Category Archives: SBEC

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 10, 2017

Today is the deadline for filing bills this legislative session, making it an exceptionally busy week at the Texas State Capitol. Here are stories you may have missed:


Gallery_03-06-17More than 400 educators visited the Texas State Capitol Monday for ATPE at the Capitol. Resolutions honoring ATPE were read in the Texas House and Senate by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) and Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) respectively as legislators greeted ATPE at the Capitol attendees dressed in red attire who were seated throughout the galleries above the two chambers. House_03-06-17ATPE members spent the day visiting with legislators and their staffs to discuss legislative priorities such as reducing standardized testing, funding educators’ healthcare needs, preventing private school vouchers, and opposing bills that would needlessly take away educators’ rights to deduct association dues from their paychecks.

On Sunday, ATPE at the Capitol attendees prepared for their meetings with lawmakers by learning more about pending bills and major education issues being debated by the 85th Legislature. John Kuhn, Superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD, delivered an opening keynote address highlighting the need for educators to keep their focus on what’s best for students, even while many lawmakers and wealthy business interests are pursuing reforms aimed at dismantling the public education system. Kuhn_03-05-17A key topic of Kuhn’s speech was the ongoing push for vouchers, which despite being called by many different names such as “education savings accounts” and “opportunity scholarships” are a way to convert a public trust into a private enterprise. Countering Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s oft-cited claim that “school choice is the civil rights issue of our time,” Kuhn called vouchers a “civil wrongs movement” and akin to “fool’s gold.”

Panel_03-04-17ATPE at the Capitol attendees also heard a presentation by ATPE lobbyists on our organization’s legislative priorities with tips on communicating with lawmakers both in person and using tools such as ATPE’s Advocacy Central. Another highlight of the event was the closing general session, which featured a question-and-answer session with a panel of legislators moderated by TWC/Spectrum News television host Karina Kling. The panel featured Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) who chairs the Senate Education Committee, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) who chairs the House Public Education Committee, and Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) who sits on the Article III Subcommittee for the House Committee on Appropriations. Their lively discussion covered topics ranging from the payroll deduction bills to the Teacher Retirement System and the state’s controversial new “A through F” accountability labeling system.

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ATPE state officers met with Speaker Straus Monday


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met last Friday, March 3, 2017. The board asked the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to step back on its interest in developing a new Pre-kindergarten through Grade 3 certificate for teachers. Learn more about the discussion and other SBEC items in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann.

 


The House Public Education Committee has begun hearing a number of bills that could change the state’s belabored school finance system. The legislation includes House Bill (HB) 21, a new bill filed Monday by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) who chairs the committee. HB 21 aimes to infuse an extra $1.6 billion into public education over the next two years. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of the bill and a few others during a hearing on Tuesday. In a show of support for the House members’ effort to address the complicated issue of school finance, Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) stopped by the committee hearing. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins was also there and provided a complete report on our blog earlier this week.

Also this week, Chairman Huberty filed HB 22, a bill to modify the state’s controversial “A through F” accountability ratings for schools. In addition to delaying implementation of A-F, the bill would compress the number of domains from five to three and prevent schools from receiving a single overall grade. No hearing has been set yet for the bill.

With the passage of today’s 60-day mark for the legislative session, more bills will be eligible for floor consideration now, which includes Sen. Joan Huffman’s anti-educator SB 13 that has already made it out of a Senate committee and could be placed on the Senate’s floor calendar at any time. ATPE members are urged to visit Advocacy Central and send messages to their lawmakers about this legislation and several other bad bills being considered this session.

 


The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a bill designed to curb inappropriate educator relationships with students and “passing the trash.” ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reports that among other things, Senate Bill (SB) 7 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would prohibit educators who are dismissed from their positions in one school district due to sexual misconduct from being hired at another district, a practice sometimes referred to as “passing the trash.” (ATPE testified in support of SB 7 in committee and offered more on the contents of the bill here.)

