Tag Archives: higher education

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Feb. 23, 2018

Happy Student Voting Day! Here’s your update from the ATPE lobby team on what’s been happening in Texas this week:


ELECTION UPDATE: Early voting for the 2018 Texas primary elections began this week and continues through Friday, March 2. Election day is March 6.

Today, Feb. 23, 2018, is Student Voting Day in Texas, as designated by Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. Pablos issued a proclamation for Student Voting Day and has encouraged Texans to urge eligible students to vote today. We applaud all of the educators and parents who have worked hard to help students learn about and exercise their right to vote.

If you know a student voter or if you are new to voting in Texas, we’ve got some helpful basic tips on voting in this primary election. Check out this blog post from ATPE Political Involvement Coordinator Edwin Ortiz, newly updated with some additional guidance about the prohibition on using cell phones in the voting booth. Looking for background information about those Republican and Democratic party ballot propositions? We’ve got a list of all the non-binding party platform propositions here, along with some analysis from ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter here.

Have you checked at our new series of blog posts for Teach the Vote on Why March 6 Matters? ATPE’s lobbyists are writing about some of the top legislative issues at stake in the primary elections happening now, explaining why the choices made by voters at the polls over the next week and a half will have a gigantic impact on the future success or failure of bills dealing with teacher pay, retirement benefits, private school vouchers, and more. Check out the posts we’re published so far and watch for more analysis of “Why March 6 Matters” on the Teach the Vote blog next week.

ICYMI: ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins was quoted in today’s brand new PolitiFact article about a claim made in one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s re-election campaign ads. Patrick raised eyebrows with the radio and television ads in heavy rotation right now when he claimed to have proposed a $10,000 pay raise for teachers last session. The journalists of PolitiFact investigated and rated the claim as “mostly false” on its Truth-o-Meter, concluding that “Patrick made no proposal to direct more of the state’s education budget to teacher salaries,” instead touting a preference for an unfunded mandate on school districts that did not pass. Read the full analysis here.


ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey and Lobbyist Monty Exter testified before the school finance commission on Feb. 22, 2018.

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met again in Austin on Thursday, Feb. 22, and ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey was one of the witnesses invited to testify at the hearing. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins attended the meeting and provided a report on the day’s discussions, which focused on the importance of the teacher pipeline and early childhood education. Godsey, joined by ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter, urged the commission to consider recommendations for strengthening educator preparation, support, compensation, and retention in order to avoid the high cost of teacher turnover. Read more in Mark’s blog post here.


By now readers of our blog are probably familiar with the antics of Empower Texans, the dark money group that in addition to trying to influence elections through massive campaign spending has been at the center of efforts to intimidate educators and shut down get out the vote (GOTV) efforts within the education community. We’ve written recently on our blog about how Texas educators responded to the group’s threatening “whistleblower” letters with their own #blowingthewhistle social media campaign. Today, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus also took to social media and penned a newsletter urging educators to vote this weekend and expressing his support for our coalition efforts to create a culture of voting in school districts across the state.

This week we learned that Empower Texans is under criminal investigation for highly questionable tactics it has employed in an effort to convince Ft. Worth residents to vote against one of their state legislators, Rep. Charlie Geren. Geren is presently facing a challenge in the primary election by an Empower Texans-funded candidate, and the group has attacked the incumbent for being married to a lobbyist. As reported by the Texas Tribune, prosecutors are looking into a postcard mailed to voters in Rep. Geren’s House District 99 that was designed to look like an official state document and sent by an entity called the “Texas Ethics Disclosure Board.” The mail piece was paid for and sent by Empower Texans, which recently filed documents with the Secretary of State to use the name “Texas Ethics Disclosure Board” as an alias, giving unsuspecting voters the impression that the postcard was sent by an official government agency, which does not exist.

