Category Archives: certification

Highlights of today’s SBEC meeting

SBECThe State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) is meeting today in Austin to take up an agenda involving a few actions items and several discussions. The topic of Districts of Innovation (DOIs) has also made several appearances at today’s meeting.

 

Action Items

The action items for today’s meeting included preliminary action on new passing standards for out-of-country certification candidates required to show evidence of English language proficiency via the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A committee of stakeholders proposed minimum cut scores of 24 for the speaking portion of the exam, 25 on the reading, 25 on the listening, and 21 on the writing. The board also took a preliminary step to disallow out-of-country candidates to show English language proficiency solely based on the fact that they earned a degree from an institution of higher education that delivers instruction in English. The board also took final action on revisions to late renewal requirements for certificate holders. The new language clarifies processes for certification renewals that are submitted not more than six months after the renewal deadline and those submitted more than six months after the deadline.

 

Discussion Items

The discussion items before the board today included an update on work to redesign the principal and teacher surveys for the Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs (ASEP); a presentation on the plan to implement the recent changes to rule chapters involving educator preparation programs and their candidates; and an initial discussion regarding future extensive changes to the Standard School Counselor Certificate requirements and standards, as well as additional changes to the Standard Educational Diagnostician Certificate.

The board also received an update on the SBEC directive to explore best pathways for training early childhood through grade 3 teachers. Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff updated the board on the decision by the 85th Texas Legislature to pass legislation mandating the creation of an Early Childhood through Grade 3 Certificate. Staff expanded the discussion to include an educator certification structure redesign to best accommodate new certificate and district needs. The board approved a Classroom Teacher Standards Advisory Committee, which includes ATPE members, to immediately begin work on addressing this charge.

 

Districts of Innovation

The topic of Districts of Innovation (DOI) also came up several times at today’s meeting. First, in relation to approving the rule review process for the SBEC chapter involving school personnel assignments, TEA staff presented data on district’s certification exemptions under DOI. To date, 416 Texas districts across the state have exempted themselves from certification requirements. Examples of district reasons for certification exemptions shared by TEA included the desire to hire trade professionals to teach CTE courses (an area where state law already grants considerable flexibility to districts); the flexibility to allow teachers to teach outside their field of certification; the intent to hire community college instructors and university professors; and the need to fill science, math and foreign language classrooms in rural areas of the state. The data presented also showed that 127 districts have exempted themselves from the requirement to notify parents of a student who is taught by an uncertified teacher, and 12 DOIs will not follow state law requiring districts to void the contract of a probationary educator who fails to complete all certification requirements in the three years the candidate is given to do so.

Later, TEA attorneys also explained to members of the board how it is possible for DOIs to hire educators who previously had their SBEC certificates revoked  - even permanently – because state law fails to prevent such conduct, despite specific provisions in place for charter schools given similar flexibility.

Bills addressing educators in the 85th Texas Legislature

Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hands

Public education advocates mostly successful in fighting bad educator preparation policy

Teachers, districts, administrators, college deans, and more were unified this session in opposition to educator preparation policies that were bad for students. While our unity fended off some of the worst pieces, a handful of educator preparation bills that roll back standards adopted by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) prevailed. A key piece of legislation opposed by the education community was SB 1278 by Chairman Taylor (R-Friendswood), as well as its companion bill HB 2924 by Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston). The majority of that legislation failed to pass, but one piece did and sits on the Governor’s desk.

That piece allows for long term substitute teaching to count in lieu of minimal field-based experience hours required of certain educator candidates before entering the classroom as the teacher-of-record on a probationary certificate. That language was also included as a standalone bill, HB 3044 by Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Humble), and was ultimately added to SB 1839 in the final hours of the session. SB 1839 was this session’s catch all bill for various preparation, certification, and professional policies (more about the pieces falling under the latter two categories in the remaining post). The bill also requires the sharing of relevant PEIMS data with educator preparation programs for use in assessing their programs, adds required educator preparation instruction in digital learning, and gives the commissioner the ability to write rules regarding flexibility for certain out-of-state certificate holders.

