Category Archives: Educator preparation

Education Committees discuss educator preparation bills and more

The House Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality and the Senate Education Committee met yesterday and today, respectively, to take up a variety of issues. A bill opposed by ATPE pertaining to educator preparation was up in both committees. A handful of other educator training and certification bills, legislation aimed at teacher quality, and the bill to extend individual graduation committees were also heard in committee.

Lowered educator preparation standards hurt teachers, students

House Bill (HB) 2924 and Senate Bill (SB) 1278 are companion bills pertaining to educator preparation program and candidate requirements in Texas. A bill passed by the legislature last session raised standards for educator preparation in Texas. In conjunction with the standard rule review process at the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), that bill resulted, after almost 2 years of thoughtful deliberations, in rules that raised standards for educator preparation programs (EPP), EPP candidates, EPP entrance requirements, and certification. ATPE was supportive of the rule review process, a process driven by a board of educators working in the field. We are opposed to initiatives that aim to roll back some of those rule provisions, and, unfortunately, SB 1278 and HB 2924 would do just that. ATPE opposed the bills based on the strong and evidence-backed belief that all educator candidates deserve strong training and support prior to full certification.

ATPE expressed concerns shared by those in the education committee, including administrators, teachers, University Deans, districts, educator quality groups, and more. In the Senate Education Committee, discussion included the fact that the only groups testifying in support of the legislation were for-profit educator preparation providers. These groups, in many cases, have a profit incentive to keep standards low, and under this bill, would seek to roll back the raised standards accomplished over the past two years through SBEC. Senators also heard from teachers in the field who testified that rolling back the standards would only result in educators being set up for failure once in the classroom. The bill was ultimately left pending.

House Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality

The Educator Quality Subcommittee heard a number of other measures pertaining to educator preparation that ATPE opposed based on the same principle and understanding that we do a disservice to teachers and students if we put ill-prepared educators in the high-stakes classroom and expect them to achieve excellence. The committee also heard two certification focused bills that ATPE supported; both HB 3563 and HB 1867 focus on well certified and well trained educators in classrooms. Another bill ATPE supported, HB 3692, would prohibit the use of student standardized test scores as a measure of teacher performance in an appraisal system.

ATPE also testified neutrally on two bills that dealt with separate topics but both entail work currently being done at the Texas Education Agency (TEA). HB 2941 would change appraisal rules currently in law at a time when TEA is still in the process of implementing its new commissioner recommended appraisal system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). Similarly, HB 2039 would create a new Early Childhood through Grade 3 Certificate, which the SBEC is currently in the process of thoroughly reviewing as one of several avenues to help early childhood teachers get the specific instruction needed to best teach early childhood students.

Senate Education Committee

In the Senate Education Committee, ATPE supported SB 196, requiring parental notification when a campus lacks a nurse, school counselor, or librarian; SB 1854, aimed at reducing required paperwork for classroom teachers; and SB 1353, putting in place a process for dealing with the facilities of certain annexed districts.

We also supported SB 463, a bill to permanently extend the individual graduation committees (IGCs) passed into law last session on a trial basis. (More on the bill here.) ATPE joined the education committee in strongly embracing the bill to make IGCs a permanent option for otherwise successful students who struggle to pass state standardized tests. TEA recently released the 2015-2016 IGC data, which can be found here. ATPE thanks Senator Seliger (R-Amarillo) for championing this common sense, meaningful legislation, because many students shouldn’t be defined by their ability to pass “the” test and testing struggles shouldn’t inhibit their future success!

Federal Update: Obama education regulations likely to be repealed

medwt16002Two Obama administration rules involving teacher preparation and accountability are in the process of being scrapped. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block recently finalized regulations involving teacher preparation and accountability, and the U.S. Senate did the same this week. The resolution to repeal the rules is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for final approval.

The teacher preparation rules were released in October after years of delay due to significant opposition from some stakeholders. The final version did include revisions to temper concerns, but the original proposal remained largely intact. The accountability rules were a piece of the much bigger set of regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and involved a much more contentious debate on the Senate floor. The Senate narrowly passed the repeal measure. (Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting the repeal the teacher preparation rules, but no Democrats voted to dismantle the accountability rules and one Republican joined them in opposition.)

Proponents of scrapping the regulations say the rules represent federal overreach and fail to convey the intent of Congress. Critics of the repeal believe strong standards are needed in order to hold teacher preparation programs and schools accountable. President Trump is widely expected to sign the rule repeals.

Interestingly, the Congressional Review Act prohibits agencies from issuing new rules in “substantially the same form” without Congress passing a new law that explicitly allows them to do so. While the teacher preparation rules could be readdressed in a more timely manner, since Congress is due to rewrite the Higher Education Act, a new law pertaining to accountability is likely years out.

