Tag Archives: alternative certification

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 19, 2017

A recap of the week’s education-related news from ATPE Governmental Relations:

 


This week in the Texas capital we witnessed a tug-of-war between the state’s top legislative leaders as the end of the 85th legislative session looms.

Tomorrow, May 20, is the last day for Senate bills to make it out of House committees, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has been vocal in complaints about his conservative Senate priorities stalling in the more moderate House. At the same time, the Senate has held back on advancing an important sunset bill that would keep several state agencies in operation and has tacked controversial Senate-preferred amendments onto major House bills. A prime example is House Bill (HB) 21, the school finance bill that turned into a private school voucher measure when it came out of a Senate committee last week. That bill is slated for a Senate floor debate this weekend, and ATPE members are being urged to contact their lawmakers about the need to pass school finance reforms without vouchers.

Dollar banknotes heapThe impasse between the two chambers means that we’ve yet to see any details of a potential compromise on the state budget. That bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1, remains pending in a conference committee.

Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told reporters that it was imperative for legislators to pass a property tax reform bill and a legislation regulating public bathrooms. Soon thereafter, Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Patrick Monday evening identifying a different pair of bills that must be passed this session in order to avoid the need for a special session: the budget, which lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass, and a sunset safety net bill that keeps several state agencies from being forced to shut down. As reported by The Texas Tribune, Straus also used the opportunity in his letter to urge the Senate to act on other House priorities, including some education concerns:

“We certainly understand that some bills that are passed in one chamber will not have the support to move forward in the other,” Straus wrote. “Still, as the House continues to pass priority Senate bills, I respectfully ask that the Senate also consider acting soon on issues that are priorities of the House, including public education, school accountability and testing reform, child protection, mental health, cybersecurity and preserving health insurance for retired teachers.”

In response to the Straus letter, Patrick called a press conference on Wednesday and reiterated that the bathroom bill and property tax bill, SB 2, were top priorities that must be addressed. Patrick indicated that the Senate would take no vote on the sunset bill until the House acted on those two priorities. Threatening a special session, which only the governor has power to call, Patrick added that he would ask for many more of the Senate’s conservative priorities, such as school vouchers, to be added to any such special session call. The lieutenant governor declined to answer any reporters’ questions.

Abbott stated after the press conference that there was no reason lawmakers couldn’t address his priorities during the regular session without the need for calling a special session. Straus issued a statement expressing “optimism” that the two chambers would “produce a reasonable and equitable compromise on the budget,” and noted that the property tax bill, SB 2, was on the House calendar and scheduled for debate. (Since then, SB 2 has experienced a number of delays and challenges, including a point of order that could defeat the bill on a technical rules violation.) While holding out hope for avoiding a special session, Straus also criticized the Senate in his written statement for endangering a school finance fix that would also provide property tax relief for homeowners:

“The House made a sincere effort to start fixing our school finance system, but the Senate is trying to derail that effort at the 11th hour,” Straus wrote in reference to HB 21. “The Senate is demanding that we provide far fewer resources for schools than the House approved and that we begin to subsidize private education – a concept that the members of the House overwhelmingly rejected in early April.”

The Senate has until Wednesday to hear most remaining House bills on second reading. It remains to be seen whether enough common ground will be found to avoid a special session. As we head into the last full week of the regular session, stay tuned to Teach the Vote and be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest developments.

 


Drugs and MoneyA number of high-profile education bills are on the Senate’s calendar for floor debate. Today’s calendar includes HB 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), the school finance bill referenced above to which the Senate has attached an educational savings account voucher provision and reduced funding for school districts. Also on tap for a likely vote today is Rep. Trent Ashby’s (R-Lufkin) bill dealing with TRS-Care, HB 3976. For more on the measure to change retired educators’ healthcare options, check out this comprehensive blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter. Also, check out today’s blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann with the latest on bills acted upon in the Senate this week.

 


Among the many measures still pending near the end of the legislative session are bills dealing with testing and accountability. House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) has authored HB 22, a bill crafted with educator input aimed at improving the state’s A-F accountability rating system for schools. As approved by the House, the bill would condense the rated domains from five to three and eliminate the overall summative grade, deemed one of the most controversial aspects of the A-F system. This week, the Senate Education Committee heard HB 22, and Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) opted to replace the bill’s language with his plan taken from another bill, SB 2051. As substituted, the bill does not provide nearly as much relief, prompting ATPE and other educator groups to voice concerns about it during the Thursday hearing. The committee also heard from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath about the bill. For more on that hearing, check out this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, as well as related coverage from The Texas Tribune.