SB 7 was amended on the Senate floor this week to add a requirement that educator preparation programs offer training on the topic of misconduct. ATPE supported the addition of the training provision because we hear from educators that too often the topic of appropriate student boundaries and relationships goes unaddressed with students training to enter the education profession.

The Senate also added two amendments by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), which clarify reporting language for principals and ensure educators know how to respond when inappropriately approached by a student. Another floor amendment by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) revokes the pensions of those educators convicted of certain felonies involving a student.

SB 7 passed the Senate unanimously, and all 31 senators signed on as co-authors of the legislation. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

 


Also this week, the Senate Committee on State Affairs held a marathon overnight hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 6 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), one of the session’s most controversial proposals to regulate bathroom usage policies of school districts, municipal governments, and other entities. The committee heard 13 hours of public testimony mostly from witnesses opposed to the bill, before voting 8-1 to send the measure to the full Senate. Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) was the only no vote. Those opposing the bill included all four of the state’s major teacher groups, the Texas Association of School Boards, and the Texas Association of School Administrators. Many education stakeholders believe the bill unnecessarily dictates policies that must be adopted by local school boards rather than providing for local control. SB 6 is another of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s top priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

 


Congress voted this week to freeze two ESSA regulations that had been finalized only recently by the Obama administration. The rules pertain to teacher preparation and accountability and are headed to President Trump’s desk for final repeal approval. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has more on the anticipated repeal here.

 


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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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 9, 2016

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s been a busy education news week. Here are highlights:


ThinkstockPhotos-462761867Groups looking to ban educators from using payroll deduction have a newly filed bill, and school employees concerned about this need to speak up now! The move is part of a national effort to try to weaken unions and professional associations like ATPE that advocate for public employees. Here in Texas, efforts to ban payroll deduction are taking direct aim at the education community, apparently in response to our outspoken opposition to private school vouchers and other reforms favored by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and others.

Patrick has identified prohibiting payroll deduction for “collection of union dues” as one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session, reserving a low bill number (Senate Bill 13) for the yet-to-be-filed legislation in the Senate. On the House side, Houston-area Rep. Sarah Davis (R) pre-filed House Bill 510 this week to prohibit the use of payroll deduction for educators’ voluntary association dues. The bill exempts police, firefighters, and EMS workers, allowing them to continue to take advantage of the safety and convenience of payroll deduction, but punishes educators who choose to join professional associations by denying them the same rights.

ATPE is urging members to contact their legislators right away and ask them to oppose these politically charged bills that would serve no purpose other than to further devalue the education profession and attempt to silence the voices of teachers. Learn more in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins, and use our new communication tools for members at ATPE’s Advocacy Central to take action today.

17_web_Spotlight_ATC_RegistrationOpenRelated content:  While you’re visiting Advocacy Central, check out the details on ATPE at the Capitol, our lobby day and political involvement training event in March. Registration is open now, and there is no registration fee for ATPE members to attend the event. This is a great opportunity to learn more about grassroots advocacy and meet with your lawmakers to discuss saving payroll deduction and other ATPE legislative priorities for 2017.


SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met today for its last meeting of 2016. After more than a year of meetings dedicated to revising rule chapters that pertain to educator preparation and certification, among other issues, the board’s agenda was notably shorter and involved very few action items.

On today’s agenda was a presentation from former Commissioner of Education Jim Nelson on the work of the Texas Teacher Preparation Collaborative; a discussion on developing a certification specific to early childhood education; and an update on the principal and teacher satisfaction surveys that are used to hold educator preparation programs (EPPs) accountable. The only actions taken by the board, aside from rulings on individual disciplinary cases, was adoption of the board’s legislative priorities and approval of EPP monitors. Board members also adopted three legislative priorities: expand reporting requirements on educator misconduct to principals, expand outcome-based accountability to EPPs, and consider other options for demonstrating proficiency with regard to educator certification reciprocity for educators coming from other states and countries.