With Empower Texans spending so much money to try to unseat legislators that it deems to be too friendly toward public education, it’s no surprise that there has been growing interest in learning more about the sources of money being used by the group. Empower Texans is not required to disclose all of those who contribute money to the organization, but campaign finance reports for the Empower Texans PAC are publicly available, as is the case with all political action committees. One person who has spent considerable time reviewing those campaign finance reports and chasing the trail of money connected to Empower Texans is Chris Tackett, a former Granbury ISD trustee and parent who has written extensively about his findings. This week, we republished Tackett’s article entitled “Following the money in Texas politics: A citizen’s look at the influence of mega-donors in contested elections.” The piece illustrates how a small group of wealthy families have used the Empower Texans PAC and a few other PACs to steer millions of dollars in campaign contributions to certain candidates, giving the impression that they have broader support. Learn more in Tackett’s guest blog post here.

The Dallas Morning News also published an extensive article this week describing how west Texas’s Wilks family, the largest funding source for Empower Texans, has been using its wealth to influence contested races around the state in 2018. That includes nearly half a million dollars spent to help Sen. Bob Hall try to win re-election despite a serious primary challenge and targeted efforts to shape the election of a new Texas House Speaker when the 86th Legislature convenes in January 2019. The same family is profiled in a brand new website sponsored by an unidentified citizens’ group that also appeared this week called WhoOwnsTexas.com.

Voters can learn about candidates vying for their support in the primary elections happening now by checking out our candidate profiles here on Teach the Vote. The profiles include detailed voting records for incumbents, responses provided to our ATPE candidate survey on education issues, links to the candidates’ own websites and social media accounts, and additional information such as endorsements from well-known groups or major newspapers. ATPE does not endorse candidates, so you won’t find endorsements from us, but we’ll tell you which candidates have received the endorsement of Empower Texans and other groups to help you make informed decisions at the polls.

 


The State Board of Education’s steering committee for the Long-Range Plan for Public Education also met this week. The meeting focused largely on the issue of educator preparation with a goal of improving recruitment and retention. Read more about the conversations in Wednesday’s blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

 


Today is the final day to submit comments to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). As we previously shared, the committee is working to rewrite the federal law that pertains to higher education, and several programs dealing with educator recruitment, training, and retention are housed under the law. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reports that while the Senate committee works to write its bill, its U.S. House counterpart has already advanced legislation to the full House that omits these programs. ATPE submitted comments to the Senate committee expressing our concern over the House omission and stressing the importance of programs like these. “Educator training that is held to high expectations and standards plays a vital role in ensuring every student has access to a well-prepared, productive educator. It also has a lasting impact on retaining those strong educators in the classroom.”

ATPE’s full comments encouraging the committee to maintain federal support of these programs can be read here.

 


 

SBOE long-range planning process to include regional meetings

SBOE logoThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board of Education (SBOE) released the following statement this week about upcoming regional meetings to gather input for the purpose of updating the SBOE’s Long-Range Plan for Education:

Oct. 31, 2017

Regional meetings to gather input for Long-Range Plan 

AUSTIN – Regional meetings begin this week to gather input for the new Long-Range Plan for Public Education now being developed by the State Board of Education.

The first of at least eight community meetings will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, at the El Paso Community College in El Paso. The meeting will occur in the Administration Building auditorium located at 9050 Viscount Blvd.

Register to attend this free event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-conversation-el-paso-november-2nd-tickets-38839842013 .

Community meetings are also scheduled for 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Nov. 14 – Region 7 Education Service Center, 1909 North Longview St., Kilgore
  • Dec. 5 – Region 11 Education Service Center, 1451 S. Cherry Lane, White Settlement
  • Dec. 6 – Dallas County Community College, El Centro West – Multi Purpose Room 3330 N. Hampton Rd., Dallas
  • Feb. 8 – Region 4 Education Service Center, 7145 West Tidwell, Houston

Additional community meetings will be scheduled in 2018.

“State Board of Education members are meeting with Texans around the state because we want to hear firsthand what their concerns and hopes for the Texas public schools are going forward. Our goal is to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. Information gained through these community meetings, a statewide online survey, and the work of the Long-Range Plan for Public Schools Steering Committee will be used to craft a strategic plan for schools through the year 2030, corresponding with the Texas Higher Education 60×30 Strategic Plan,” said SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich.

The 18-member steering committee, made up of educators, parents, state and local board members, business officials, college professors, state agency representatives and a student, will meet at 9 a.m. Nov. 6 to discuss two topics: family empowerment and engagement and equity and access to both funding and advanced courses.