Another high-profile bill being closely watched by the education community is Sen. Kel Seliger’s (R-Amarillo) SB 463. That bill would extend the option for individual graduation committees (IGCs) to help college- and career-ready students unable to pass STAAR tests through 2019. Seliger, who authored the original law creating IGCs in 2015, hoped to make the statute permanent, but some groups that oppose the provision have insisted on a shorter time period. The House Public Education Committee advanced the bill this week, as reported by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins, but time is running short for the bill to be placed on a calendar for floor debate.

Both the House and Senate education committees will be holding formal meetings today during breaks from the floor action to vote on additional bills.

 


ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe testifies before the House Public Education Committee, May 18, 2017.

ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe testifies before the House Public Education Committee, May 18, 2017.

During a House Public Education Committee hearing on Thursday, Round Rock ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe was among several educators to testify against a bill that would water down educator preparation standards. SB 1278 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would prevent educator preparation programs from being held accountable for their candidates’ performance on certain educator certification exams in subjects deemed shortage areas, and the bill also allows individuals with five days’ experience working as a substitute teacher or teacher’s aide to count that work as required field experience rather than student teaching. The bill is being pushed by some of the state’s largest for-profit alternative certification providers.

Stoebe, a former Texas teacher of the year, testified about the importance of having properly trained teachers in classrooms that serve some of our most vulnerable populations. She urged the legislature not to roll back improvements made in rules by the State Board for Educator Certification this year to impose higher standards for educator preparation programs. ATPE also joined with a number of other educator groups in submitting a written statement in joint opposition to SB 1278.

Click here to watch video of the hearing (and view Stoebe’s testimony beginning at 1:26:11 on the archived video file). Also, view more details on the hearing in ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins’s blog post here.

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingUPDATE: Just this afternoon, the House Public Education Committee held a formal meeting to take votes on some of the bills heard earlier this week. The committee voted against sending SB 1278 to the full House. Those voting against the bill were the committee’s vice-chairman, Rep. Diego Bernal, (D-San Antonio), plus Reps. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), Ken King (R-Canadian), Linda Koop (R-Dallas), and Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas). Chairman Huberty voted for SB 1278, along with Reps. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Lance Gooden (R-Terrell), and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston). The committee also voted down a trio of charter school bills: SB 1061, SB 1838, and SB 1883, plus SB 1886 that would have created an Inspector General’s office within the Texas Education Agency. Bills advanced by the committee today were Senate Bills 801, 825, 1177, 1553 (committee substitute), 1659, 2084, and 2141.

 


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.

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

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 3, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are some of this week’s blog highlights from Teach the Vote:

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

On our blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann writes about ongoing efforts to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed new federal rules to implement certain accountability aspects of the law, which would require states to respond by implementing their corresponding accountability systems in the 2017-18 school year. ATPE has also written to ED Secretary John King offering input on testing and educator quality issues affected by ESSA. Read Kate’s blog post to learn more.

A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff members will be traveling to D.C. this month for meetings with the Texas congressional delegation and ED officials. Talks will focus not only on ESSA implementation but also on the continuing efforts to address Social Security reform and the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision through Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) ETPSA bill.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

In the wake of a disappointing ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that our state’s school finance system is constitutional, education stakeholders are wondering if there will be any impetus for lawmakers to take steps to improve the flawed system next session. This week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) called for two House committees to add new interim charges to their agenda this year in an effort to keep school finance at the forefront of legislative planning for 2017. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson wrote about the new interim charges on our blog this week, noting that insufficient school funding leads to “immense pressure on local taxpayers, classroom teachers, and students.”

Under the directive this week from Speaker Straus, the House Appropriations and Public Education Committees are jointly being asked to study the following:

  • Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
  • Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.

On the Texas Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) responded to the new House interim charges by issuing a statement emphasizing his focus on education reform priorities, which include private school vouchers. Advocating a reform package deal, Patrick wrote, “Everyone knows education policy reform and school finance reform must go hand in hand.”

