Category Archives: Educator preparation

New teachers: Share your voice through your first-year survey

Who: Calling all teachers who have completed their educator preparation program (EPP) and their first full year on a standard teaching certificate!

What: Complete your new teacher survey. This survey collects data from new teachers to determine their satisfaction with their preparation program and ensures that teacher voice is present in the quality of Texas EPPs. The survey was distributed via email by TEA to eligible teachers on April 3.

Click to open a larger version.

Why: Educator preparation programs (EPPs) are held accountable for their performance and outcomes just like school districts and campuses are. One of the indicators used for the Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP) is the new teacher survey. Your data will be used with others from your program to help “grade” the EPP.

Where: From anywhere with email access and Internet!

When: Complete your survey by June 17, 2019.

How: Access the survey included in the email sent to you by TEA. Emails were sent out to eligible teachers on April 3. If you need a new link to the survey, please email teachersurvey@tea.texas.gov.

SBEC considers EdTPA pilot, special education certification, and more

SBEC meeting, April 26, 2019

On Friday, April 26, 2019, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met in Austin to take up an agenda including several important items. Items considered by the board included final approval of the EdTPA pilot, discussion of a new framework for special education certification exams, and approval of final details for the new “Principal as Instructional Leader” certificate.

Some action items on the board’s agenda last week will result in a public comment period that will run from May 31, 2019, through July 1, 2019. These include proposals to prompt a routine four-year review of rules regarding the certification of appraisers and rules establishing the certificate categories within the certificate class for classroom teachers (e.g. Science 4-8, Social Studies 7-12, Music EC-12). The board is also proposing changes to rules regarding how districts are required to make personnel assignment decisions. For instance, if you have a certificate in Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies 9-12, you are allowed to teach a variety of social studies and history courses. Due to public testimony, three changes were made to the proposed rules following the February meeting: allowing with agriculture certificates to teach Principles of Architecture: Principals of Construction, Grades 9-12;  allowing those with Physics/Math certificates to teach Robotics 1, Grades 9-12; and allowing those with technology education certificates to teach Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics, Grades 9-12.

Another major rule-making item on the SBEC agenda that will require a public comment period was the approval of proposed changes to rules on Teacher Certification Redesign, including certification requirements, testing requirements, and types of certificate classes and permits issued (probationary, intern, etc.). The proposed changes include the following:

  • A maximum 45-day waiting period between test attempts, which supports test reliability.
  • The option of a four-week, intensive pre-service pathway towards an intern certificate, which is meant to incentivize alternative certification and post-baccalaureate programs to have pre-service teaching.
  • The use of EdTPA, a portfolio-based performance assessment, as a testing option that educator preparation programs (EPPs) can opt into using during a two-year implementation pilot.
  • Updates to fees, including a shift to subject-matter-only assessments for EPPs that require pre-admission content tests (PACT), which would cost $106 (proposed effective January 1, 2020). EdTPA would cost $281 and only affect candidates who choose to use EdTPA and participate in an EPP that is in the pilot, with a cost of $111/task for retakes (three tasks total).

Testimony on the EdTPA proposal was voluminous during Friday’s meeting. An overwhelming majority of EPPs (university, alternative, and post-baccalaureate) testified in opposition to the proposed new assessment, citing concerns with test integrity, cost to candidates, and pilot design. Those in favor of the change, including Teach Plus Texas and four Teach Plus Texas policy fellows, stated that authentic assessment will be effective at inciting change in EPPs that will lead to better prepared teachers. While the board voted in favor of beginning the pilot, certain board members such as Dr. Art Cavazos, Dr. Rex Peebles, Dr. John Kelly, Carlos Villagrana, and Tommy Coleman expressed concerns with the structure and viability of data obtained from the pilot. Dr. Cavazos strongly advocated for a simultaneous alternative to EdTPA to be developed, so that additional data and options are available after the two-year pilot concludes, should the EdTPA data turn out to be inconclusive or negative. Again,a  public comment period on these proposed changes to the certification exam rules will run from May 31, 2019, through July 1, 2019, and will be published in the Texas Register.