The public meeting will occur at 4700 Mueller Blvd. in Austin at the headquarters of the Texas Comprehensive Center at the American Institutes of Research, which is assisting the board with the development of the long-range plan.

Debbie Ratcliffe, Interim Director
SBOE Support Division, Texas Education Agency
debbie.ratcliffe@tea.texas.gov

Texas Tribune Festival begins today

The Texas Tribune’s annual “TribFest” event has become a regular gathering spot for folks who live and work around the Texas Capitol. This year’s festival, which kicks off today and runs through Sunday, will feature more than 60 sessions and 250 speakers. Panels will cover just about every active policy area at the state and federal level, with education once again among the issues expected to generate the most interest.

The public education discussion will get in gear Saturday morning with a panel on higher education funding, followed by a discussion on testing, accountability, and college readiness featuring the superintendents of Austin ISD, Round Rock ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Harlingen CISD, and Alief ISD. Public school finance will come front and center Saturday afternoon with a panel that will include House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Vice-chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and pro-public education state Reps. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) and Donna Howard (D-Austin). Finally, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath will discuss ways to improve Texas schools late Saturday afternoon.

Over the years, these TribFest discussions have offered interesting public insight into how these policies are viewed and discussed behind the scenes. The media spotlight generated by the festival means these panels often provide a chance to set the narrative heading into elections or a legislative session.

In addition to the public education track, the festival will feature keynote remarks from Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), U.S. Congressman and Cruz’s Senate challenger Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), as well as Congressmen Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) and Will Hurd (R-San Antonio). ATPE will be covering the weekend’s discussions, and I’ll be tweeting from @MarkWigginsTX.

House Public Education reviews grab bag of school bills

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday to consider a score of bills touching a variety of subjects. Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) began the hearing by referring the following bills to the Subcommittee on Educator Quality, chaired by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian): HB 49, HB 218, HB 331, HB 333, HB 460, HB 816, HB 972, HB 1255, HB 1403, HB 1469 and HB 1485.

The day’s testimony began with HB 1291 by state Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), which would add “American principles” to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The TEKS would include the study of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 639 by state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) would authorize districts to obtain health benefit plan, liability or auto insurance for partner businesses and students participating in CTE programs. Anderson suggested insurance is important in the event of accidents related to CTE instruction.

HB 1645 by state Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) would require school districts that offer varsity letters to adopt a policy that allows students to earn a letter for participating in a Special Olympics event. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 69 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would require each school district and open-enrollment charter school to include in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) report the number of children with disabilities residing in a residential facility who are required to be tracked by the Residential Facility Monitoring (RFM) System and are receiving educational services from the district or school.

HB 264 by state Rep. Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) would require TEA to continue until 2020 providing outreach materials to districts required under Section 28.015, Education Code, regarding public school curriculum changes under House Bill 5, which passed in 2013. The section includes explanations of the basic career and college readiness components of each endorsement, requirements to gain automatic college admission, and financial aid requirements for the TEXAS grant and the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program. The section is currently set to expire September 1, 2018.

HB 452 by state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would require report cards to include the number of students in each class. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 728 by state Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-Mission) would create an advanced computer science program that would satisfy the curriculum requirements for a third math or science credit.

HB 1270 by state Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) would allow schools to excuse student absences for the purpose of visiting a military recruitment center. A similar provision currently allows for excused absences to visit a college or university campus.

HB 136 by state Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) would include a CTE objective under the public education objectives enumerated in Section 4.001(b), Education Code. The text would read, “Objective 11: The State Board of Education, the agency, and the commissioner shall assist school districts and charter schools in providing career and technology education and effective workforce training opportunities to students.”

HB 1389 by state Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) would include prekindergarten in the 22-student class size limit currently in effect for kindergarten through grade four. The bill would result in smaller class sizes for schools that are currently over the limit, but would not carry a significant fiscal impact to the state budget. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 710 by state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) would extend free half-day prekindergarten to full-day for the same set of eligible students. Research has shown early childhood education improves student learning through the elementary grades, leading to improved educational outcomes overall. According to the fiscal note, the change would cost $1.6 billion over the 2018-2019 biennium. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 620 by state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would allow districts the option of moving the school start date to the second Monday in August, up from the fourth, and require instruction time measured in minutes, as opposed to days. This would allow districts more flexibility in scheduling, provide additional time to prepare for first semester assessments, and allow for earlier summer release. No fiscal impact to the state is anticipated. ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of the bill, pointing out that current restrictions can be burdensome when it comes to predictably and adequately allocating instruction time.