Read more about the school finance interim studies in Josh’s blog post from yesterday.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteThere is news out today regarding last week’s primary runoff elections, including a few contests that were close enough to result in calls for recounts.

As we reported following the May 24 runoff election night, Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost his election to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by a mere 23 votes. That prompted a request for a recount, which Harris County election officials completed today, confirming Cain as the winner of the runoff for House District 128. Meanwhile, another recount request is still pending in House District 54, where Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) in the Republican primary runoff by a margin of only 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount when it’s completed.

Related: The Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) shared a voting update today with fellow members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition, including ATPE. In the update, TACS’s Laura Yeager writes about the low turnout in the recent runoff elections as well as how much some groups spent to try to defeat pro-public education candidates this year. Laura writes, “A recent article in the Quorum Report stated that education reformers spent $3.2 million to defeat pro-public education candidates, including those that support Speaker Joe Straus. While educators generally don’t have millions of dollars to throw into elections, they do have upwards of 700,000 votes, which can and should carry as much weight as pure dollars. We are grateful for the culture of voting that has been developing across the state, and we will need to continue to cultivate it for the general election and in years to come. Only when all educators use their hard earned right and privilege of voting, will we be able to fight the vast amount of money being poured into elections by education reformers that lines the pockets of business and slowly kills public education as it is imagined in the Texas Constitution.” We agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s assessment, and we hope that Texas educators’ participation in the 2016 elections will be enough to counter the privatization and other dangerous reform proposals that are certain to arise in the 2017 legislative session.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is gearing up to make significant changes to educator preparation and certification rules over the new few months. First, on Thursday, June 9, the board will convene for 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. No public testimony will be taken on Thursday, but SBEC will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. View the agenda here, which includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP and the accountability system for EPPs. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on SBEC rulemaking actions from ATPE’s lobby team.

On Monday, June 13, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston, TX; the Texas Education Agency is conducting a public hearing on proposed changes to rules for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS); and the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability is holding yet another work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. We’ll have updates on these and other events affecting public education on our blog.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightHave you registered for the ATPE Summit, taking place at the Austin Convention Center, July 20-22? This year’s summit will feature professional development and leadership training sessions, including advocacy updates from the ATPE lobby team; an opportunity for ATPE members to shape our organization’s legislative program and bylaws; plus plenty of other lively, informative, and entertaining activities. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

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.

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!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 20, 2015

It’s been a busy week for education ThinkstockPhotos-144283240policy watchers in Texas and around the country. Be sure to follow @TeachtheVote and members of our ATPE lobby team on Twitter for the very latest. Here are updates on the week’s big news stories that you might have missed:

 


 

The outdated Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which should have been reauthorized back in 2007, is finally a step closer to being updated. Yesterday, a bipartisan conference committee in the U.S. House and Senate voted 39 to 1 to move forward a negotiated reauthorization bill.

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided a recap of the conference committee action for our blog both Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The full text of the negotiated bill has not yet been released, but we will provide updates on our blog as soon as that occurs.

The full House will take up the bill on Dec. 2 or 3; there is no scheduled date for Senate floor debate, but leaders expect the discussions to proceed quickly with a goal of getting a bill to the president’s desk by the end of the year.


 

The State Board of Education met this week in Austin. Its agenda included review of a recent SBEC decision to change the qualifications for becoming certified as a superintendent in Texas. ATPE opposed the SBEC rule change, which would allow individuals with no education experience to become certified. Texas law provides for all SBEC rules to be reviewed by the elected SBOE, which may veto a rule by a two-thirds vote. Today was one of those rare occurrences in which the SBOE voted to reject the SBEC rule and send it back to the certification board for further revision.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter, the Texas Association of School Administrators, other education group representatives, and education experts testified against the SBEC proposal, arguing that an existing waiver process, tweaked by the legislature just this year, already provides a mechanism for non-traditional superintendents to be hired in exceptional circumstances. The SBOE board agreed, voting 10 to 5 in favor of rejecting the rule and sending it back to SBEC. The motion was made today by board member Thomas Ratliff (R).

SBOE has the statutory power to reject SBEC rules but cannot modify them. The last time an SBEC rule was vetoed was in September 2014, when ATPE also successfully lobbied the SBOE to reject a proposal to water down entrance requirements for educator preparation programs. The SBOE veto today means that SBEC must now choose whether to stick with current rules on superintendent certification or rewrite the rule revision and send it back to SBOE for another review.