Here are additional agenda items on which SBEC took action last Friday:

  • Final approval of the review of rules regarding educator disciplinary proceedings, sanctions, and contested cases. This is a standard four-year review that all state agency rules are subject to on an ongoing, cyclical basis.
  • Final approval of a new rule specifying certification standards for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Supplemental Certificate (proposed effective July 21, 2019). One of the changes to the standards is a section on culturally responsive teaching in order to construct mutually adaptive learning environments for English language learners.
  • Final approval of the deadline for candidates to qualify and apply for the current Principal Certificate (August 31, 2019) so that all certificates under this category can be issued by October 30, 2019. SBEC also heard an update on the 59 EPPs that have been approved to offer the new Principal as Instructional Leader Certificate. See more about Principal Certification Redesign here.
  • Approval of the membership of the Bilingual Education certificate advisory committee, which will work with TEA staff to draft educator standards that define the content of EPPs and certification exams. The committee will convene in June 2019.
  • Approval of the rest of the EPP accountability ratings (56), as most others (77) had been approved during the February SBEC meeting.
  • Approval/action on disciplinary cases involving educator misconduct.

The following additional items were on the board’s agenda last week for discussion only:

  • Discussion of changes to rules regarding accountability standards and procedures for EPPs, including new commendations for high-performing EPPs, adoption of the accountability manual, and how accreditation statuses are determined.
  • Discussion of proposed changes to admission requirements into EPPs to reflect changes to the PACT, which is a part of the Teacher Certification Redesign mentioned above. The purpose of the PACT is to allow candidates admittance to EPP programs by demonstrating subject-matter-only knowledge (if they don’t have the commensurate coursework and minimum 2.5 GPA). Currently, candidates can gain admission through a content pedagogy test, which tests for teaching strategies that the candidate hasn’t been exposed to yet. The proposed revisions would also implement SB 1839, HB 2039, HB 3349 of the 85th Legislature, which created an Early Childhood through Grade 3 (EC-3) certificate and a Trade and Industrial Workforce Training: Grades 6-12 certificate.
  • Discussion of recommendations made by the Special Education policy forums and an update on the upcoming certification test development process. This includes four new special education certifications and a Deaf/Blind supplemental certification. The four new certification tests would be a “Mild/Moderate Support, Grades EC-8”, “Mild/Moderate Support, Grades 6-12”, “High Support, Grades EC-8”, and “High Support, Grades 6-12”.
  • Discussion of the 5-year EPP continuing approval review process and the current results for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 reviews. This item will come up again at the October 2019 meeting as an action item.

SBEC will hold a work session on July 25, 2019 and will hold its next formal meeting on July 26, 2019. There will be an opportunity for public testimony at the July 26 meeting for items that will result in a public comment period (see above) and for the discussion items above. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.

Highlights of Friday’s SBEC meeting

The State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) met yesterday, Feb. 22, in Austin to take up an agenda involving several actions items and discussions.

Action Items

The action items for the February 2019 SBEC meeting included:

  • Updates from TEA’s Divisions of Educator Leadership and Quality, which included current numbers on educator certification; educator standards, testing, and preparation; educator investigations; and legal case dockets.
  • Approval of the proposed new rule specifying the certification standards for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Supplemental Certificate (proposed effective July 21, 2019). One of the changes to the standards is a section on culturally responsive teaching in order to construct mutually adaptive learning environments for English learners.
  • Approval of the review of Chapter 249 of Title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code on educator disciplinary proceedings, sanctions, and contested cases. (SBEC rules are reviewed periodically according to a normal schedule, chapter by chapter.)
  • Approval of the proposal to change the closing deadline for the certification and testing requirements for the current Principal Certificate to August 31, 2019. Additionally, all applications must be completed and received by TEA by October 30, 2019. SBEC also heard an update on the 52 educator preparation programs (EPPs) that will now offer the new Principal as Instructional Leader Certificate. See more about Principal Certification Redesign here.
  • Approval of the 2017-18 Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs (ASEP) accreditation statuses for all EPPs. This is an annual action item.
  • Approval of a new Superintendent class of certificate to be offered by the Harris County Department of Education.
  • Annual review of the Board Operating Policies and Procedures (no changes).
  • Approval of decisions regarding educator litigation and disciplinary cases.

Discussion Items

The board’s agenda included a lengthy discussion on the upcoming EdTPA pilot, which will examine the validity and feasibility of using a performance-based assessment for teacher certification.

