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.