This week, the SBOE also considered adopting a new definition to try to qualify those who may sit on panels to review textbooks and instructional materials. As with the review of curriculum standards, the board’s procedures for reviewing and adopting textbooks have faced immense scrutiny over the years, often plagued by disputes over political ideologies. Recent news stories about inaccuracies in adopted texts have also spurred renewed discussion of the SBOE’s review processes. Board member Erika Beltran (D) attempted to craft a definition to ensure that textbook reviewers would meet certain minimum academic qualifications. Unfortunately, SBOE members in favor of specifying a standard for who meets the term “qualified individuals” were short by two votes. This item will come back to the SBOE for second reading and final adoption at the next board meeting. ATPE’s Exter reports that there may be further efforts to put in place some standard for textbook reviewers at that time.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Board of Trustees for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas also met this week in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended and provided information about the Nov. 19 and 20 meetings, which he described as “fairly uneventful.”

The board heard updates on the status of the pension trust fund and both active and retiree healthcare programs that were discussed in depth last week at a briefing provided to stakeholder groups, legislative members, and staff. The board adopted an incentive pay plan for the TRS executive director, which includes member satisfaction measures, as well as several other metrics that are used to evaluate the director’s performance. A slate of rule changes, including an improvement to the rule that is used to calculate compensation during the final year before retirement, were also adopted by the board.

Sanderson added that there have been problems reported concerning active employee enrollment with Aetna’s health insurance plan. At this week’s board meeting, Aetna representatives presented information on how they are addressing these issues and what their plans are to remedy the problem. The TRS board met in an executive session at length to discuss how they plan to deal with Aetna, but no final decision was delivered. Sanderson says that a more detailed update is expected during the next TRS board meeting in Dallas on Dec. 7.

In related news, the coalition known as Texans for Secure Retirement (TSR) also met earlier this week. The group advocates for the security of pension programs for public employees in Texas, including preventing them from being converted to defined-contribution plans. ATPE’s Sanderson has served as a member of the board for TSR and was selected this week to continue in that role for another year.


 

Announced today was an upcoming hearing of the Texas Senate Education Committee, the first interim hearing to be scheduled this year by one of the state’s education committees. The meeting is slated for Dec. 7 and will be focused on charter schools and inappropriate teacher-student relationships. Here are the two specific interim charges that are to be addressed by the committee, which is chaired by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Pearland):

  • Study the approval, expansion, and revocation of public charter schools in Texas, including the implementation of SB 2 (83R) and other legislation. In particular, examine the issues surrounding the disposition of state property when charters are revoked, non-renewed, or cease to operate. Make recommendations regarding policies to ensure an efficient and effective transfer and disposal of state property that preserves state interest while ensuring that certain investment capital and the bond market supporting charter construction remains robust. In addition, make recommendations if needed to clarify policies regarding expansion of existing high-quality charter schools in Texas. Additionally, examine facility funding for charter schools in other states and make recommendations on facility funding assistance for charter schools in Texas.
  • Study the recent rise of inappropriate teacher-student relationships, the impact of social media interaction between teachers and students, and examine the current efforts by the Texas Education Agency, schools, law enforcement, and the courts to investigate and prosecute any educator engaged in inappropriate relationships. Determine what recommendations, if any, are needed to improve student safety, including increasing agency staff, adjusting penalties, and strengthening efforts to sanction educators’ certificates for misconduct. Study and address the issue of prevention through training and education of school employees.

 

TEA is soliciting input on rules to implement grants for pre-Kindergarten under Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Kingwood) House Bill (HB) 4 that passed earlier this year. Under the program, school districts and charter schools that implement certain quality standards for curriculum, teacher qualifications, academic performance, and family engagement may apply for grant funding starting in 2016. The commissioner will adopt rules to determine parameters for the grant program.

TEA will hold a public hearing to solicit input on the new rules on Dec. 1, starting at 11 a.m. Click here for more details on the hearing and how you may sign up to testify. Through the same link, you may find TEA’s Family Engagement Survey, which is open until Nov. 25. The survey allows you to share input on proposed definitions and strategies for the family engagement component of the pre-K grants. Finally, you may also submit feedback to TEA on draft pre-K guidelines that are posted on the same website. The guidelines address curriculum and are broken into ten domains. Again, the deadline for submitting feedback via email to TEA is Nov. 25.