  • On the issue of Teacher Certification Redesign, the board found themselves listening to hours of testimony from representatives of university EPPs and alternative certification providers, TeachPlus, and TeachPlus fellows. The majority of board members expressed concern with EdTPA following the testimony, but were at an impasse as no action could be taken since the item was posted on the agenda as discussion-only. Among the discussed alternatives to EdTPA were residency programs (suggested by SBEC member Art Cavazos) and using the T-TESS plus a revised EC-12 Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam that includes constructed response questions (suggested by multiple EPPs). The board also very briefly discussed:
    • The shift to subject-matter-only assessments for EPPs that require pre-admission content tests (PACT), which would increase the cost of the test by $106 (proposed effective January 1, 2020).
    • The option of a four-week, intensive pre-service pathway towards an intern certificate, which is meant to incentivize alternative certification and post-baccalaureate programs to have pre-service teaching.
    • Updates to current content exams to support a focus on content pedagogy. Public comment is currently being taken to help develop two of these: the science of teaching reading exam and the EC-3 content exam.
  • Proposed revisions to EPP admissions, specifically to implement the subject-matter-only assessments to be used for the PACT, in lieu of the current exam that tests an applicant’s content and pedagogy knowledge. Currently, only alternative certification programs are able to require PACT for admission purposes. Additionally, the revisions include new rules for the Trade and Industrial Workforce Training (6-12) certification to fulfill the requirements of HB 3349 (passed in the 85th legislative session in 2017).
  • Proposed revisions to requirements for EPPs, including the definition and programmatic requirements of the intensive pre-service option; a new rule that EPPs can change their name for purposes of accreditation only if they change ownership; a new requirement for candidates seeking certification in two fields to have clinical teaching in both fields; and a revision to align EPP responsibilities to the new subject-matter-only PACT exam.
  • Proposed revisions to the guidelines and procedures related to educator testing and certification to reflect the changes of the Teacher Certification Redesign. The revisions would align with new PACT exam definitions, include a 45-day waiting period between test attempts, update required tests for issuance of the standard certificate, create the new requirements for the intensive pre-service option, and update testing fees for edTPA and the new subject-matter-only PACT exams.
  • A discussion of how districts are required to make personnel decisions. For instance, if you have a certificate in Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies 9-12, you are allowed to teach a variety of social studies and history courses. Additionally, those with Art certifications will be able to teach Floral Design, grades 9-12.

The next SBEC board meeting will be on April 26, 2017. After approval, items from the agenda will be posted on the Texas Register for public comment. Search the agency “State Board for Educator Certification” to find the items once they are published.

Preview: SBEC to meet Friday and vote on abbreviated educator preparation program

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) meets this Friday to make final decisions about rules implementing H.B. 3349, a bill passed last legislative session that created an abbreviated pathway to obtaining a new certificate to teach trade and industrial workforce classes.

The board gave initial approval to the rule proposal in May, which represents an expansion of both the underlying bill and the original proposal SBEC discussed for several meetings. ATPE opposed the changes at that time and submitted formal comments last month that covered our concerns with the proposal as it currently stands.

“Research shows that access to an effective educator is the most important school-based factor affecting a student’s academic success, and ATPE believes all students deserve access to a well-trained educator.” Our comments stated this because, if adopted on Friday and ultimately approved by the State Board of Education, this will be the only abbreviated certification program adopted by the board.

ATPE’s comments go on to explain that the training an educator candidate gets from one’s educator preparation program (EPP) involves critical time spent learning how to teach, but the proposal devalues the importance of that training by reducing the number of hours these educator candidates are trained prior to entering the classroom as the teacher-or-record.

“ATPE sees no reason why candidates seeking the Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate should receive less training in this critical area than what is expected of every other candidate. Likewise, students of these educators deserve well-trained educators as much as their peers learning in different classrooms,” we stressed in our comments.

Further, ATPE argues that the proposal (1) unnecessarily reduces the number of pre-service hours and inappropriately adds marketing and health sciences certificates to the abbreviated pathway when neither were discussed or vetted by the legislature and the bill always limited the certificate to “a person seeking certification in trade and industrial workforce training;” (2) haphazardly allows entities other than EPPs to provide up to 90 hours of training without accountability or oversight; and (3) fails to prevent educators trained under this expedited route from seeking other certifications by examination only, without the additional training required of that certificate.

ATPE knows that we cannot expect excellence from teachers without a strong foundation of preparation, and we hope the board maintains its mission of “upholding the highest level of educator preparation” by rejecting these watered-down standards for some educators and their students. The board meets Friday morning to discuss this and other issues. Check back on Teach the Vote for developments from Friday’s meeting and follow me on Twitter at @ATPE_KateK for live updates.

Summer Activism: How can I continue to fight for our classrooms?

Congratulations, you made it to summer!

The students are gone, but every teacher knows the work never really stops, even when the temperatures soar. As it turns out, this summer is already shaping up to be a pretty active one when it comes to shaping public education policies that could make a big impact on classrooms next fall.

In fact, keeping on top of what’s happening this summer is critical to ensuring lawmakers start off on the right foot when they return to Austin in January to start making laws that affect your students, classrooms and profession. To that end, many ATPE members have asked what educators can do to stay on top of these important conversations this summer.

