SBEC meets to address GPA requirement, sanction authority and new certification exams

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met in Austin last week—Friday, Oct. 24—to address a broad agenda. The meeting included final adoption of minor changes to SBEC’s disciplinary authority, a discussion of the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) decision to veto a recently modified SBEC rule that includes a minimum GPA requirement for educator preparation program (EPP) candidates, an update from Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff on new certification exams, and more.

Adoption of changes to SBEC’s sanctioning authority over Texas educators:

ATPE testified both orally and in writing before SBEC at its August meeting in opposition to two proposed amendments that sought to change rules surrounding SBEC’s sanctioning authority of Texas educators. ATPE expressed concern that the proposed amendments removed the “willfully or recklessly” limitation in current rule for certain violations relating to an educator’s duty to report information to SBEC or TEA. We further relayed that without these limitations, educators could be sanctioned for not reporting information of which they may not have been aware. At the August meeting—where SBEC took a preliminary vote on the proposed language of one of the amendments and voted on final adoption of the other—we were able to make small revisions to the proposal that received final adoption but still found the deletion of the language troubling.

Last week, as the board voted on final adoption of the second proposal, ATPE was pleased to see the inclusion of additional changes. In response to our comments at the August meeting and the comments submitted by others after the conclusion of that meeting, TEA staff presented SBEC with substitute text for the proposed rule change. While the substitute text maintained the removal of “willfully and recklessly,” it narrowed the scope of what an educator is required to report in order to avoid certain violations, which ATPE views as a productive revision. SBEC approved the substitute language and adopted the amendment.

Discussion of SBOE’s recent rejection of the minimum GPA rule for EPP candidates:

Earlier this year, SBEC began rewriting several provisions in 19 TAC Chapters 227, 228, and 229, relating to educator preparation. Included among the changes was language pertaining to the minimum GPA requirement for most candidates seeking admission into an EPP. The rule change was prompted by the passage of House Bill (HB) 2012 by the Texas legislature in 2013, a comprehensive teacher quality bill that ATPE supported. ATPE has published several updates regarding the many developments of this rule change, which included an initial decision by SBEC to raise the minimum GPA requirement, a subsequent reversal of that decision by SBEC, and, most recently, the SBOE’s rejection of the ultimate SBEC decision maintaining the state’s existing minimum GPA requirement of 2.5 or lower for EPP candidates. An overwhelming majority of SBOE members agreed with ATPE and other stakeholders that the current GPA floor is too low and urged SBEC to return to the drawing board.

At SBEC’s meeting last week, the TEA staff presented an update on the SBOE decision to reject the GPA rule and outlined three potential scenarios under which to move forward: (1) SBEC can begin new rulemaking and reconsider the GPA requirement, (2) SBEC can seek an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General about the requirements of HB 2012, or (3) SBEC can do nothing and allow the legislature an opportunity to clarify the law. (There has been some disagreement over the intent of the language in HB 2012 relating to the GPA requirement. Some believe the bill requires SBEC to set a minimum GPA no higher than 2.75, while others believe the bill requires 2.75 to be the floor. Both sponsors of the legislation have stated their intent that the minimum GPA be set at 2.75.)

A majority of SBEC members spoke in favor of revisiting the matter and asked TEA staff to provide clarifying and more extensive data on the GPA issue. Again last week, ATPE provided written testimony to SBEC explaining our position in support of a more rigorous GPA requirement, which is based on studies that show we can better prepare Texas teachers and create a higher achieving student body by raising standards for entrance into the profession. We are pleased the board chose to revisit the GPA requirement at its March 2015 meeting and encourage SBEC to initiate rulemaking once again.

Update on new Core Subjects EC-6 and Core Subjects 4-8 tests:

TEA and SBEC have spent the last year developing new Core Subjects EC-6 and 4-8 assessments—another requirement of HB 2012—and an appropriate timeline for implementation of the new certification tests, which will replace existing Generalist exams and will first be administered in January 2015. In response to ongoing feedback from stakeholders, TEA staff informed SBEC last week that they will institute a pilot period beginning in January and will collect data on candidate test performance. During the pilot period, candidates will be able to take the test at no charge. If a candidate fails to pass the exam during the pilot period, he will simply be able to pay to take the old Generalist assessment. TEA will provide SBEC with data collected during the pilot period at its August 2015 board meeting and recommend additional changes to the exams if necessary.

SBEC members were particularly concerned about the amount of time that is required to take the new tests and expressed interest in taking a look at the number of field test questions included on the exam. They also asked to see disaggregated data on pass/fail rates during the pilot period to ensure there is no bias.

Other business:

  • SBEC voted to begin live streaming its board meetings, a change ATPE welcomes as it will increase transparency and provide for more efficient dissemination of information. Watch for more information from TEA on this development.
  • SBEC took a preliminary vote to reduce many of the fees relating to certification services. For example, the fee for an applicant requesting a standard certificate was reduced from $75 to $65.
  • SBEC adopted a statement in response to the Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report, which in part recommends abolishing SBEC and transferring its power to the Commissioner of Education. The statement opposes the recommendation to dissolve the board and stresses the importance of a governing board made up of education professionals. The Sunset hearing addressing this report will be held on November 12 and 13. ATPE also submitted recent comments to the Sunset Advisory Commission in response to the latest staff report.
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