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Kate Kuhlmann testifying at SBEC, Dec. 9, 2016

On the second priority, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified at this morning’s meeting and successfully argued to remove some original language that would have specifically encouraged the use of teacher evaluation results to hold EPPs accountable. Board members understood our concerns that such a move would affect the confidentiality of appraisals, which are meant to serve as an informative and developmental tool for educators. Kuhlmann testified that, among other concerns, the formative nature of appraisals at the local level could be undermined if confidentiality of those results were compromised by legislative changes. To hear the full discussion on any of these topics or others discussed today, access an archived webcast of the meeting here.

The board welcomed two new members recently appointed by Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX). Dr. Scott Ridley, the Dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University, and Tommy Coleman, a citizen member of the board who works as an assistant district attorney for the Polk County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, were sworn in before today’s meeting. Gov. Abbott also recently appointed Carlos Villagrana to serve in the non-voting role dedicated to a representative of an alternative certification program. Mr. Villagrana is the Director of the Alternative Educator Preparation Program at YES Prep Public Schools. He was not present for today’s meeting.

Related content:  The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released the latest version of its Teacher Prep Review this week. This go around, NCTQ decided to analyze programs based on their program type (as opposed to grouping them all together like in previous reports) in an effort to offer a more apples-to-apples comparison of data. The report released this week focuses only on 875 undergraduate elementary programs throughout the country. Two of the top rated undergraduate elementary programs, which all scored in the top 99 percentile, hail from Texas: Texas A&M University and the University of Houston. Learn more about the report here, and watch for future reports on the various program types beginning in Spring 2017.

 


The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) invited legislative staff and stakeholders to a briefing this week on its actuarial valuation reports for the period ending Aug. 31, 2016. The presentation also included data on the healthcare plans administered by TRS for active and retired educators. TRS officials reported that the pension fund earned a return of 7.3 percent in 2015-16 and ended the 2016 fiscal year at a market value of $134 billion compared to a market value of $128.5 billion in the previous fiscal year.

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While the pension fund investment returns are in good shape, there are more serious concerns about funding for TRS-Care and ActiveCare. This week’s briefing highlighted the fact that TRS-Care is not pre-funded and is facing a shortfall of between $1,088 million and $1,294 million by the end of the 2018-19 biennium. As we have previously reported on our blog, lawmakers are recommending dramatic changes to the design of the health benefit plans.

Learn more about the current status of the funds in these new reports supplied by TRS:

 


U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) finalized its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) rules pertaining to assessments this week. The assessment rules were much less contentious than some of the other rules released by the department, with stakeholders who served as negotiators coming to agreement on the contents of the rule. ATPE submitted comments on the rules during the comment period, supporting the innovative assessment pilot and encouraging the use of sample testing. Our comments were taken and included, in part, in the final innovative assessment pilot rules. You can read ATPE’s comments and learn more about the rulemaking process for assessments here.

As we have previously discussed, the future of ESSA rulemaking remains very unpredictable at this point. When President-elect Trump and his administration take office in January, they will have the ability to carry on with the policies of the Obama administration, forgo them altogether, or pursue some combination of these options.

 


The 12th annual Friends of Texas Public Schools (FOTPS) gala took place Wednesday evening, Dec. 7, in Waco, TX. ATPE Political Involvement Coordinator Edwin Ortiz contributed this report on the event.

ATPE leaders, volunteers, and staff members were honored to be a part of the FOTPS annual celebration where education allies were honored for their outstanding work supporting the Texas public education system. Three major awards were handed out at the event, which was held at Baylor University’s Baylor Club, located inside McLane Stadium. Those attending the event as part of the ATPE delegation were State President Julleen Bottoms, Region 12 Director Jason Forbis, Region 12 President Patty Reneau, Corsicana ATPE member Suzanne Waldrip, Executive Director Gary Godsey, Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday, Regional Representative Ginger Franks, Lobbyist Monty Exter, Lobbyist Mark Wiggins, and Exter.

The Friend of the Year Award is FOTPS’s highest award and is bestowed to individuals and organizations who step up as champions for those who work and learn in our Texas public schools. The award went to Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA) for their continued activism to reduce the state’s overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing. Their work has been instrumental in bringing awareness to the amount of time our students spend on standardized tests and the limited time that is actually left for instruction. During the last two legislative sessions, TAMSA has been a leader in advocating for a reduction in tests, helping to bring the number of required state tests from 15 down to five.