 

ThinkstockPhotos-162674067-pillsThree senators and three state representatives have been appointed to serve on a new Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans. The committee is tasked with reviewing the healthcare plans administered by TRS and proposing reforms to address their financial solvency, costs, and affordability. The legislatively mandated committee will also look at whether access to physicians and other healthcare providers is sufficient under those plans. Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Straus (R) has appointed Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) to co-chair the committee, along with Reps. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio). Senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) for the special committee are Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), who will co-chair it, joined by Sens. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls). The committee will report its findings back to the legislature by January 15, 2017.

SBEC votes to water down superintendent certification standards, looks to baseball and business for guidance

SBECIf you visit the website of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and look up its description of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), you’ll read that SBEC “was created by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to recognize public school educators as professionals and grant educators the authority to govern the standards of their profession.” For multiple legislative sessions, SBEC has been threatened with the possibility of being disbanded by the legislature through the sunset review process. Again and again, educator groups have come to the defense of SBEC, defending educators’ rights to set the standards for their own profession through a board that is made up primarily of educators. That’s why it’s disappointing when SBEC takes actions that are so clearly inspired by outside business interests and those with no education experience whatsoever. Today, unfortunately, was one of those days, as SBEC took a step that will make it easier for individuals with no education experience to take on important leadership roles in public education.

SBEC is holding its regular meeting today, Aug. 7. Shortly before lunch, the board voted to give preliminary approval to a rule change that would allow someone to become a school superintendent despite having neither experience as a classroom teacher and principal nor managerial experience. The change was apparently instigated by one of two stakeholder groups that TEA convened late last year to recommend revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 242, Superintendent Certificate, Rule §242.20 on “Requirements for the Issuance of the Standard Superintendent Certificate,” and Rule §242.25 on “Requirements for the First-Time Superintendent in Texas.” One stakeholder group was believed to be composed primarily of business leaders, which favored allowing non-educators to fill superintendent vacancies. An additional stakeholder group made up of administrators and school board trustees also made a recommendation to the board, but their recommendation only allowed for non-principals who have three years of specific managerial experience within a school district to seek superintendent certification. That latter recommendation was also included as a separate pathway to superintendent certification. Neither pathway, however, would require any teaching experience.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

At today’s meeting, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified that successful superintendents need both teaching and managerial experience. “Every superintendent needs a strong understanding of how education works, the needs of every student, and how administrative influence can change educational outcomes,” Kuhlmann told the board. “This is something that can only be gained from first-hand experience in the classroom.” Sharing input from an ATPE member who serves as an assistant superintendent, Kuhlmann outlined the types of daily decisions made by superintendents that require both managerial experience and the “perspective of classroom teaching.” ATPE was the only educator group to testify against the proposed rule change for new superintendents today.

The most outspoken advocate on the board for the rule change to allow “non-traditional” superintendents to be hired without need for a waiver was public SBEC member Laurie Bricker of Houston. Bricker expressed her belief that school boards should have authority to hire someone like Michael Dell or Bill Gates to serve as a their superintendents. She authored a last-minute substitute motion, ultimately accepted by the board, that removed language that would have required a school board of trustees to post publicly its reasons for hiring any such “non-traditional” superintendent under the new rules being proposed today. Dr. Rex Peebles, Assistant Commissioner for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, who serves as a non-voting member of SBEC, spoke against that change, arguing that transparency to the community and especially to faculty members working within the school district should be required. Bricker rejected a suggestion by SBEC member Suzanne McCall, a teacher, to add a requirement for TEA to approve the hire of any “non-traditional” superintendent, which McCall viewed as an extra layer of oversight and protection. Bricker was adamant that elected school board trustees alone should have blanket authority for hiring superintendents. Another public member who serves on the SBEC board, Leon Leal, compared the proposal to Major League Baseball, arguing that professional baseball teams have been very successful after being given authority to hire managers who were not former players.

In the end, SBEC members McCall and Kathryn Everest, a school counselor, were the only ones to vote against the motion to water down the superintendent certification rules. Next, the proposed rule change will be published for public comments and SBEC will have another opportunity to approve it on second and final reading at its next meeting. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.