HB 729 by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) would integrate character traits instruction into the TEKS, and require a center for education research to study the effects of character traits instruction on student attendance and disciplinary problems. Bohac suggested emphasizing positive character traits would improve school performance overall. ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in favor of the bill, noting that statewide standards would eliminate the patchwork implementation of character traits instruction.

HB 404 by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) would create higher education curriculum review teams charged with reviewing changes to the TEKS. Currently, the State Board of Education (SBOE) appoints TEKS review committees composed largely of K-12 teachers, as well as up to seven “experts” as defined by board rules. This bill would define a process and expert panel with at least five years of higher education teaching experience in the relevant subject or a doctorate in education. The panel would be selected the Higher Education Coordinating Board and higher education commissioner, which would insulate the experts from the appearance of political influence. The bill would also protect the panel’s recommendations by setting a two-thirds vote threshold for SBOE.

Rep. Anchia described the bill as “a work in progress.” ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified in favor of the bill, and advocated for ensuring that K-12 educators have a meaningful impact on the process as well. Recently, SBOE has taken steps to improve its TEKS review process, and ATPE supports a collaborative effort to codify improvements in statute in order to ensure the success of future reviews.

HB 539 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow the children of military service members to enroll full-time in the state virtual school network. According to TEA, roughly 12,000 students, about 0.3 percent of the state’s total enrollment, are currently enrolled in the virtual school network. Approximately 63,500 military dependents are enrolled in grades three through twelve. The Legislative Budget Board assumes 0.5 percent, or 318 students, would enroll in the virtual school network. Based on that, the fiscal note assumes the change would cost an additional $5.3 million – which Chairman Huberty and Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Highland Park) disputed, suggesting the expense was overstated.

HB 367 by Vice-Chairman Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would expressly allow schools to donate surplus unserved cafeteria food to hungry children on campus through a third-party non-profit. Some schools already do this, but this bill would guarantee that right in statute and give rulemaking authority to the commissioner of education. No significant fiscal implication to the state is anticipated.

HB 357 by Chairman Huberty would extend free prekindergarten eligibility to the children of anyone eligible for the Star of Texas Award for police, firefighters and emergency medical first responders killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. According to the fiscal note, no significant impact on the budget is expected. ATPE supports this bill.

All those bills were left pending.

The board unanimously approved HB 223 by state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), which would provide districts the option of providing childcare services or assistance with childcare expenses to students at risk of dropping out through the existing compensatory education allotment. Since the allotment provides a set amount of funding, the change would not fiscally impact the state. The bill will head to the House floor next.

The committee also resumed consideration of HB 21, House leadership’s priority school finance bill that would add $1.6 billion to public education. Huberty warned that without HB 21, the budget would effectively fund $140 less per pupil and there would be no plan for dealing with the expiration of ASATR.

Noting he has had numerous meetings with stakeholders, Huberty suggested hardship grants for districts losing ASATR could be stair-stepped. Additional transportation funding could be capped at five percent of the total spend, Chapter 41 districts at 15 percent and ASATR at 80 percent, or $100 million in 2018 and $60 million in 2019. Discussing whether lawmakers should offer more or less flexibility regarding grant fund allocation, TEA recommended erring on the side of being more prescriptive in order to provide clear direction.

For the 327 school districts whose property taxes are maxed out at $1.17, the committee entertained testimony suggesting raising the yield on “copper pennies.” It’s important to note that the more the state spends on public education in general, the less school districts will be forced to rely on local homeowners for funding. In other words, real property tax relief – not the bumper sticker kind, but meaningful relief – begins with putting more state money into public education.

Concluding the hearing, Chairman Huberty signaled his intent to vote on a committee substitute at next Tuesday’s hearing. That meeting will focus on bills dealing with public school accountability, including “A though F.”