A law ATPE and others opposed that did pass involved training requirements for non-teaching certificates. The bill, SB 1963 by Sen. Brandon Creighton and companion bill HB 2775 by Rep. Dade Phelan, prohibits the SBEC from requiring programs to deliver one or more face-to-face support visits for principal, librarian, counselor, and diagnostician candidates during their clinical experience. SB 1963 passed as a standalone measure and was also included in SB 1839.

Early childhood certificate, professional development on digital learning make it to Governor

Pending the Govenor’s signature, teachers will soon have the option to seek a certificate specific to early childhood through grade 3 education. The SBEC is already in the process of determining the best way to train and certify teachers to teach our state’s early learners, but HB 2039 adds the required certificate and associated training into law. The language was also included in SB 1839, where additional language on professional development for digital learning and teaching methods is also housed. That was originally housed in a bill by Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), HB 4064.

Another topic discussed throughout the session and included in several bills involved training for educators in methods specific to students with disabilities and students with dyslexia. HB 2209 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) and companion bill SB 529 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) failed to pass or find a vehicle to ride to the governor’s desk, but they would have required training for educators in the universal design for learning framework, among other training for educating students with disabilities.

HB 1886 by Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) requires the development of a list of dyslexia training opportunities for educators, employs a dyslexia specialist at all education service centers, and addresses several aspects of screening and transitioning for dyslexia students. The bill was sent to the governor for his signature.

Teacher mentor and appraisal bills bite the dust

Over the interim, Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) visited with educators in schools across his district and developed a major takeaway that led to his filing of HB 816, a bill that outlined some requirements regarding teacher mentoring. Rep. Bernal, who also served as vice-chair of the House Public Education Committee this session, recognized that the addition of a mentor program in Texas could strengthen Texas teachers and minimize the cost and negative impacts of high teacher turnover rates. The bill made its way through the House chamber but hit a wall once it was sent to the Senate, where it never moved.

Another bill supported by ATPE received even less love. HB 3692 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) would have prohibited the state from using student standardized assessments when determining the performance of students under the teacher appraisal system. The bill got a hearing in the House, but was left pending.

A bill involving mentor teachers and teacher appraisals, among other things, HB 2941 by Rep. Harold Dutton and its companion bill SB 2200 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) didn’t receive the votes to advance beyond their respective chambers.

Educator misconduct omnibus bill becomes law

Right off the bat, the legislature began its 85th session with legislation to address a type of educator misconduct that became the subject of many news stories over the interim: “passing the trash,” which involves educators accused of inappropriate relationships being dismissed from their jobs but having the chance to work in other schools because the appropriate administrators failed to report the incident or share their knowledge of the incident with future employers. Ultimately, the legislature passed SB 7 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), a compilation of several pieces of legislation filed to address this issue and others.

SB 7 adds to the punishments and protocols for reporting, requires training in educator preparation programs, adds to continuing education requirements, requires school districts to adopt electronic communication policies, increases penalties for educators found to engage in inappropriate relationships, and revokes the pension annuities of educators convicted of certain types of criminal misconduct. The bill was signed into law last week by Governor Abbott.

Districts of innovation educator loophole addressed, overall law left alone

SB 7 also seeks to address another issue that arose over the interim, this time because of legislation passed last session. As more and more districts opted to become a district of innovation (DOI) and certification became one of the most popular exemptions under the law, it became more and more concerning that the state lacked the ability to sanction and prevent from future school employment any non-certified educators who engage in prohibited misconduct. While the new law is full of efforts to close this specific DOI loophole for non-certified educators, lawmakers ultimately did nothing with bills that sought to address the DOI law itself.

For instance, HB 972 by Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) would have partly disallowed districts from exempting themselves from teacher certification laws by disallowing a district from assigning most students in first through sixth grade to an uncertified teacher for two consecutive years (unless the district gets permission from parents). The bill passed the House but was not given a hearing in the Senate. Similarly, HB 1867 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would have removed educator certification from the exemptions available to districts under DOI. That bill failed to pass either chamber.