In more positive news, the board approved allowing at least one classroom teacher and one counselor to serve on its Educator Preparation Advisory Committee (EPAC). The request to add teacher representatives to the existing committee was made by ATPE’s Kate Kuhlmann in testimony today. The committee, made primarily of representatives of educator preparation programs (EPPs), meets quarterly to provide input on issues relating to EPPs. The EPAC has existed since 2006, and SBEC only recently voted to add some school district representatives to the committee. Today’s action in response to ATPE’s request will ensure that classroom teachers can also participate in discussions about preparing future educators and the need for any regulatory changes.

Today’s SBEC agenda also included discussions of future changes to certification exams and rules pertaining to admission to an educator preparation program. Some of those changes were necessitated by legislation passed earlier this year. How the board handles disciplinary cases involving educators was an additional topic of discussion today.

Legislative Update: Sine die edition!

We’ve survived 140 long days and can now wrap up the 84th legislative session! Shortly after noon today, the Texas Senate adjourned sine die. The House followed suit about 20 minutes later, after several speeches and recognition of legislators who are not returning next session. Among those who announced their retirement from the House are Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), who chaired the House Public Education Committee, and Rep. Sylvester Turner (D), who served since 1988 and held several leadership posts. We’ll have more on our friends’ announcements and will be posting a complete wrap-up of education bills here on Teach the Vote this week. In the meantime, here’s what happened to the remaining school-related bills that saw action over this last weekend of the session.


Money matters

We reported over the weekend on final passage of the state’s appropriations bills. With the budget finalized, there were a few lingering pieces of that compromise still pending. On Friday, May 29, both the House and Senate approved a conference committee report on SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R), which increases the homestead exemption for property taxes by $10,000, subject to voter approval. It was part of the legislature’s compromise on a combination property tax and franchise tax cut that adds up to almost $4 billion; HB 32 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R), the franchise tax vehicle, was already sent to the governor.

Also related to funding, there was another high-profile bill still pending this weekend to curtail state spending. SB 9 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R), was designed to restrict the state’s constitutional spending limit, based on a calculation that factors in population growth and inflation. It languished in a conference committee this weekend until an announcement came that House and Senate conferees could not reach an agreement.

Accountability and “A through F” ratings

HB 2804 is Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s (R) bill to overhaul the state’s accountability system and place slightly less emphasis on the role of student test scores in how schools are rated. The Senate adopted a conference committee report on the bill Saturday, and the House followed suit on Sunday. The Senate’s vote to approve the final version of the bill was unanimous. The House’s final vote on HB 2804 was 119 to 17. As finally passed, the bill includes a requirement, which ATPE opposed, to assign “A through F” grades to school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. “Under the bill,” as described in an article by Morgan Smith in The Texas Tribune yesterday, “student performance on state standardized exams would remain the primary measure of school performance. But it would no longer be as dominant a factor in determining a school’s accountability rating. About 45 percent of the rating would take into account a variety of additional information — such as community engagement, AP course enrollment, attendance and dropout rates.”

The legislature also gave final approval to HB 1842 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), which deals with a five-year timeline for accountability sanctions and interventions for low-performing traditional and charter schools. The bill includes replacing a school board or charter governing board with an appointed board of managers if the district fails to improve the performance of a persistently low-performing campus. While the bill contemplates potentially much harsher sanctions at the district level, it deletes provisions from current law that mandated or strongly encouraged the indiscriminate removal of principals and classroom teachers from struggling campuses. ATPE has long opposed the current statutory language, which only served to destabilize already struggling schools.

After the House passed its version of HB 1842 with only a single no vote, the Senate passed a substitute version on May 26 that added numerous floor amendments, most taken from other bills that would otherwise have died. The controversial amendments included Sen. Larry Taylor’s (R) “innovation zones” school deregulation language from SB 1241; Sen. Royce West’s (R) “Opportunity School District” (now called a  ”School Turnaround District”) plan from SB 669; and language expanding charter and virtual schools. On Friday, Chairman Aycock announced that the House would not accept all of the Senate’s changes and sent the bill to a conference committee.

