Taking a deeper look at the commissioner’s comments on teacher preparation

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 4/12/2024 | Author: Tricia Cave

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath spoke with the State Board of Education (SBOE) about teacher preparation, employment, and hiring practices Wednesday. The commissioner made several assertions during his presentation that warrant further scrutiny. The comments, made during his regularly scheduled Q&A session with the SBOE, raised eyebrows among the teacher preparation community, as several statements were seemingly made without supporting documentation and run counter to what many understand to be the facts on the ground. What was presented as fact were actually Morath’s opinions/perceptions. 

Assertion 1: Districts “gave up” on hiring certified teachers following the pandemic. Districts are hiring uncertified educators “off the street.” 

It’s unclear what brought the commissioner to this conclusion, which ignores the state’s culpability in creating Districts of Innovation that allow the hiring of uncertified educators in the first place. Although  

it is true that Texas school districts have increasingly relied on uncertified teachers to fill classroom staffing gaps in the recent past, they are doing so in response to a teacher vacancy crisis in which educators are leaving the classroom in record numbers. Districts are driven to hire uncertified teachers out of desperation due to staffing needs, but that doesn’t mean they have given up on hiring certified educators. Districts want to hire the best, and they are often resorting to ever-more creative methods to do so, such as recruiting out of state and even from overseas. It is hard to recruit, however, in an environment that doesn’t address the concerns driving teachers out of the classroom in record numbers. The Teacher Vacancy Task Force, founded by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in 2022, made many recommendations it hoped would help to retain quality educators. However, in a legislative session hijacked by Abbott’s voucher crusade, none of the recommendations were passed into law, despite many, such as teacher pay raises and discipline supports, having broad support across both parties and chambers.  

Assertion 2: Districts don’t value alternative certification. 

This is, again, a personal conclusion of Morath’s, shared without supporting data to back it up. Alternative certification is a non-traditional route to the classroom that allows incoming educators to complete some certification requirements while already teaching. Alternative certification is a frequently used path for new educators, especially those entering the field from another career path. According to Morath, in 2022, 69% of new teachers entered the field through alternative certification programs. Districts play a vital role in ensuring the success of these candidates by pairing them with good mentors and providing necessary supports to ensure the candidates don’t burn out. Many districts and region service centers even offer their own alternative certification programs.  

My personal conclusion differs from Morath’s. I completed an alternative certification program in Pasadena ISD. I saw no evidence the district did not value this pathway. Rather, districts rely on alternative certification programs as a vital partner in filling their classroom staffing needs. 

Assertion 3: An SBOE veto of newly rewritten rules regarding educator certification would mean throwing away years of SBEC work. 

This is absolutely not the case. An SBOE veto would simply send the rules back to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for further work. It would not require SBEC to trash what has been done and start over.  

As a related aside, the commissioner also failed in his comments to recognize the fact that SBEC, who relies heavily on TEA staff, could have chosen to break up the proposed changes they sent to the SBOE to avoid the need to potentially vote down non-controversial changes in order to address other changes the SBOE may have issue with. 

Assertion 4: Groups objecting to rule changes are doing so late in the process and should have brought their concerns to TEA sooner. 

Many of the groups bringing concerns to the SBOE about 19 TAC 230 rewrites have been involved in stakeholder groups that have provided consistent testimony to SBEC about their concerns throughout the process. In fact, code rewrites often involve years of engagement from stakeholders, a process outlined by former ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier in this blog post

Assertion 5: The new 19 TAC Chapter 230 rules do not expand edTPA (the teacher performance assessment rejected by SBOE in 2022). 

The new 19 TAC Chapter 230 rules do in fact expand edTPA by removing its status as a pilot program. They operationalize edTPA. Morath claimed during questioning from SBOE members that this change is necessary to hold EPPs accountable for their edTPA programs. This could be done easily by retaining the program’s pilot status and removing a few words from 19 TAC Chapter 229. Operationalizing edTPA makes it a permanent pedagogy certification test for everyone without data being shared publicly. ATPE and our partners in the Texas Coalition for Educator Preparation (TCEP) have consistently objected to the use of edTPA as a certification exam.  


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