Another popular exemption under districts of innovation, or rather the most popular exemption, is the school start date. Bills to alter the school start date or remove it from possible exemptions under DOI also failed to make it through the legislative process. SB 2052 by Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), which would have done both, received a hearing in his committee but was left pending where it died.

Grab bag of other educator bills face different fates

Last session the Texas legislature changed the requirements for the amount of time a school must operate from a certain number of days to an equivalent number of minutes. The change resulted in a situation where teacher contracts, which are still based on days (roughly days in the school year plus service hours in a school year), didn’t accurately align with the new school schedules. Language to address this issue was added to HB 2442 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian). The bill gives the commissioner authority to write rules granting flexibility of teacher contract days and was sent to the Governor.

Two other bills by Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) weren’t as lucky. SB 1317 would have prevented a district from requiring a teacher to report to work more than seven days before the first day of school, with an exemption for new teachers who couldn’t be called in more than ten days prior. SB 1854 would have reduced unnecessary paperwork currently required of classroom teachers in schools. Neither made it through the full legislative process.

SBEC delays potential early childhood education certificate

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met last week for its first regular meeting of 2017. The board welcomed its newest member, Yes Prep’ alternative certification program Director Carlos Villagrana, and continued discussion on the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) interest in developing a Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 3 Educator Certificate.

As we previously reported, TEA, through its Office of Early Childhood Education, began discussions with SBEC in December 2016 regarding internal interest in developing a new certificate dedicated to early childhood education. Following the December discussion, the board instructed TEA to (1) gather input from stakeholders on the new certificate and (2) explore the possibility of an early childhood endorsement that would be added to the existing Early Childhood through Grade 6 Certificate (EC-6), the current generalist certificate that would remain under either scenario.

TEA gathered input via a public survey tool and through conversations with stakeholders. When the data from the survey was presented to SBEC at last Friday’s meeting, members of the board expressed frustration over the fact that the survey and subsequent discussion failed to involve consideration of an endorsement, instead focusing solely on the potential new certificate.

Early Childhood EducationOne board member also highlighted that data from the survey showed that the majority of respondents expressed some level of concern with offering a new Prekindergarten-Grade 3 Certificate in addition to the current EC-6. Public testifiers were largely in support of the discussion to offer more specific and focused training to educators of early childhood educators, but several expressed concerns with the additional certification. I previously outlined some of the concerns based on historical context here.

Ultimately, SBEC instructed TEA to take a step back in order to gather better information and stakeholder input on both options. The item will be back before the board at its next meeting in June.

 

TEA seeks input on Early Childhood certification issue

Early Childhood EducationThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) is seeking input from stakeholders on the potential addition of a new Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 3 Educator Certificate, which would be offered in addition to the Early Childhood-Grade 6 Core Subjects Certificate currently administered by the agency. TEA has begun discussions with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) regarding adding such a certificate and would like to utilize feedback from the survey when addressing SBEC about the idea at its March meeting.

Your input as an educator working within the Texas public school system will be valuable to TEA and SBEC as they consider moving forward on this possible new certificate. The survey is open until Friday, February 24 and can be found here.

Background and Context

Supporters of adding a more narrow certificate field for early childhood educators believe it would help teachers assigned to those early grades focus on the needs of their students. More specified certification and training gives teachers in the classroom a more specific skill set, knowledge, and understanding of the grades they go on to teach. Educators know that the way one teaches and the content one teaches vary significantly between grade levels. Certainly, early education looks much different than education in upper-level primary grades and at the secondary level.

A more specified certification is not a new concept to Texas. Many Texas educators will remember a time when teachers could get either an Early Childhood-Grade 4 Certification or a Grades 4-8 Certification. The vast majority of teachers sought and received an Early Childhood-Grade 4 Certification, leaving few available to fill the remaining primary school classrooms in grades 5 and 6. The unfortunate reality under this scenario was that many teachers were asked to teach outside of their certification area without corresponding training and additional support. Recognizing this wasn’t a good scenario for the teacher or the students in those classrooms, the state moved to the more general Early Childhood-Grade 6 Core Subjects Certification that is now available.