The good news is there’s plenty to do, and much of it can be done with minimal disruption to your summer schedule! Here’s a list of ways to keep engaged:

Be Social

Keeping up on your social media feeds is the best way to stay up to date on what conversations are going down where. Your ATPE governmental relations staff is busy going to important meetings where the future of public education is being discussed, and we’re posting what’s being talked about on Twitter. Good handles to follow are @OfficialATPE, @TeachTheVote, @ATPE_JenniferC, @ATPE_MontyE, @ATPE_KateK and yours truly, @MarkWigginsTX. Also check for updates on ATPE’s Facebook page. The more follows, likes and shares we get, the more clout we’ll have when we start mobilizing members during the legislative session.

Speak Up

There are dozens of meetings scheduled this summer where members of the public are allowed to testify about public education issues, letting lawmakers know where they stand. Next month, a special Senate committee is meeting to talk about school safety, and the House Public Education Committee is holding hearings on school safety and mental health next week. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance is scheduled to meet July 10 to discuss ways to fix the school finance system. The State Board of Education (SBOE) just wrapped up their June meeting, but they’ll be back in September. If you want to know more about how to testify, just call or e-mail your ATPE governmental relations department; but you don’t have to travel to Austin to be heard. Reaching out to the people elected to represent you via letters, email, and phone calls can be just as effective. You can often them just down the street at their local district offices during this time year as well, if you want to talk to them face to face without ever leaving home.

Volunteer

The most important way to make sure we secure adequate funding, resources and respect for the teaching profession is by electing pro-public education candidates to office. You can find out who supports public education by checking out our Candidates page. The November 6 election is the biggest and last opportunity between now and the next legislative session to do that. Even though July and August are typically slow months for political campaigns, those campaigns are always looking for people to block walk, make phone calls and put up signs. Volunteering during the dog days is also a great way to get to know candidates and staff on a personal level, since they’re usually very grateful for the help!

Donate

Unfortunately, money still matters in the world of politics. Campaigns rely on it and so do political action committees (PACs). People are grateful for donations any time, and summer is no exception. For most educators, pooling your money with other donors through a PAC offers you an opportunity to get the best bang for the buck. For example, during the primaries, 72 percent of the candidates who received a donation form the ATPE-PAC went on to win their election. In the primary runoffs that number jumped to 80 percent.

Preach the Word

Summer is a time for barbecues, grilling out and social gatherings. We’ve all been general brought up to avoid talking politics, but the future of our schools is something that should rise above partisanship. Are your friends also stressed about paying too much in property taxes? Do they know that fixing the school finance system by ensuring the state pays its fair share of the burden would go a long way in fixing that? What about testing — are other parents just as fed up with the overemphasis on STAAR? Let them know the hard work you and ATPE are doing to advocate for solutions to these problems and let them know about Teach the Vote! We created the site for everyone who cares about the future of public education because we need everyone’s help to make sure we get  the right people in office to fix these and many other issues, such as teacher health care and compensation.

We’re gearing up for a scorcher, but educators can’t afford to spend too much time in the shade. Every little bit helps us to avoid getting burned next session!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 8, 2018

Here’s your weekly wrap-up of education news from ATPE Governmental Relations:


School finance commission working group on expenditures meeting June 6, 2018.

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met this week both as a whole and in smaller working groups. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins followed the conversation and provided updates for TeachTheVote.org. His first post details Tuesday’s meeting of the full commission, in which members heard from a number of invited witness who talked about teacher supports, such as merit pay programs.

The working group on revenues, led by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), held a last-minute meeting afterward that resulted in most of the public not being able to attend, but reports from those inside provided an idea of what the group has planned. State Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Houston) working group on expenditures met Wednesday morning, and engaged in a lively discussion about textbooks and classroom technology.

The commission is scheduled to meet again on July 10, followed by an expenditures meeting on July 11 in which the working group will vote on recommendations to submit to the full body.


The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security is set to hold two hearings next week in response to the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assigned Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) to chair the select committee, which is composed of six Republicans and three Democrats.

Monday’s agenda includes invited and public testimony on the following: “Improve the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to reduce security threats, and discuss various proposals to harden school facilities, including limiting access points, improving screening and detecting of weapons, retrofitting school facilities with improved locks, emergency alarm systems, and monitoring cameras.”

Tuesday’s agenda includes invited and public testimony on the following: “Study school security options and resources, including, but not limited to, the school marshal program, school police officers, armed school personnel, the Texas School Safety Center, and other training programs to determine what improvements can be made to provide school districts and charter schools with more robust security options.”

