; however, teachers may only be required to reference the objectives not to write them out.

Texas’ Paper Reduction Act clearly reads that it is the duty of the board of trustees to make sure this law is not violated. Does your school board abide by this law?

NOTE: You can read Chief Justice Valdez’s decision in its entirety at http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/thirteenth-court-of-appeals/2015/13-13-00409-cv.html

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with their business communications and also works for a McAllen-based alternative certification program. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com.