TEA has stated that it is not proposing to do away with the Early Childhood-Grade 6 Core Subjects Certification. The new Pre-K to Grade 3 Educator Certificate would be offered simply as an alternative to the current general certificate that covers more grades. However, some worry that if more certification candidates choose to pursue early childhood certification instead of the EC-6 certificate, then the supply of those teachers will outpace the demand in terms of job openings, and teaching assignments in grades 4 through 6 will become harder for districts to staff. This could lead to another waiver situation as was experienced a decade ago when teachers certified in grades K-4 were forced to teach grades 5 or 6 in order to keep their jobs.

ATPE encourages educators to share their feedback on this idea with TEA before the survey closes on Feb. 24.

Recap of SBEC meetings

The State Board for Educator Certification met twice late last week for a Thursday work session focused on educator preparation and its regularly scheduled Friday board meeting.

The work session was primarily informational, with Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff presenting on the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative pathways, a look at data on Texas teachers, trends in national educator preparation, and issues facing educator preparation in Texas. Some discussion among board members was facilitated on each topic.

Educator preparation was also a major topic at the board’s regular board meeting on Friday, where the agenda contained two action items and two discussion items on the subject. All of the items garnered significant testimony from EPPs throughout Texas who felt the changes were significant and the process should be slowed. Perhaps the most contentious item for EPPs dealt with the accountability system that governs their accreditation. The proposal before the board added a new definition for “pass rate,” new performance standards, and a teacher satisfaction survey, among other things. Ultimately, the board chose to postpone the item to the next meeting, but added parameters for TEA when drafting the revised proposal.

Also pertaining to EPPs, the board advanced a proposal covering provisions for educator preparation candidates and discussed two additional proposals dealing with requirements for EPPs and professional educator preparation and certification. ATPE supported the proposal in its current form. While not a radical change, it would make small, positive changes to the types of certifications and permits available. For example, new limits on certain certificates and permits would seek to reduce the amount of time it takes candidates seeking standard certification to complete all requirements of educator preparation. Also, the addition of a new certificate type would better support first year certificate holders who have not completed all requirements of an EPP, but are in the classroom full-time as teachers of record.

Educator preparation was not the only topic of discussion. The board was posted to take initial action on a proposal to restructure the Core Subjects EC-6 certification exam, removing the fifth domain of the test (Fine Arts, Health, and Physical Education). While several testifiers were in favor of the new format, TEA changed its recommendation to the board, asking that it be withdrawn to provide for more time to flesh out all of the issues. The board also discussed an educator discipline proposal that primarily dealt with inappropriate educator-student relationships and mandatory minimum sanctions for certain offenses. The board will take action on both items at future meetings.

The EPP issue will remain a hot topic for several meetings to come as EPPs made their opposition to the higher standards clear. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for future SBEC updates.

SBEC meets to cover lengthy agenda

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met in its second board meeting of the year on Friday. The board tackled a lengthy agenda, which included final adoption of new rules and considerable discussion on educator preparation program (EPP) rules.

Prompted by a bill passed during the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015, SBEC approved final adoption of a new rule that limits the number of times a candidates can attempt a certification exam to five times per exam. The rule includes language that outlines a waiver process where SBEC can approve an additional attempt based on good cause. A handful of waiver requests were reviewed and considered at Friday’s meeting.

The board also voted for final adoption of a new continuing professional education (CPE) opportunity pertaining to training on the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) and new Principal Standards that align with the commissioner’s new principal appraisal system, the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS).

The board wrapped up its meeting with three agenda items pertaining to EPPs. SBEC is in the middle of a process that began last year to review and alter the EPP rule chapters. This portion of the agenda was discussion only, meaning the board was unable to take any action on the information presented, but it still garnered testimony from more than twenty testifiers. Testimony varied in opinion and was on a variety of subjects. This will be a hot topic at the board’s next meeting on June 10 and its summer workshop the day prior.