Texas Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) asked the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to study a “red flag” law that would provide a legal process for temporarily removing guns from someone considered potentially dangerous by family members or law enforcement. Straus also announced nine new interim charges for House committees:

Committee on Appropriations

“Examine the availability of federal funding and Governor’s Criminal Justice grants that may directly or indirectly improve school safety. Evaluate the potential costs of proposals identified by the Governor and House Committees related to improving access to mental health services for children, improved school safety, and enhanced firearm safety.”

Committee on Public Education

“Review the effectiveness of schools’ current multi-hazard emergency operation plans. Determine any areas of deficiency and make recommendations to ensure student safety. Research violence prevention strategies, such as threat assessment, that are available for school personnel to identify students who might pose a threat to themselves or others. Identify resources and training available to schools to help them develop intervention plans that address the underlying problems that caused the threatening behavior.”

“Examine current school facilities and grounds. Consider any research-based ‘best practices’ when designing a school to provide a more secure environment. Review the effectiveness of installing metal detectors, cameras, safety locks, streaming video of school security cameras, and other measures designed to improve school safety.”

Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

“Examine current statutes designed to protect minors from accessing firearms without proper supervision and make recommendations to ensure responsible and safe firearm storage, including enhancing the penalty to a felony when unauthorized access results in death or bodily injury.”

Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety

“Evaluate options to increase the number of school marshals available, and identify current statutory requirements that limit utilization of the program.”

“Examine best practices and measures adopted in other states regarding reporting lost or stolen firearms. Gather information on reporting strategies, fines, and/or penalties for noncompliance, and receive testimony from law enforcement related to mishandling of firearms.”

Committees on Public Education and Committee on Public Health (Joint Charge)

“Consider testimony provided at the May 17 House Public Health Committee hearing regarding improving mental health services for children. Identify specific strategies that would enhance overall school safety. Study ways to help parents, youth and primary care providers support school personnel in their efforts to identify and intervene early when mental health problems arise. In addition to school-based trauma-informed programs and those that treat early psychosis, consider the benefits of universal screening tools and expanding the Child Psychiatry Access Program (CPAP). Make recommendations to enhance collaboration among the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Education Agency, local mental health authorities, and education service centers.”

Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety and Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence (Joint Charge)

“Examine current judicial procedures and practices and make recommendations to assist all courts and jurisdictions in reporting judgments and verdicts which make up the information sent to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Review and make recommendations regarding the list of convictions, judgments, and judicial orders which disqualify a person from possessing a firearm.”

Committee on Defense & Veterans Affairs and Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety (Joint Charge)

“Examine the experience of other states in prioritizing retired peace officers and military veterans for school security. Determine the minimum standards necessary to implement such a program.”

ATPE will be attending these hearings will post updates at TeachTheVote.org. The House and Senate actions come after Gov. Greg Abbott released his outline of ideas to prevent further school shootings last week. Many of those ideas would require legislative action, which is among the things the committees will consider.

 


State Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) announced his resignation this week, saying it’s time to move on. The Texas Tribune reported on his announcement, which we’ve been expecting since he announced last year he wouldn’t be running for reelection. Rep. Gonzales chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI, VII and VIII of the state budget, which includes funding for big state agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). As a member of the Texas Legislature, he was well known for being a friendly guy and a straight shooter who worked with both parties to get things done. Gonzales was a good friend of public education, and his presence in the legislature will be dearly missed.

The race to follow Rep. Gonzales in representing House District (HD) 52 is between Republican Cynthia Flores and Democrat James Talarico. You can click on each of their names to view their candidate information and survey responses they provided to TeachTheVote.org. This is expected to be a close race, which underscores the importance of every vote.

The November 6 General Election will be the last opportunity for education supporters to make sure pro-public education candidates are elected into office. Whomever voters choose will decide what direction to take the Texas Legislature when it meets in January. Will we see a resurrection of vouchers and bills attacking teachers? Or will we see a comprehensive school finance reform bill that puts more resources into classrooms and gives local taxpayers a break? It all depends on who you elect!

 


 

Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Wednesday the criteria for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey to receive waivers from the state accountability ratings. Campuses, districts, and open enrollment charter schools are eligible to be evaluated under the Hurricane Harvey Provision if 10% or more of students or teachers were reported as homeless after the storm, if the campus was closed for ten or more instructional days, or if the campus was reported as being displaced due to the geographic relocation of students or the sharing of instructional facilities. Campuses or districts that meet at least one of these criteria AND are labeled Improvement Required or receive a B, C, D, or F rating will have their accountability rating changed to Not Rated. You can read the full announcement here.