Federal Update: Obama education regulations likely to be repealed

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

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

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

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

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

From the Texas Education Agency: Number of Texas students taking ACT sets new mark

More Texas Hispanic students in the 2015 graduating class took the ACT college admission test than any other student demographic, according to a report released today by ACT. The strong numbers led the state in setting a new ACT participation mark.

Of the 124,764 Texas students in the 2015 graduating class taking the ACT college admission test, almost 40 percent (48,934) were Hispanic. It’s the second consecutive year where the number of Hispanic students represented the highest number of examinees of any racial ethnic group.

Since 2011, Texas has seen a 22.8 percent increase in ACT test-taking graduates among all student groups.

Year Total Hispanic White African-American Asian
2015 124,764 48,934 46,564 13,792 6,698
2014 116,547 45,717 44,418 12,947 5,785
2013 109,841 41,877 43,299 12,695 4,871
2012 110,180 40,827 44,502 13,290 4,746
2011 101,569 35,093 42,685 12,874 4,556

“As our state’s student demographics have changed, the expectations we have for each of our students in the public education system remain high,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Over the past several years, increased ACT participation in our state has taken place across the board, which reflects student aspirations well beyond high school that strengthens the Texas of tomorrow.”

ACT tests are administered for a number of subject areas including English, math, reading, science and writing (optional). Texas scores (excluding the optional writing test) in 2015 are:

  • English – 19.8 (compared to 19.8 in 2014)
  • Math – 21.1 (compared to 21.4 in 2014)
  • Reading – 21.1 (compared to 21.1 in 2014)
  • Science – 21.0 (compared to 21.0 in 2014)
  • Composite – 20.9 (compared to 20.9 in 2014)

In addition, the 2015 average ACT scores for Texas students surpassed the national averages in mathematics and science.

Subject Texas National
Mathematics 21.1 20.8
Science 21.0 20.9
Reading 21.1 21.4
English 19.8 20.4
Composite 20.9 21.0

Additional highlights of the Texas ACT results for the Class of 2015 include:

  • The 2015 composite score of 23.3 for white students in Texas is .9 points higher than their national counterparts (22.4).
  • The 2015 composite score of 17.6 for African-American students in Texas is .5 points higher than their national counterparts (17.1).
  • The 2015 composite score of 25.1 for Asian students in Texas is 1.2 points higher than their national counterparts (23.9).
  • In 2015, ACT scores for African-American, Asian and white students in Texas were higher than the national scores in English, mathematics, reading and science.
  • The 2015 composite score of 18.7 for Hispanic/Latino students in Texas was .2 points lower than their national counterparts (18.9). However, the 2015 ACT scores for Hispanic students in Texas were higher than national scores in mathematics and science.
  • For the 2015 graduating class taking the ACT college admission test, 44 percent met the college readiness benchmark for mathematics (higher than the 42 percent national rate), and 38 percent met the college readiness benchmark in science (equaling the national rate).

The top 10 Texas universities (in descending order) receiving scores from Texas ACT test-takers were: Texas A&M University; University of Texas at Austin; Texas Tech University; Texas State University; Baylor University; University of Texas at San Antonio; University of North Texas; Sam Houston State University; University of Texas – Pan American; and University of Houston.

The entire ACT report – complete with national and state-by-state results – can be viewed at www.act.org/readiness/2015.

 

Originally published by the Texas Education Agency on Aug. 26, 2015.

Senate Committee on Higher Education discusses teacher preparation and certification

The Senate Committee on Higher Education met Tuesday, July 22, to discuss two interim committee charges. ATPE submitted written testimony regarding the following charge:

Examine and make recommendations regarding improvements in teacher preparation and certification programs to address any misalignment with school district shortages and problems with retaining new teachers.  

The committee invited two panels of participants to testify on the above charge. The first panel consisted of Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. Both provided the committee with a status report of educator preparation and certification in Texas.

Parades pointed to research that highlighted international comparisons and successes among countries’ educator preparation and certification programs. Based on that data, he highlighted common themes among countries with the highest performing students. Those themes included:

  • High and consistent standards for educator preparation programs.
  • A focus on attracting the highest achieving candidates to enter the field.
  • Strong teacher support.
  • Meaningful clinical training.
  • Adequate compensation.
  • And robust professional development.

