ATPE educator talks ed prep with state lawmakers

The House Committee on Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality and the House Committee on Higher Education met Thursday morning for a joint hearing on educator preparation programs (EPPs), which is among the interim charges assigned by Texas Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) before the next legislative session.

ATPE educator and Round Rock ISD fourth grade teacher Stephanie Stoebe testifying at the Texas Capitol June 7, 2018.

The first panel focused on data and accountability, and Texas Education Agency (TEA) associate commissioner Ryan Franklin began testimony with a summary of new teacher demographics. Only a third of new teachers come from traditional four-year undergraduate programs, while half come from alternative certification, or “alt-cert” programs. A+ Texas Teachers, which is an alt-cert program, certifies about a quarter of all new teachers in the state.

All programs require 300 hours of training, but the timing and nature of the training can vary greatly. For example, traditional programs require 14 weeks of training with a teacher of record before allow candidates to take over the classroom themselves, while alt-certs allow candidates to enter the classroom alone as the teacher of record without the benefit of that training.

ATPE member and Round Rock ISD fourth grade teacher Stephanie Stoebe testified about the importance of robust educator preparation programs. Poor preparation leads to higher dropout rates for new teachers. Stoebe testified a campus where she previously worked saw a nearly 50 percent turnover rate for four years because of teachers unprepared to teach students in high levels of poverty, which resulted in neediest kids getting abandoned.

Stoebe conducted research over the past year into indicators of quality EPPs. A survey of 225 classroom teachers found that teacher candidates rely primarily on reputation and flexibility in choosing an educator preparation program. When it comes to the type of preparation, Stoebe emphasized the value of classroom experience, noting that she was taught in the Army to “train as you fight.” Stoebe offered several recommendations, including setting a high bar relevant to student achievement and creating a dashboard to share EPP information. Stoebe also pointed out, “What gets measured gets done.” Stoebe testified teachers are calling for transparency of data, and urged leaders to use data to hold EPPs accountable.

Members of each committee discussed teacher pay and working conditions, noting that both are contributing factors to teacher turnover and retention. State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) raised concern about the increasing reliance on alt-certs, which see higher attrition rates. “This is something that we really need to delve into next session,” said state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). State Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), who chairs the Educator Quality Subcommittee, emphasized the importance of “grow your own” programs in closing the equity gap between rural and urban districts with regard to teacher quality.

Dr. Judy Abbott, the Dean of the College of Education at Stephen F. Austin State University, suggested lawmakers pass legislation to better support partnerships between local districts and institutes of higher education by assigning a dollar value to the time educator candidates spend in classrooms while pursuing their certification. Dr. Abbott estimated this benefit to be around $12,000 per teacher.

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2 thoughts on “ATPE educator talks ed prep with state lawmakers

  1. Cynthia Stroup

    I don’t believe Texas will ever achieve an atmosphere of ‘I want to be a teacher’ again without serious changes in the Texas legislature. As a retired teacher who went through the alt-cert program I will never encourage any student to become a teacher. Why would someone want to be a teacher when they can earn three times as much in the corporate world right out of college? All the meetings and discussions are meaningless until Texas Teachers are treated as as the valuable entity they are instead of second class citizens. There would not be a shortage of teachers if the Texas legislature had an ounce of foresight. Texas leaders have dug a deep hole and are not smart enough to see a way out. They continue to repeat the same mistakes and spout the same rhetoric.

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  2. Rania Klonis

    The comment above while valid to a certain degree, is not even the issue anymore. As a teacher looking forward to retiring from a profession I used to respect and love, I too must agree with the above comment. I too refuse to recommend others to teaching but for a different reason. There is no respect or trust in this profession. I went to a four year university to become a teacher and when I started my career, before no child left behind, teaching was respected by parents and supervisors. Unfortunately, now neither parents, nor supervisors, nor media, nor students treat us with respect. I look forward to this changing. Students are children that should be trusted to their teachers who know them best in the classroom and should be allowed to have the full last say as to how and what should be taught in the classroom. Parents who never bother to meet a teacher face to face should never take the side of a child without speaking to the teacher first. It saddens me to think that everyone thinks that new teachers are leaving because they are not fully prepared. That is absurd. Nobody is ever fully prepared unless they are immersed and supported along the way. Teachers are not trusted or supported for doing a long list of duties while sacrificing their families and own life to please everyone else but still fighting a loosing battle. I can relate with the veterans coming home from Viet Nam. We are being set up for failure. We can thank our lawmakers for this.

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