 


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

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality and the House Committee on Higher Education combined forces on Thursday to discuss educator preparation programs (EPPs). The differences between alternative certification or “alt-cert” programs and traditional EPPs was examined during the hearing. The combined committees also heard from ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe, who spoke about her efforts to identify what marks a quality EPP. Stoebe’s recommendations for the committees included creating a dashboard to share EPP information and setting high standards relevant to student achievement. Teacher pay and attrition were also among the topics discussed at the hearing. The combined committees also heard from Stephen F. Austin University, College of Education Dean, Dr. Judy Abbott about partnerships between colleges, universities, and local districts. A detailed breakdown of the hearing can be found in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

 


On Wednesday, June 6, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released guidelines to all administrators relating to services for students with dyslexia and other disorders. The provisions come after a final monitoring report from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) disclosed that TEA failed to comply requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The provision of services outlines the appropriate responses educators should have if a student is showing early signs of dyslexia, the need for special education, or other services. Read the full correspondence here.

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.

School finance commission talks about teacher supports

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met Tuesday in Austin for a discussion on English learners. Opening the meeting, commission Chair Scott Brister urged the working groups assigned to study different aspects of school finance to be specific in the recommendations they make. In particular, Brister said the commission should strive to reach a consensus on the numbers: How much is the state spending on public education? Is it raising or cutting funding? Should textbooks be included in the cost of education?

School finance commission meeting June 5, 2018.

It’s important to note that most of these numbers are readily available from the Legislative Budget Board and are not in dispute. The disagreement has arisen as a result of some witnesses and commission members attempting to use alternative calculations that are not used in state accounting documents, usually in an attempt to inflate spending figures. Part of the argument used by those hoping to privatize public education is that the state spends enough on public schools already. Compared to other states, Texas ranks in the bottom 10 in per-pupil spending.

The English learners discussion began with invited witnesses pointing out the benefits of dual-language programs over traditional English as a Second Language (ESL) models. Texas has a high percentage of English learners, who benefit the most from strong language instruction early in their academic careers. Students who don’t become proficient in English in elementary school are increasingly likely to struggle later on, and are at a higher risk of failing to graduate. Chair Brister expressed concern over the cost of high-quality programs for English learners. Conversely, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) warned of the future costs of failing to ensure students successfully learn English.

A witness from the Mark Twain Dual Language Academy in San Antonio explained that most of the costs of dual language program are related to start-up, such as training and hiring bilingual educators. The challenge for many schools is hiring educators from a limited pool of certified teachers who are highly proficient in both English and Spanish.

The next panel focused on supports for teachers in general. Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath testified that the evidence supports the idea that teachers should be paid significantly more, which would aid retention at high-poverty schools. Morath suggested it is also possible to develop an evaluation system that can identify high quality teachers, and advised the commission that a policy framework to provide better pay for high-quality teachers will require long-term commitment by the state, not a one-time grant or budget rider.

Morath further said that pay, not working conditions, is the top hurdle when it comes to recruiting people into the education profession. When it comes to retention, teachers say working conditions are more important than pay. Pay for education jobs has decreased over time, and the average classroom teacher has gotten younger as veterans leave the profession.

The commissioner discussed legislation filed during the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature that would have created a system of tiered certification distinctions tied to significant increases in pay. For example, a “master teacher” who has received a national certification and fulfilled additional requirements and serves at a rural or high-poverty campus could earn up to $20,000 more.

State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), who chairs the House Public Education Committee, said he declined to support the bill because of the cost it would have imposed on a long-term basis. Morath emphasized that higher pay is a long-term strategy and would not improve current performance, rather it would recruit and retain better quality educators in the future. In endorsing the idea, Morath indicated it will only work if the funding is baked into the funding formulas for school districts. The commissioner also suggested that one of the bill’s flaws was calibrating the process of identifying high-performing teachers, explaining that each school principal could have a different opinion when it comes to what defines a great teacher.

Responding to a question about high-stakes testing from State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin), Morath said testing would have to be at least one component of a program that evaluates teacher quality. The commissioner suggested there should also be an observational component and perhaps a student survey, which is included in the Dallas ISD program upon which the bill was based.

Commission member Todd Williams also noted that there is no incentive for teachers to work in high-poverty or rural schools. In addition, teachers who are at the top of the pay scale cannot increase their pay without leaving the classroom and becoming an administrator, which means their teaching talent would be removed from the system. Finally, Williams noted that there is no incentive for teacher candidates to choose a high-quality preparation program over a cheaper, fly-by-night program. Williams suggested creating incentives in these areas could increase teacher quality and retention.