As negotiated by the House and Senate conferees, the final version of HB 1842 preserves the district-wide version of Sen. Larry Taylor’s “innovation zone” plan. ATPE previously opposed both multi-campus and district-wide “innovation zones” in Taylor’s standalone bill; however, of all the numerous alternative management and deregulation proposals that were advanced this session, the “innovation zones” concept was perhaps one of the least objectionable ideas. Unlike the remainder of HB 1842 that focuses on struggling campuses, “districts of innovation” or “innovation zones” are limited to those with acceptable or higher accountability ratings. ATPE will monitor the implementation of the bill should any school district choose to take advantage of the new option. The final version of HB 1842 does not include any of the controversial language creating an “opportunity” or “school turnaround district” (OSD/STD); nor does it include language on charter school closures or reauthorizations or on the expansion of virtual schools.

The Senate’s final vote to adopt the conference committee report on HB 1842 was 26 to 5, with Sens. Chuy Hinojosa (D), Jose Menendez (D), Carlos Uresti (D), Kirk Watson (D), and Judith Zaffirini (D) voting against it. In the House, the motion passed by a vote of 125 to 18; click here to find out how your House member voted on the final version of HB 1842.

Student testing and curriculum

The House and Senate both approved a bill that attempts to reduce the amount of time spent on state-mandated testing in grades three through eight. HB 743 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) also calls for auditing of state contracts with test vendors and aims to limit the breadth of curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that are included on standardized tests. The Senate voted 27 to 4 to adopt a conference committee report on the bill on Saturday; Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R), Konni Burton (R), Kelly Hancock (R), and Van Taylor (R) voted against it. On Sunday, the House accepted the conference committee report by a vote of 143 to 1, with Rep. David Simpson (R) casting the only vote against it. As finally passed, the ATPE-supported bill requires state tests to be validated before being administered and also designed so that 85 percent of students can complete the test within an allotted time frame. HB 743 also calls for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct a comprehensive study of the tests and the TEKS.

HB 2349 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relates to student testing and curriculum standards. The bill makes several technical changes to testing requirements that were modified substantially in 2013 pursuant to House Bill 5. The House and Senate passed differing versions of this bill in May. On Friday, May 29, the House voted to accept the Senate’s changes to HB 2349; Reps. Matt Schaefer (R) and David Simpson (R) were the only representatives who opposed the motion to concur. ATPE supported the bill.

SB 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) is another bill ATPE supported that deals with narrowing the curriculum standards, state testing, and instructional materials. Yesterday, the House and Senate both voted to approve a conference committee report on the bill. Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R), Bob Hall (R), Don Huffines (R), and Van Taylor (R) voted against the motion to approve the agreed-upon bill in the Senate. The House vote was 86 to 50. The bill as finally passed requires the State Board of Education (SBOE) to review and narrow the content and scope of the TEKS for foundation curriculum subjects. SB 313 also calls for TEA to provide individual students with a detailed performance report for each TEKS standard affiliated with a state test. The conference committee’s final version of the bill stripped out a House floor amendment providing students in special education programs with a means to opt out of STAAR testing requirements, which might have conflicted with federal law.

Educator preparation, certification, and discipline matters

A conference committee was appointed to iron out differences between House and Senate language for HB 2205 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R). The bill changes the composition of the State Board for Educator Certification and requires one non-voting member of the board to have worked for an alternative certification program. It also makes modifications to the accountability system for educator preparation programs. The bill includes language taken from another educator preparation bill, HB 2566 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R), which requires a survey of new teachers’ satisfaction to be factored into the accountability system, training for all certification candidates in educating students with dyslexia, and a complaint procedure for candidates to pursue against ed prep programs.  As it did with several other bills, the Senate amended several of its own dying bills onto HB 2205 last week, and most of those changes survived the conference committee. Principally, the Senate added language from Sen. Kel Seliger’s (R) SB 892 to lower the statutory minimum GPA for admission to an educator preparation program from 2.75 to 2.5. The bill adds a new requirement for each cohort entering an educator preparation program to maintain a 3.0 GPA, however. The Senate also integrated Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s (R) SB 1003 making it easier for school districts to issue teaching permits to non-certified CTE teachers and his SB 1222 giving the commissioner of education power to issue subpoenas when investigating educators for possible misconduct. The conference committee stripped out language that would have required 30 hours of field-based experience delivered in a classroom setting before an alternative certification candidate could be hired as a teacher of record. The bill as finally passed also limits retakes of certification exams to four attempts.