In the meantime, states will have to rely on statutory language of ESSA to remain compliant under the law. The timing of the effort to do away with these administrative rules interpreting ESSA has created some ambiguity for states that are currently in the process of developing their required state plans for implementing the federal law. Some states have already announced that they will proceed with ESSA state plans that were being developed in alignment with the regulations previously put out by the Obama administration, even though those regulations may no longer be in effect going forward.

Preparation, training, and support that educators deserve

Students School College Teaching Learning Education ConceptAs we reported following the board’s meeting last month, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) recently revised a number of rules involving educator preparation in Texas. The lengthy and thorough process to rewrite the rules lasted about a year. The rules cover preparation, program requirements, pathways to certification, and more, and they seek to raise the quality of training all teachers receive before going into the classroom where they are expected to excel.

One of ATPE’s policy priorities involves a strong focus on all aspects of the teacher pipeline, and that starts with high-quality training for Texas educators. ATPE recognizes that we do a disservice to our teachers and our students when inadequately prepared educators are placed in the classroom and expected to achieve excellence. We also recognize that we cannot expect teachers to stay in the profession if they aren’t strongly prepared to enter the classroom in the first place.

ATPE knows that Texas teachers are incredible and work hard in their classrooms (and beyond!) every day to provide a great education for the students they teach; they deserve high-quality preparation that will provide them with a strong, solid base and great potential from which they can continue to grow.


Research also backs ATPE’s focus on ensuring all Texas teachers receive the high-quality preparation and support they deserve. A sampling of those findings include: that access to an effective educator is the most important school-based factor affecting a student’s success; that we can better prepare Texas teachers and create a higher achieving student body by raising standards for educator preparation; that candidates seeking certification through the state’s most popular pathway, alternative certification (or a post-baccalaureate path that can currently involve as little as two weeks of training), are leaving the classroom at a faster rate than their peers; and that teacher turnover could be costing our state up to billions of dollars.


SBEC’s new rules are not extreme and they represent a lot of compromise with interests that thought original proposals went too far. Still, they set a foundation and represent a positive step. Here are some of the ways SBEC’s new rules seek to improve preparation:

  • a two-tiered system of probationary certification for alternative certification candidates, which better identifies a candidate’s level of training and requires supplementary support for less prepared candidates;
  • revised measures of accountability for EPPs, such as a newly established new-teacher survey;
  • a more appropriate definition of “late hire” candidates, who are put in the classroom as the teacher-of-record with significantly less coursework and training; and
  • an increase in the number of coursework hours a candidate must receive prior to an internship or clinical teaching.

The rule revisions and rationale for the changes can be read in their entirety here. They now go to the State Board of Education (SBOE), which will review them at its meeting in two weeks and can affirm the proposals or send them back to SBEC for further review.

Educational Aide Certificate

The SBEC rules also include recent changes to educational aide certificates. The new rules specify that beginning Sept. 1, 2017, all educational aide certificates issued will be valid for two years. The current validity period of an educational aide certificates is five years. Concurrently, the fees associated with renewing an educational aide certificate will be reduced to $15 (from $30). Those aides with lifetime certificates will not be affected by this change.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provided several reasons for this move in their rationale to SBEC, including a large number of unused certificates and the issues this can cause with TEA’s investigations and prosecutions divisions. According to TEA staff, a total of 227,910 educational aide certificates were issued in the 2014-15 school year, but only approximately 53,791 educational aides were actively employed.

As TEA has explained it, although only 53,791 educational aides were employed in schools, the investigations and prosecutions divisions remain responsible for all 227,910 certificate holders, meaning they are using resources to pursue any certificate holder accused of wrongdoing. As TEA put it, “Shortening the validity period for the educational aide certificate would focus TEA investigative and prosecutorial resources only on those who are actively using the educational aide certificate in a Texas public school.”

Districts of Innovation

Regardless of the SBOE’s actions on these newly revised certification rules, another piece of education policy has the potential to interfere with SBEC’s work: Districts of Innovation (DOI). The DOI law was created by the Texas legislature last session, and it allows certain school districts to opt out of the majority of the Texas Education Code, including provisions requiring quality teacher preparation and certification. ATPE will continue to advocate for high-quality educator training for all Texas educators and will encourage the upcoming legislature to join SBEC in its quest toward raised standards as they consider the potential negative effects of the broad exemption opportunities created under the DOI statutes. Fore more on DOI, visit our DOI Resource Page at atpe.org.

Federal Update: ED releases long delayed teacher preparation rules

U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a final set of regulations that lay out federal stipulations for states’ teacher preparation programs. The rules have seen delays since 2014, when an initial iteration was released. That initial proposal garnered significant input, and while some revisions are included in the newest version, the original proposal remains largely intact.