Concluding his testimony, Morath said that investing in better quality teachers would lead to better-prepared students graduating and pursuing more lucrative jobs. That, combined with teachers themselves earning more, would materially increase the state’s GDP. Morath reasoned this would have a positive and measurable impact on the Texas economy.

Following up on Morath’s testimony, Alief ISD Superintendent H.D. Chambers noted that rising health care costs have also driven teachers out of the profession. Chambers said children need to come to kindergarten ready to go to school, which pre-K helps accomplish, and must be reading on grade level by the third grade. Quality teachers should be in all classrooms, which is helped by differentiated teacher pay, such as paying teachers more to teach in more challenging classrooms.

San Antonio ISD fourth grade teacher Sarah Perez, who is also a Teach Plus Policy Fellow, rounded out the panel on educator supports. Perez testified that students need more social and emotional supports, such as counseling services. According to Perez, a teacher survey by Teach Plus found that teachers identify large class sizes and low teacher pay as having a negative impact on student learning. So do inadequate facilities and limited access to technology or funding for classroom expenses. This led to a lively discussion regarding how much the state could reimburse teachers for classroom expenses and how renewing this program could be done using technology, such as a debit card.

The rest of the day’s panels focused on “inefficiencies” in public education. Michael Szabo, a high school math teacher from Galena Park ISD, gave moving testimony about the struggles his students face. Some deal with teen pregnancy, homelessness, deportation, absent parents and other issues that distract from their ability to concentrate on schoolwork. At the same time, they and the school are being judged based on their performance on standardized tests. Instead, Szabo suggested tying performance evaluation to the percentage of graduates who enter the workforce, as well as those who are incarcerated or end up on welfare.

Other witnesses testified regarding reviewing special program allotments and how those funds can be spent. That included raising the compensatory allotment and easing back spending requirements. Responding to a question about charter schools, one witness noted that while charter school teachers are eligible to participate in the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas, charters are not required to pay into the system. Another district suggested requiring charter schools to provide more notice and information to the district before setting up shop within a district’s borders and a “universal wait list” for charters. Some charters have touted dubious statistics regarding the number of students who are on wait lists. At the conclusion of the meeting, Brister invited a representative from a charter school to advocate for charters in general.

Districts requested more flexibility with regard to instruction time, as well as accessing the virtual school network. Districts also identified unfunded mandates and the unique challenges facing small, rural districts as drivers of inefficiency. There was some discussion as well from members of the commission who suggested districts faced with burdensome regulations consider becoming districts of innovation (DOI). It’s important to note that despite the perceived benefits of becoming a DOI, most districts have used DOI to hire uncertified teachers and expand class sizes beyond the statutory maximum. These are cost-cutting measures that ultimately hurt students.

The commission working group on expenditures is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning. The next meeting of the full commission is July 10.

School finance group looks at costs of undereducation

The Texas Committee on Public School Finance working group on outcomes met Tuesday morning to take invited testimony on a number of subjects. The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting at the Texas Capitol included intersections of education, healthcare access, child and family well-being, and economic outcomes in Texas; strategic talent management and building systems to attract, retain, and develop highly qualified talent into Texas public schools; and teacher quality / certification.

School finance commission working group on outcomes meets May 29, 2018.

Anne Dunkelberg with the Center for Public Policy Priorities was the first to testify regarding the consequences of an undereducated workforce, including effects on poverty, uninsured and incarceration rates. Texas leads the nation in both the rate and number of uninsured. Meanwhile, as healthcare premiums continue to rise, employees are paying a larger share each year from their own paychecks. Texas is also among the states with the highest poverty rates.

Texas’s high rate of uninsured translates to a heavier uncompensated care burden on local hospitals, which often try and recoup that cost through local property taxes. Underscoring the link between educational attainment and better pay, Dunkelberg warned that Texas must invest in education “to minimize massive public expenditures on undesirable outcomes.”

Dunkelberg concluded by acknowledging that, like businesses, the Texas Legislature is often under pressure to reduce costs now rather than down the line. Yet if the state is to ever see long-term savings, it must invest on the front end with education.

Next, Martin Winchester with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) testified with regard to teacher recruiting and retention.

“We do not believe by any means it is all about the pay,” said Winchester. Rather, Winchester suggested working conditions, such as adequate classroom support and opportunities to grow and advance in the profession, are the top factors.

Working group leader Todd Williams pondered why starting teachers in Texas are paid the same salary, regardless of whether they received 1,500 hours of classroom training or 15 hours. Winchester indicated that TEA Commissioner Mike Morath would support allowing educators from more rigorous certification programs to “skip a level” on the pay scale, and noted that first-year teachers from alternative certification programs quit at a much higher rate due to a lack of preparation.