Yesterday, the Senate approved the conference committee report on HB 2205 by a vote of 19 to 12. All Democratic senators voted against the motion to approve HB 2205 except for Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) who voted for it; while Sens. Jane Nelson (R) and Robert Nichols (R) were the only Republican senators to break ranks with their party and vote against the motion to approve the conference committee report on HB 2205. On the House side, the final vote was 125 to 16, with Reps. Diego Bernal (D), Garnet Coleman (D), Nicole Collier (D), Harold Dutton (D), Joe Farias (D), Mary Goznalez (D), Roland Gutierrez (D), Abel Herrero (D), Todd Hunter (R), Trey Martinez-Fischer (D), Poncho Nevarez (D), Justin Rodriguez (D), Toni Rose (D), David Simpson (R), Jonathan Stickland (R), and Armando Walle (D) voting against it. While were are disappointed in the decision to lower individual admission standards for alternative certification programs, ATPE appreciates that the bill likely contains more positive changes than negative ones in the long run.

Suicide prevention

ATPE-requested legislation to try to deter youth suicide is heading to the governor soon. HB 2186 by Rep. Byron Cook (R) deals with training educators in spotting and responding to warning signs of suicide among students. The bill honors the memory of suicide victim Jonathan Childers, who was the teenage son of Kevin Childers, an ATPE member from Fairfield ISD. After the upper chamber made minor changes to the bill, the House voted Friday, May 29, to concur in the Senate amendments. The vote was 141 to 5, with Reps. Larry Phillips (R), Matt Rinaldi (R), Matt Schaefer (R), Jonathan Stickland (R), and Tony Tinderholt (R) opposing it.

Breast-feeding accommodations for school employees

HB 786 by Rep. Armando Walle (D) will require schools and other public employers to provide certain accommodations for employees to express breast milk and prohibit workplace discrimination against such employees. The ATPE-supported bill was sent to a conference committee after the House and Senate could not agree on language. However, the committee was later discharged and the House voted unanimously on Saturday, May 30, to accept the Senate’s version of the bill.

School counselors

HB 18 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relates to college and career readiness training for certain public school counselors. The bill would create post-secondary education and career counseling academies for certain school counselors and make stipends available to those who attend the academies. ATPE supported the bill. On Sunday, May 31, the House and Senate both voted to approve a conference committee report on HB 18, which preserves most of the Senate’s language. The final vote on the negotiated bill was 135 to 8 in the House and 30 to 1 in the Senate.

Charter schools

A pair of bills by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) dealing with charter schools were finalized on Friday. First, HB 1170 includes certain charter schools in the definition of local governmental entities in order to allow them to enter into contracts and risk pools with other local entities. The move is meant to allow charter schools to save money on needed purchases, services, and liability insurance. The House voted Friday to accept Senate changes to the bill and finally pass it. The vote was 140 to 2, with opposition coming from Reps. Terry Canales (D) and J.D. Sheffield (R). HB 1171 relates to immunity provisions for charter schools. Once again, the House voted 143 to 1 to accept the Senate’s version of the bill; Rep. Larry Phillips (R) was the only no vote on the motion to concur.

Cameras in the classroom

SB 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) calls for school districts to equip self-contained classrooms serving students in special education programs with video surveillance cameras, notify parents and staff of the installation of the cameras, and keep recorded video footage on file for at least six months. The House and Senate voted yesterday to approve a conference committee report on the bill. The vote was 23 to 8 in the Senate and 140 to 3 in the House.

Ethics reform

An attempt to pass an ethics reform bill died after House and Senate leaders could not agree on language. SB 19 by Sen. Van Taylor (R) was sponsored in the House by Rep. Byron Cook (R). After the two chambers passed dramatically different versions of the bill, a conference committee failed to reach a compromise. Negotiations fell apart over “dark money,” with the House wanting to shed light on secret contributions to non-profit groups advancing political agendas and the Senate refusing to budge on the contentious issue.


We at ATPE are so grateful to all the members who helped us advocate for legislation to help public education students and staff and stop numerous bad bills from becoming law. Thank you for being engaged educators, parents, and citizens and for reaching out to your legislators with input when others were trying to drown out the voices of pro-public education voters.