Also recognized that evening were Pamela & Rep. Gary VanDeaver who received the Ambassador of the Year Award. This award was established to highlight the efforts of an educator stepping up as a champion for the Texas public schools. Rep. VanDeaver and his wife are no strangers to the public education system having both worked as career educators and been an instrumental voice for the 5.3 million children who currently attend Texas public schools. Rep. VanDeaver’s work on behalf of public education during the last legislative session was relentless, and we look forward to working with him again during the 85th session. Their passion to serve our schoolchildren is inspiring!

Last but not least, the Founder’s Distinguished Service Award went to the Texas Education Service Centers for their outstanding work and support for the continued success of Texas public schools. The 20 Education Service Centers have tirelessly served public schools for the past 50 years by providing vital services that enable each district to educate students in an effective and efficient manner.

Congratulations to all of the honorees for their outstanding work!

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ATPE’s representatives at the FOTPS gala on Dec. 7, 2016, in Waco


 

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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 7, 2016

Catch up on this week’s education-related news from Teach the Vote:

 


RegisterToVoteThere is only one weekend left for you to update your voter registration or make sure your friends, colleagues, and family members are registered to vote in the November general election. Tuesday, Oct. 11, is the last day to register to vote or make changes to your registration for this election.

Check out the 2016 Races page here on Teach the Vote to view profiles of candidates for the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education and find out more about their views on public education issues such as testing and school finance.

Don’t forget that students who’ll be at least 18 years old on Election Day are also eligible to register. Read about ways that teachers can engage students in the election process in this recent blog post.

 


SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Oct. 7, in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending the meeting and provided this report on actions the board is considering.

A significant portion of SBEC’s meetings this year (and even prior) have been dedicated to discussing, reviewing, and revising the board’s rules pertaining to educator preparation in Texas. It has been a lengthy process that concluded today with adoption of the new proposals. The rule proposals—which include how teachers are prepared, accountability measures for educator preparation programs (EPPs), expectations of EPP candidates, the types of certificates candidates can seek, and much more—have seen several revisions and delays as the board seeks to continue its implementation of legislation from last session and make additional changes to how EPPs operate in Texas. ATPE has expressed support for portions of the rule proposals that seek to provide more support for alternatively certified teachers and reduce the time programs have to prepare candidates to become fully certified. While these changes are small steps, ATPE appreciates such steps focused on improved training and support for alternatively certified teachers, which studies show are leaving the classroom at a faster rate than their peers. The proposals will now go to the State Board of Education (SBOE), which can affirm the proposals by taking no action or reject the proposals, sending them back to SBEC for further review.

The board also adopted changes to SBEC’s educator discipline rules. The rule changes will, among other things, establish mandatory sanctions for educators that test positive for, are under the influence of, or are in possession of drugs or alcohol on school grounds. ATPE certainly believes that there are many circumstances in which an educator should be disciplined for such actions and that fairness and consistency are essential goals in decision-making regarding educator behavior. However, ATPE has raised concerns that, while well-meaning, creating a mandatory sanction for such a broad swath of behaviors fails to fairly and consistently consider certain scenarios where such a sanction may not be warranted. For instance, ATPE has suggested that the board specify that it is referencing “illegally-possessed” drugs so that legally-prescribed drugs do not unnecessarily affect an educator’s ability to teach. Our suggestions were not included in the rule proposal. SBOE will have final review of the proposal at its next meeting.

One of the first actions taken by the board this morning was the election of its new officers, which was needed after several members’, including the previous chair’s, terms expired and new members were appointed to the board in their place. Board members chose Haskell ISD teacher Jill Druesedow to be its new chair, Slaton ISD teacher Suzanne McCall to serve as vice-chair, and citizen member Laurie Bricker as secretary. This is the first time in recent history that two classroom teachers have served as the top officers of the board. The board also assigned two new members to its legislative committee, which McCall chairs. The two new members are the board’s new counselor member, Klein ISD counselor Rohanna Brooks-Sykes, and Rockwall ISD teacher Sandra Bridges. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for any relevant SBEC updates. The board’s final meeting of the year is in early December.