Other agenda items addressed during last week’s meeting included the approval of accreditation statuses for all Texas EPPs and an update on potential changes to certain “Core Subjects” certification exams. The full agenda can be viewed here.

Recap of State Board for Educator Certification meeting

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met on Friday, Dec. 11, for its final board meeting of the year. In our Teach the Vote weekly review last week, ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday provided the rundown of a major development from that meeting involving the Standard Superintended Certificate; however, educator preparation, certification, and discipline were also on the agenda. These are highlights of the board’s actions.

Standard Superintendent Certificate

As we reported last week, the controversial proposal that removes classroom teaching experience from the certification prerequisites for some superintendent candidates was again an item on SBEC’s Friday agenda after the original proposal was rejected by the State Board of Education. ATPE again testified in opposition to the proposal, stressing the importance of teaching experience in the success of district leaders. Ultimately, the board voted to pass only a portion of the original proposal. Although an improvement from its original version, the revised proposal still fails to require a principal’s certificate or experience teaching in the classroom.

Educator Preparation and Certification

The board is currently in the review period for several of its chapters in rule that pertain to educator preparation and certification in Texas. The majority of those chapters of the Texas Administrative Code are still in the early phase of review, but the review of Chapter 227, Provisions for Educator Preparation Candidates, began earlier this year and final revisions were adopted at Friday’s board meeting.

Among the changes were revisions required by two House bills that ATPE worked to pass during the recent legislative session. HB 1300 made changes to the individual GPA requirement exception that is reserved for educator preparation program (EPP) candidates who are otherwise exceptional but do not meet the 2.5 GPA required for admission. State law allows EPPs to exempt up to ten percent of their candidates in each incoming class for this purpose. With the passage of HB 1300 and adoption of the revised rule, the candidates admitted under this exception must first pass the content knowledge examination. Those legislatively mandated changes must now be reflected in SBEC’s rules within the Texas Administrative Code.

Also pertaining to GPA, HB 2205, an omnibus EPP bill, added a minimum cohort GPA requirement, which similarly must be added to SBEC rules. The adopted rule now requires EPPs to ensure each class of admitted candidates averages a 3.0 GPA. The revisions to chapter 227 lay out additional requirements EPP candidates must meet prior to admission and clarify the requirements of both candidates and programs involving formal and contingency admission.

The remaining chapters pertaining to educator preparation and several chapters addressing educator certification will be reviewed over the next several months. TEA will conduct a stakeholder meeting to review Chapters 228 (Requirements for Educator Preparation Programs), 229 (Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs), 230 (Professional Educator Preparation and Certification), and 232 (General Certification Provisions) this Thursday and ATPE will participate.

Educator Discipline

For roughly the past year, the process by which SBEC handles educator discipline has been in flux. The road to stabilize the process has involved many SBEC board meetings, the Legislature, the creation of the SBEC Board Committee on Educator Discipline, committee meetings, and a stakeholder meeting. At its board meeting last Friday, SBEC voted on several items aimed at re-stabilizing the process.

The SBEC Board Committee on Educator Discipline, which is made up of six members of the full board, proposed recommendations regarding SBEC’s process for investigating and disciplining certified educators. The committee presented a list of 17 recommended board directives intended to clarify to TEA staff SBEC’s expectations for sanctioning certified educators. The committee also presented rule text amendments that reflected the board directives. The board agreed to the committee’s recommended directives and took an initial vote to approve the proposed rule text. The rule text will be published in the Texas Register and open for comment Jan. 1 through Feb. 1. The final vote on the proposal will take place at the next SBEC board meeting in February.

Additionally, because the board felt comfortable with its directives and rule revisions guiding staff, they also chose to delegate back to TEA staff the authority to sign off on agreed orders, a situation where both TEA staff and the educator agree to the terms of a sanction. For reasons of efficiency and suitability, ATPE supports this change.