While lauding the ideas discussed by TEA, state Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), who serves as vice-chair of the House Public Education Committee, chided the agency for proposing policies at certain points while avoiding policy discussions at other points.

Kate Rogers with the Holdsworth Center was the last to testify, and spoke about strategic talent management. Rogers stressed the importance of coaching for both teachers and administrators, and emphasized that teachers need more non-instructional time in order to develop better lesson plans and participate in development activities such as coaching and mentoring. According to Rogers, teachers in the U.S. spend more of their time on direct classroom instruction than teachers in any other developed nation, which leaves them without enough time to do other critical activities needed to improve over time.

Williams concluded the meeting by laying out the next few steps for the working group, and proposed July or August as the target window for a preliminary report. No further meetings are currently scheduled.

SBEC gives initial approval to weakened abbreviated educator preparation program

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today in Austin. The board spent significant time this morning on a proposal to create an abbreviated path to the Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate. As the board received word of the heartbreaking news regarding a school shooting developing in Santa Fe ISD, members held a moment of silence and broke for a fifteen minute recess.

The abbreviated educator preparation and training program for candidates seeking the Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate was codified into law by HB 3349, a bill by Representative Gervin-Hawkins, during the 85th Legislature last year. The law requires SBEC to implement the new abbreviated pathway. The board has seen and discussed the proposal for its past two meetings, but the proposal the board saw today was a vastly different version based on input from the bill’s author and others out of the San Antonio area. ATPE and other educator groups were not a part of that stakeholder group that singularly drove the changes. Today, ATPE joined a chorus of stakeholders from the education community in opposing the changes.

Stressing the board’s recent focus on raising standards for teacher training in Texas, ATPE highlighted three major changes under the new proposal that are of concern:

  1. It expands the abbreviated program path to the Marketing and Health Science certificates. These are not included in the bill and were not discussed by legislators as desired abbreviated pathways.
  2. It reduces the number of training hours required before the candidate enters the classroom as the teacher-or-record from 180 to 110. While trade and industrial workforce career individuals bring valuable subject matter expertise to the classroom, they lack the training required to ensure they understand the science behind teaching that subject matter to a child. ATPE sees no reason these candidates should receive less pre-service training than other teacher candidates.
  3. It allows entities other than approved EPPs to provide the remaining 90 hours of training, which is again outside the bounds of the bill and, further, calls into question who is responsible for, approved for, and accountable to training educators.

Rep. Gervin-Hawkins was the only attendee present at the board meeting expressing support for the new trade and industrial workforce training proposal. All four teacher organizations and testimony from a classroom teacher shared the concerns expressed above by ATPE. Teacher board member Suzanne McCall was the only board member to oppose the new proposal. She highlighted testimony from the fourth grade Texas teacher who sees too many of her fellow teachers enter the classroom ill-prepared and watches them struggle. McCall stressed the importance of the foundational knowledge teachers receive before entering the classroom, and reminded the board that teacher pre-service training entails important exposure to things like how to teacher students with special needs. Her attempts to improve the proposal through amendments failed to receive any support from her fellow board members.

Many of the remaining board members seemed poised from the beginning to support the new proposal. Several members seemed unconcerned that these teacher candidates would receive less training than other teachers prior to entering the classroom as the sole teacher responsible for the students of a classroom. Superintendent member Dr. Susan Hull said these candidates don’t need more than 110 hours of training, which equates to roughly 3 weeks. Citizen member Leon Leal said we are disrespecting the career knowledge these candidates bring by expecting them to have the same amount of pre-service training as other teachers. There was interest from superintendent member Dr. Cavazos in removing the addition of the Marketing and Health Science certificates, but he ultimately only expressed concern and chose not to offer an amendment to remove them. Other members of the board advocated for the added certificates. The board’s action today granted only initial approval to the proposal.

The board also gave initial approval to proposals pertaining to the Educators’ Code of Ethics and educator discipline. At the board’s previous meeting in March, ATPE engaged with the board over a proposal to amend the Educators’ Code of Ethics. Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff at that time was looking to add several items that ATPE, other stakeholders, and board members felt didn’t belong because they weaken the Educators’ Code of Ethics and the high regard to which it should be held. Board members asked TEA to come back to them with more appropriate revisions. ATPE and other stakeholders worked with the staff to revise the text and was ultimately successful at moving a key piece of concern to the disciplinary chapter, where it is more appropriately housed.

The board will be back to consider the above items for final adoption at the August 3 meeting.