 


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Bria Moore

This week, ATPE welcomed Bria Moore to our staff as Governmental Relations Specialist. A native of Longview, Bria holds a degree from the University of Texas in Rhetoric and Writing, where she also minored in Italian. She was most recently employed with a staff recruiting company but also brings highly relevant experience from her prior internships in the Texas House of Representatives and working on early education policy initiatives for a non-profit entity.

As GR Specialist, Bria will provide administrative support, collect and track data, and coordinate various projects of the GR department for ATPE. Please help us give a warm welcome to our newest team member, Bria!

 


 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 29, 2016

Here is this week’s recap of federal and state education developments:

 


This week, Governor Greg Abbott appointed four new members to serve on the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), replacing outgoing members whose terms expired last year but remained on the board until the appointments were made. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reports that Rohanna Brooks-Sykes, a counselor at Klein High School; Arturo J. “Art” Cavazos, superintendent for the Harlingen CISD; Sandie Mullins Moger, a former Houston Community College Trustee who will serve as a public member; and Laurie J. Turner, an American history teacher at Gregory-Portland Junior High School, will all begin their terms set to expire in 2021 next week when SBEC convenes for its August meeting.

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Brad Allard

Among the outgoing board members are Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Cain, the current chair of the board. The board elects its own chair and is expected to conduct that election at a future board meeting after the new appointees are sworn in as SBEC members. Jill Druesedow, the board’s vice-chair and a teacher at Haskell High School, will oversee meetings until a new chair is elected. Also on the list of outgoing members is ATPE member and Burleson teacher Brad Allard. ATPE thanks Brad and all of the outgoing members for their service to the profession and wishes Brad the best in his retirement!

SBEC will hold its next meeting a week from today. Stay tuned for an update on that meeting and other SBEC developments.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) notified stakeholders earlier this week of new guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program, which was reauthorized and amended under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance is a part of a series of documents that ED intends to release in an effort to assist states and districts as they seek to understand and implement the new federal law.

Among the new requirements, states and districts will be required to identify the graduation rates of homeless student populations, provide professional development, ensure access to support services for preschool-aged homeless children, maintain privacy of student records, and expand school stability services such as transportation. The Department also released a fact sheet covering expanded information on how teachers, principals, counselors, and other staff can support homeless youth.

View ED’s fact sheet and guidance on this and other ESSA provisions for more information.


ThinkstockPhotos-111939554The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held its final meeting on Wednesday, July 27, to vote on recommendations to the 85th legislature for changes to our state’s accountability system and student testing. Despite early indications that the commission might recommend scrapping the state’s unpopular STAAR tests, commission members ultimately opted for a different route. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and reported on this week’s final meeting. For more on the commission’s vote, check out the coverage from our friends at The Texas Tribune, republished here.


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundThe country’s two primary political parties have released and approved their respective party platforms, documents that assert the party’s principle policy goals and guide party members’ policymaking at all levels of government. On education, the party platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties differ greatly. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has provided a comparison of the two party platforms here.


The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees met today, and ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson provided the following update. The board met in part to continue discussions on the budget request that TRS will submit to the legislature when it convenes for the 2017 biennial session in January. TRS projects public education aggregate compensation to increase by 3.5% over the 2018-19 biennium, and as such is requesting that the required additional funding be appropriated to pay the state’s 6.8% contribution to the pension trust fund. This is a common occurrence as long as schools are hiring staff to accommodate the increasing student population, but there have been years in the recent past where payroll was projected to remain flat, largely because of state budget cuts. As long as there is no political manipulation of the assumption values TRS uses to calculate the status of the fund, the trust fund remains healthy. However, there have already been proposals made by political appointees that would potentially unfairly harm TRS. ATPE is working to ensure that your benefits are accurately calculated and that the state meets its end of the bargain in contributing to your retirement and health care benefits. As it relates to health care, legislative interim committee reports are expected to be released soon, and after submitting testimony to the committee appointed to work on active and retiree health insurance issues, we are hopeful that elected officials will include our request to increase state investment in both plans to equal that of other private and public plans.