He said the U.S. and Texas can do better in all areas.

Williams gave the committee state-based statistics on educator preparation and certification. He echoed some of his colleague’s comments and added his belief that the state should better align our educator preparation programs with state standards such as the TEKS. He also acknowledged the existing struggle between getting teachers in the classroom immediately because they are needed—citing a 2012-13 statistic that showed 35,800 teachers left the field while only 24,000 were new hires—versus ensuring teachers receive the standard of preparation needed to be ready for the classroom.

Williams also reported that the breakdown of students receiving educator certification in Texas during the 2012-13 year was as follows:

  • 44 percent were certified through a traditional program, and this route resulted in the highest five-year retention rate of 77 percent.
  • Those certified through alternative certification routes were 41 percent of the pool (retention rate not provided).
  • University post-baccalaureate programs accounted for about 4 percent of certifications (retention rate not provided).
  • 11 percent of new teachers came from out of state, and this route has a five-year retention rate of 61 percent.

The second panel consisted of stakeholders. Again, many of their recommendations reflected the comments made initially by Parades. All of the panelists stressed the importance of adequate clinical training prior to certification. One panelist, Superintendent of Pflugerville ISD Alex Torrez, said that the biggest challenge for struggling new teachers is the ability to manage the classroom. He added that candidates need more support after they reach the classroom, which he said should be a shared responsibility of the district and preparation programs. President of iTeach, a for-profit alternative certification program, Diann Huber, focused much of her testimony on the role and importance of field supervisors in the educator certification process.

The panelists also agreed that all programs should be held to high standards. Executive Director of Educate Texas John Fitzpatrick noted that although we have great access to educator preparation programs in Texas, we need to ensure we are not sacrificing quality. Several of the panelists suggested mandatory accreditation requirements for all programs. Fitzpatrick also commended the move by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to raise the minimum grade point average (GPA) for entrance into an educator preparation program—a move ATPE has requested and actively supported. The board will vote on final approval of that rule change next week.

Dean of the College of Education at the University of Houston Robert H. McPherson said that the biggest challenges he finds with attracting students to enter the teaching field are the perceived lack of prestige of the profession and the fact that other fields offer much higher salaries after graduation. The need to change the way education and educators are perceived was another thoroughly discussed topic.

ATPE advocates for high standards for educator preparation and certification programs in Texas and believes that raising the standards across-the-board for teacher preparation will have a positive ripple effect on the profession, leading to many of the desired outcomes expressed above, such as more prestige for the profession, better support for new teachers and adequate compensation. ATPE’s submitted testimony can be viewed here.

Legislative Update: A busy day in spite of the weather

Icy weather in Central Texas has forced closures of many schools and delayed the start of today’s State Board of Education meeting until noon. The agenda for this week’s SBOE meeting features a final vote on new graduation requirements, including a decision on Algebra II, pursuant to House Bill 5.

Watch the hearings online through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. TEA has announced that anyone who intended to testify at today’s hearing today but is unable to travel due to the weather may email written testimony to the board instead (sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us).

Related Teach the Vote content: Read about the SBOE’s preliminary recommendations for the graduation requirements and ATPE’s testimony at the November board meeting, and watch a media interview with ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter about the Algebra II debate.


Today is election day for candidates in the runoff to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin) in House District 50. Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VandeWalle are on the ballot. Some polls are opening later than originally scheduled because of the weather, and voter turnout is likely to be very low. Visit the Travis County Clerk’s Election Division for more information on when and where to vote if you live in HD 50. This is an important race, and there will be plenty of time for you to head to the polls this afternoon after the ice thaws.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit the 2014 Races page to view profiles of all candidates for legislative and State Board of Education seats on the ballot this year..


Today is the last day to submit public comments via email (rules@tea.state.tx.us) on new teaching standards proposed by the commissioner of education. Commissioner Michael Williams is also scheduled to deliver a keynote speech this afternoon at the TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin.

Related Teach the Vote content: Read background information about the standards and how they were developed.


In Washington, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has a meeting scheduled this morning for its Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. The hearing is entitled “Keeping College Within Reach: Sharing Best Practices for Serving Low-Income and First Generation Students.” Watch the live proceedings online.