Under the newly released regulations, states will be required to develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of its teacher preparation programs. One piece of that rating system must analyze how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. This was a highly controversial piece retained from the original proposal, which was heavily-reliant on student test scores, but the newer version does provide flexibility with regard to how states determine student success. Ultimately, if programs don’t perform well on the state’s rating system, states will be required to cut off access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who teach in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants).

Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised HandsThe rating system must also include the job placement data, retention rates, and feedback of programs’ graduates as well as the feedback from their graduates’ employers. Initial reactions to the final version of the regulations have been mixed. While some support the higher accountability to which programs will be held, others have concerns with the unintended consequences that could result, such as the effect a measure of student achievement could have on the support available for teachers going into high needs schools.

As we shared last week, Texas is at the end of a process to revamp its educator preparation accountability system. Much of what Texas has and is in the process of implementing is in line with the standards to be enforced by ED under its new regulations. One missing piece, however, is the inclusion of student achievement. While such a measure is included in Texas law and rules governing educator preparation programs (EPPs), to date, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been unable to find a valid way to measure student outcomes. TEA has, however, included a student growth measure in its new teacher evaluation system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The new system is in its first year of implementation statewide, but the measure of student growth piece is still in the pilot phase. ATPE and other organizations have filed legal challenges based in part on the inclusion of value-added modeling (VAM) as a element of the T-TESS model. The final commissioner’s rules for T-TESS outline four ways in which schools may assess student growth for purposes of teacher evaluations; VAM, which many consider to be an unfair and unreliable statistical calculation for this purpose, is one of the four options. Despite the pending litigation, the student growth piece of T-TESS  is set to take effect statewide next school year. With the new federal rules for EPPs calling on states to look specifically at the performance of students taught by those programs, it seems likely that Texas will at least consider further extension of the same questionable VAM methodology for EPP accountability.


For related content, read the perspectives of Kate Walsh with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). She highlights her thoughts on the new regulations, including why she doesn’t disagree with ED’s decision to omit the previously required use of student test scores or VAM.


U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King and President Obama have stood by the administration’s new regulations and are joined by those who support stronger regulations for teacher preparation in the United States, but the rules have received criticism from congressional leaders and other stakeholders. As all of this plays out, two things create some uncertainty: 1) regardless of who is elected, it is relatively unknown how a new president would implement these regulations, and 2) Congress has been toying with reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which has a questionable likelihood but would entail fresh laws that could render these new teacher preparation regulations meaningless. Plus, the price tag of implementing these regulations would be high for states (latest estimates from the administration indicate $27 million per year for the next 10 years). Bottom line, the final version of the regulations released today might not be the end of the road. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more.

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.

Federal Update: ESSA accountability rule proposed, ATPE writes to Secretary King

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) published its rule proposal for the accountability piece of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the Federal Register yesterday. The proposal addresses state accountability systems, state and district report cards, and consolidated state plans.

As we reported on Teach the Vote, ED is in the middle of the rulemaking process for several aspects of ESSA. Negotiated rulemaking for the assessments and ‘supplement, not supplant’ portions of the law wrapped up in April. Other provisions, including this accountability piece, are being addressed through the typical rulemaking process over the summer.

medwt16002Initial reaction to the accountability rule proposal was mixed. In Congress, the partisan division again hinges on state control and flexibility versus strong civil rights protections. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced they will each hold hearings on the proposal and threatened to block the regulation through available means if it “doesn’t follow the law,” which aims to decentralize power away from the federal government. Their Democratic counterparts, Ranking Members Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), praised the proposed rule for protecting and promoting equity.

Outside of the Capitol, stakeholders pointed to more specific issues with the proposal, citing concerns about a definition for “consistently under-performing,” the inclusion of specific punitive consequences for low assessment participation rates (in situations where parents opt children out of state standardized tests), the need for guidance on ways to make school report cards more accessible and transparent for parents, and more.

The proposal requires states to have accountability systems in place by the 2017-18 school year, with the goal for states and districts to identify schools in need of support the following school year.

In other ESSA rule proposal news, ATPE submitted a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of Education John King. The letter identified two areas of the new law where ED is asked to pay particular attention to previous ATPE input to Congress when writing rules or issuing non-binding guidance. Those areas of the law pertain to an innovative assessment pilot and a new avenue for potential funding for educator preparation programs.

ATPE’s previous comments on assessments to the Senate HELP committee outline recommendations for giving states “more flexibility to innovate and choose assessment methodologies that better suit the needs of their students, parents, and educators.” ATPE’s comments note that the high stakes testing regime is ineffective and even harmful to students, and suggest that tests “be low stakes, be administered less frequently, employ sampling, and be truly criterion-referenced.” While the new federal education law requires states to maintain the current annual testing schedule, ATPE’s letter encourages ED to allow states piloting innovative assessments to test these recommendations.