Other Agenda Items

Finally, the board approved a new advisory committee that will review and make recommendations on classroom teacher standards and elected new board officers. We are pleased that three ATPE board members (Carl Garner, Jayne Serna, and Tonja Gray, pictured below) were selected to serve on the Classroom Teacher Standards Advisory Committee; we know they will represent their profession and colleagues well. The SBEC officers are Bonny Cain, chair; Jill Druesedow, vice-chair; and Suzanne McCall, secretary.

Tonja Grey, Carl Garner, and Jayne Serna

Tonja Gray, Carl Garner, and Jayne Serna

So, while that is a wrap on a busy year for SBEC, next year will bring much more. Stay tuned!

SBEC votes to approve changes to superintendent certification criteria

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Oct. 16, and taking up several agenda items of great interest to the educator community.

First up for debate this morning was a controversial proposal to allow superintendents to become certified without having prior education experience and training that is currently required. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE has been a vocal opponent of the SBEC plan, originally proposed by board member Laurie Bricker, to do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience, a principal’s certificate, and a master’s degree.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

In addition to submitting formal written comments to SBEC, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at SBEC’s August meeting and again today, citing classroom teaching experience as a crucial element in preparing superintendents to lead school districts effectively. After hearing public testimony from all four of the state’s major educator groups along with the Texas Association of School Administrators, board members debated the item for more than an hour this morning before voting to adopt a modified version of the rule. Under the new rule language, candidates may pursue superintendent certification without having prior experience as a certified principal and teacher; however, they will be required to hold a graduate degree and school districts will be required to share with the public their rationale for recommending the hire of such a non-traditional superintendent candidate.

Four SBEC members voted against the rule today, and we appreciate their voicing concerns about the changes to the rule. The no votes came from both superintendents serving on the board: Dr. Susan Hull from Grand Prairie ISD and Dr. Bonnie Cain from Waco ISD, who also serves as board chair. Also casting no votes today were two of the four teachers serving on the board: Suzanne McCall and Brad Allard, who is an ATPE member. Dr. Rex Peebles, who represents the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as a non-voting member of SBEC, also spoke eloquently on the need for transparency and maintaining high standards for superintendent candidates.

While the modified certification rule still does not require superintendents to have teaching experience, ATPE believes it is an improvement from SBEC’s original proposal in that it will restore a process for school districts to make their decisions transparent and will ensure that superintendent candidates have earned a graduate degree.Under state law, the SBEC certification rule change approved today still must be vetted by the State Board of Education, which meets in mid-November. (Related: read ATPE’s press statement on today’s SBEC vote.)

Other issues being discussed at today’s SBEC meeting include changes proposed for educator preparation program admission processes, reciprocity and comparability in certification standards compared to other states and jurisdictions, and new recommendations from the board’s Committee on Educator Discipline for future modifications to disciplinary rules for educators.

SBEC meets tomorrow, will consider new superintendent certification standards

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Oct. 16, in Austin. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and will be live-streamed through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. View the full SBEC meeting agenda here.

One of the hot topics on tomorrow’s SBEC agenda is a scheduled final vote to adopt new standards for certification as a superintendent in Texas. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE opposes an SBEC proposal that would do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience and a master’s degree. ATPE submitted formal written input to SBEC opposing the proposed rule change earlier this month, and ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at an earlier SBEC meeting in August. Read ATPE’s latest press statement about the controversial superintendent certification rule proposal here.SBEC

An SBEC Committee on Educator Discipline is also meeting today to review existing disciplinary policies and the process for sanctioning certified educators accused of misconduct. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote tomorrow and follow us on Twitter for updates on both meetings from ATPE’s Kate Kuhlmann.