Next week, the Senate Education Committee holds an interim hearing on August 3 at which the topic will be “a comprehensive performance review of all public schools in Texas, examining ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and student academic outcomes.” The discussions will include performance-based funding and “mandates,” along with an examination of the effectiveness of the state’s only two county-based school systems in the counties of Harris and Dallas. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates next week on this and other upcoming interim hearings.

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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 10, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has been meeting this week with possible changes to educator preparation and certification rules on the agenda. On Thursday, the board held a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification.

SBEC is holding its regular board meeting today, and the agenda includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP, as well as the ways that EPPs are held accountable. Another agenda item calls for a new format for the Core Subjects EC-6 certification exam. TEA staff has recommended removing one of the five domains currently covered by the test to focus on the core subjects of English Language Arts and Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. SBEC will also discuss possible changes to the Educators’ Code of Ethics and disciplinary rules, which will encompass tweaks to existing rules against inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending both of the SBEC meetings this week and will provide a full report for Teach the Vote.

Related content: SBEC’s review of educator disciplinary rules comes at a time when there is great media interest in stories about educators engaging in inappropriate relationships with students. Recent interim legislative hearings have also drawn attention to the issue. This week, ATPE Media Relations Specialist Stephanie Jacksis spoke to both KVUE News in Austin and Fox29 in San Antonio about the problem and ways teachers can separate their personal and professional use of social media.

 


Josh Sanderson

We’ve been writing about the Texas Supreme Court’s recent decision on school finance and how some lawmakers are looking at ways to tweak the funding system in light of the court’s finding that the system barely meets constitutional standards. Last week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson was a special guest on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight program talking about the challenges inherent in the current school funding system. This week, Josh also spoke to KVUE News about a related topic: comparing how schools spend the money they receive. A new website established by former state Comptroller Susan Combs seeks to provide Texans with tools to do just that, but much of the school performance data on the website is focused on student test scores. Watch video of Josh’s interview with KVUE’s Mark Wiggins here.

 


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe reported last week on some of the recounts that have been sought following the May 24 primary runoff elections. First, Rep. Wayne Smith‘s (R-Baytown) recount request was not fruitful, as the recount confirmed his loss to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by only about two dozen votes. This week, we await updates in another recount underway in House District 54 for the seat being vacated by current House Public Education Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). In that race, Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount as soon as they are announced. Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest developments.

 


Do you work in a school district that is pursuing a designation as a District of Innovation (DOI)? Keep in mind that ATPE has a resource page to help educators and parents learn about the new DOI law, which allows certain acceptably-rated districts to exempt themselves from various state laws. Many districts in Texas are already taking steps to create and adopt innovation plans. The exemptions most commonly claimed so far include the school start date law – with districts looking to start the school year earlier in August – along with requirements for the assignment of certified teachers, class-size limits in elementary grades, and teacher evaluation requirements. Visit ATPE’s newly updated DOI resource page to learn more and read examples of some districts that are using the DOI statute to avail themselves of exemptions from these and other laws.

 


Monday, June 13, is shaping up to be a busy day. First, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson will be there and will provide updates next week on the retirement matters discussed. Also on Monday, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing on proposed rule changes for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). Last but not least, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability has scheduled a final work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. The commission’s gathering is an add-on meeting not originally planned, but as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported recently on our blog, commission members have struggled to reach consensus on a number of issues related to testing and accountability measures. Watch for updates next week on the commission’s deliberations.


16_Web_SummitSpotlightDon’t forget to register for the ATPE Summit, taking place July 20-22 in Austin, where you can earn valuable professional development credits and learn more about hot issues affecting public education. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

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.