In the letter to ED, ATPE also points to previous comments on supporting educators. Particularly, the letter highlights ATPE’s input on “initiatives to encourage more selective recruitment of educators by setting high standards for educator preparation and certification.” ATPE encourages ED to support states through non-binding avenues as they seek to ensure high standards for educator preparation programs.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more updates on ESSA implementation.

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.

Senate committees meet to study college readiness, teacher pipeline

The Senate Education Committee and the Senate Higher Education Committee met jointly on Tuesday to discuss two interim charges both committees have been tasked with studying: (1) the ongoing implementation of House Bill (HB) 5, which passed in 2013, particularly as it relates to college and workforce readiness; and (2) whether educator preparation programs (EPPs) are properly preparing teachers for the rigors of the classroom, especially in light of teacher shortage areas and retention issues.

ATPE was present at the hearing to monitor discussions on the first charge and testify on the second charge. The hearing consisted of four panels of invited witnesses followed by public testimony. The higher education and public education commissioners presented information on the first charge with respect to the current state of college and workforce readiness in Texas. Commissioner of Education Mike Morath presented data supporting improved college and career readiness as a result of HB 5, with expressed hesitation that it is too soon to tell exactly where things are trending (in large part due to a lag in data collection that became a topic of concern throughout the hearing). Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes was less optimistic, presenting data that showed Texas lagged behind other states in preparing high school students for college.

A second panel of school district, college, and business officials also served as invited witnesses. Significant discussion was had with regard to dual credit courses and a bill last session that expanded high school students’ access to such courses. While some members praised the legislation, others expressed concern about the inconsistency in transferring courses among state institutions. Commissioner Paredes said the rigor of dual-credit courses needs to be reviewed and told members that passing a dual-credit course does not mean a student is college ready, although the state should work toward that goal.

ThinkstockPhotos-178456596_teacherThe remaining two panels were focused on educator preparation, teacher retention, and teacher shortage issues. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) presented information on the current state of teacher demographics in Texas: more than one third of Texas teachers have been in the classroom for five years or less (which is consistent with data for the past 20 years); the average Texas teacher teaches for 11 years (also roughly consistent over the past 20 years); teacher attrition rates have been relatively constant over the past few years, but district turnover rates are especially high in rural districts; Texas hires about 82% of the teachers it produces every year; and the average five year retention rate of teachers produced by traditional universities is 76% versus 66% among alternatively certified teachers. Other invited witnesses expressed alarm with regard to statistics showing that retention rates for teachers in their first or second year and in shortage areas, such as STEM and special education, are lower than the average.

Invited and public testifiers shared comments on the entire teacher pipeline. Witnesses shared methods for addressing these issues at hand through recruitment, preparation, support, and retention. ATPE’s testimony also supported a focus on the entire teacher pipeline and highlighted some proposals we continue to support with regard to addressing the issues of educator preparation and retention.

  • ATPE supports tools that recruit the best and brightest to join the profession, such as loan forgiveness programs, competitive benefits packages, and improved salaries. ATPE also supports raised standards for individuals entering the profession, because raising standards has shown to improve the prestige of the profession and in turn attract more of the best and brightest to enter the profession. It also improves the profession’s ability to demand change.
  • ATPE supports raising standards for all EPPs in order to ensure teachers are properly trained for the rigors of the classroom. Especially in the case of alternative certification providers, where teachers are put into the classroom as the teacher of record after only weeks of training in some cases, it is critical that we ensure teachers are properly prepared to enter the classroom and stay in the profession.
  • ATPE supports incentives for EPPs that serve to fill shortage areas. Those could include financial incentives such as cutting or eliminating programs’ fees or non-monetary incentives such as rewarding programs through the EPP accountability system.
  • ATPE supports mentor and induction programs that support teachers in the initial years of teaching or when they are assigned to teach outside of their certification field. Studies consistently show that such programs have a big impact on retention rates. It is also a small investment for a big return; estimates have suggested the cost of teacher turnover in Texas is as high as $1 billion per year.
  • ATPE supports increased and standardized requirements with regard to the support that EPPs are required to provide to their candidates once they are in the field teaching.
  • ATPE supports adding a measure of teacher quality to the accountability system so that districts are held accountable to progress toward the equitable distribution of quality teachers throughout the district. (Data presented at the hearing showed an inequitable distribution of high quality teachers, a fact that prior research commissioned by ATPE has also shown.)

The full hearing can be viewed here. The Senate Education Committee meets again next month to study another interim charge related to digital learning.