ATPE opposes controversial change to superintendent certification rule; submits formal input to SBEC

For the past two months we have regularly reported on the State Board for Educator Certification’s preliminary decision to water down superintendent certification standards in Texas, which would remove the requirement that superintendents first obtain two years of classroom teaching experience, among other crucial qualifications, for some superintendent candidates. Today, ATPE submitted formal comments on behalf of our more than 100,000 educators across the state opposing the controversial plan.

Background:SBEC

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) took the preliminary vote and advanced the proposal in August, despite testimony from ATPE that stressed our members’ belief that classroom teaching experience, in addition to managerial experience and a strong educational background, is a critical contributing factor to the success of an administrator. The hybrid proposal advanced by the board was instigated by two stakeholder groups, one consisting of members from the education community and one consisting of those in business. Each group essentially created a new pathway to becoming a superintendent: substituting education specific managerial experience for principal certification and substituting business experience for principal certification and a master’s degree, respectively. Under the latter pathway presented by representatives of the business community, a district’s board of trustees would be given blanket authority to hire a non-traditional superintendent without proof to parents, school personnel, and taxpayers why such a candidate is otherwise qualified. Ultimately, both pathways were included in the proposed revisions.

Rationale and excerpts of ATPE’s written comments on the proposed rule change:

ATPE’s formal comments submitted today to SBEC again stressed the need for superintendents to bring well-rounded experience to the job, including experience teaching in the classroom, managerial experience, and an advanced educational background:

“ATPE members and educators at all levels across the state support the need for teaching experience prior to obtaining a superintendent certificate, because those working in the field know that every superintendent needs a strong understanding of how education works, the needs of every student, and how administrative influence can affect educational outcomes… ATPE’s superintendent members tell us this teaching experience is critical because without it, administrators cannot fully understand classrooms and the needs of students within them – classrooms and students they make decisions about daily.”

And, as our formal comments stress, ATPE members are not alone in their stance on the issue:

“Educators across the state also support our members’ opinion that high standards and experience in education, in addition to managerial experience, are critical to the success of superintendents. In fact, a 2009 informal survey asked Texas administrators whether the two-year classroom experience requirement in SBEC rules was adequate, and 92 percent of respondents agreed it was insufficient.”

Proponents of SBEC’s rule change suggest that such a revision is necessary in order to capture the non-traditional superintendent candidates that districts might find to be great hires. As the rule change was being proposed by SBEC in August, names such as Michael Dell and Bill Gates were mentioned as the types of business, finance, and managerial experts who might desire to become superintendents but would not want to commit to traditional superintendent training programs. Setting aside for now the rhetorical question of whether a Bill Gates or Michael Dell would ever truly desire to become a school superintendent in Texas, ATPE has questioned the merits of the rule-backers’ claims that districts do not otherwise have viable means of hiring non-traditional leaders. In our formal written comments, we point out that districts already have the option to utilize a waiver process in order to hire a non-traditional superintendent candidate. The difference between current law and the proposed rule revision is that current law provides for a more transparent and responsible process for hiring such a candidate.

The waiver process under current law requires school districts to provide the qualifications of non-traditional superintendent candidates and justify why those candidates would be a beneficial hire for that district. It also allows for a transparent and accountable process under which key stakeholders, such as those employed by the district and parents of students, are notified and applications are vetted and approved by the Texas Education Agency. None of this would be true under the proposed revisions where school board trustees are given blanket authority to hire the nontraditional candidates they see fit.

“ATPE believes that removing the requirements for keeping local communities – and especially school employees and parents of students – informed about the rationale for these major decisions would be a grave mistake. It will likely lead to school morale challenges with faculty members feeling disenfranchised, parents increasingly questioning the leadership of the district, and a disconnect between school board members and the taxpayers and voters who placed them into office.”

Next steps:

For all of these reasons above and more, which you can read in our full formal comments, ATPE opposes this certification rule change and urges members of SBEC to reject the proposed revisions. SBEC will take a final vote on the proposed revision at its October 16 meeting. If you would like to submit your own input on the proposed rule change, the public comment period officially ends Monday, October 5. Information on submitting written public comments can be found here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this issue later this month after the SBEC meeting.