Tag Archives: teacher certification

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 24, 2020

Educators won’t see their classrooms filled with students anytime soon, so “emergency remote learning” and teacher parades will have to suffice in the meantime. Here is a look at this week’s education news from the ATPE Governmental Relations team.


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: As we reported on our blog last week, Gov. Greg Abbott is slowly rolling out plans for a gradual reopening of Texas businesses, with more information expected to come from the governor on April 27. Abbott has ordered schools to remain physically closed through the end of the school year, while allowing educators to access school buildings to carry out their duties. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has shared guidance on entering school buildings, which states that teachers should self-screen, maintain social distancing, and wear a face covering, among other things.

TEA has also added to its website a COVID-19 Support page for Texas educators. This resource page has a more limited scope than TEA’s main coronavirus resource section, focusing on topics of interest to educators, such as certification and evaluation.

The educator support page features new guidance this week for individuals pursuing educator certification, including details on a waiver from Gov. Abbott that allows certain educator certification candidates to apply for a one-year probationary certificate. These candidates will have to complete the fingerprinting process, which – while safer for students – will also cause some hiccups as many fingerprinting locations are closed or have limited appointments. TEA announced last week that out-of-state educators who are on a one-year certificate will receive an automatic one-year extension. Next Friday, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is set to discuss other COVID-19-related educator issues, stay tuned to Teach the Vote and @TeachtheVote on Twitter for coverage. Find the May 1 SBEC agenda here.

As we previously reported, the State Board of Education (SBOE) briefly discussed funding concerns associated with COVID-19, a thought that is on the minds of many educators. ATPE is monitoring the Texas economy and has taken action by sending a joint letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath requesting the suspension of charter school expansions during this pandemic. Current charter expansions could cost the state $90 million dollars at a time when state agencies and other public institutions foresee budget cuts on the horizon. ATPE has not received a reply to this request, though there was affirmation at the SBOE meeting that TEA would provide a response.

ATPE also hopes to hear back from the commissioner on our request for statewide action in the application of educator appraisals. Several other states have suspended appraisals, while others, like Texas, have left the decision up to individual school districts. Many educators have expressed that they feel like first-year teachers again and some say they haven’t heard from certain students since they last saw them in school. While feedback is essential for professional growth, this unique situation is likely to yield unfair and invalid appraisal results.

For more resources related to the pandemic, visit ATPE’s Coronavirus FAQ and Resources page for frequently updated information for educators, and follow the ATPE lobby team via @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest legislative and regulatory news. Also, keep reading below for updates on federal developments pertaining to COVID-19.


FEDERAL UPDATE: More COVID-19 developments at the federal level occurred this week as the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the long-awaited application for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act funding. The CARES Act provides waivers of various federal laws and $13.5 billion in education-dedicated funding, 90% of which is divvied up through Title I formulas. According to the Learning Policy Institute, Texas is expected to receive on average $264 per pupil for a total of over $1.4 billion dollars from the CARES Act. This amount includes the Texas portion of the $13.5 billion and assumes half of the Texas portion of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, which could send over $307 million to Texas, will go to PK-12 with the other half going to higher education. Without any additional federal funding, a statewide cut to education of just 6% would zap the boost from the CARES Act. Texas has also been approved for federal spending waivers, which will allow districts to move federal funds around more freely to address new expenditures and potential shortfalls in the future (though this will not solve overall cuts).

Congress also passed a fourth coronavirus aid package this week, which sends hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses and provides assistance for hospitals and COVID-19 testing needs. For more information about how the other coronavirus aid packages impact you, including paid family/sick leave and cash rebates, visit ATPE’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) page here and the CARES Act page here.


ELECTION UPDATE: With Texas’ July 14 primary runoff elections on the horizon, many Texans are contemplating the safety of voting in person. The option of mail-in voting, while recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has become a partisan issue. Ruling on one of two lawsuits filed by the Texas Democratic Party, a Texas district judge sided with voters last week by effectively allowing all Texans to vote by mail. This decision is expected to be appealed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has already refuted the arguments used by the district judge. Do you think all Texans should be allowed to vote by mail? Read more in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

Related: This year’s state legislative elections have even more significance with redistricting on the horizon. The 87th Texas Legislature is set to redraw district boundaries during the 2021 legislative session that begins in January. That’s why it’s important for Texans to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census. Talk to everyone you can about completing the census online, especially if they have small children. The census is crucial for funding public schools and informing redistricting decisions next year. Learn more about the 2020 Census and find FAQs here.


Master Teacher certification was eliminated last year as part of House Bill (HB) 3 passed by the 86th Texas legislature, reportedly to avoid avoid naming confusion with the “master teacher” designation in the new Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program. This has left Master Teachers wondering if they can keep their current teaching assignments once their certificates expire. The ATPE lobby team has been working on this issue with state leaders to find a solution and has made significant progress. Read more in this week’s blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier.


ATPE member and award-winning, 17-year teaching veteran Amy McKee of Leander ISD planned to have her annual show week for her dance students this week. McKee’s spring show is the culmination of months of hard work, growth, and team spirit, and is an emotional capstone for seniors who ceremoniously hang up their uniform hats at the end of the show. Not about to let her students miss out on the joys of show week, McKee put her creative skills to work and curated a series of special, “socially-distanced” events to honor her students.

Thank you to all educators who are transitioning to the unique needs of students during this time! #TeachersCan

Do you have a story to tell? ATPE wants to hear how you are adapting to a new educational environment during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to email us your stories, best practices for distance learning, or strategies you’re using to stay upbeat during the crisis.

ATPE continues advocacy for Master Teacher fix

While it is not uncommon for Texas teaching certificates to come and go as they keep up with the needs of an evolving education system, the legislature’s abrupt decision in 2019 to eliminate prestigious Master Teacher certificates caught many by surprise. To address this issue, ATPE’s lobbyists have been working diligently with state leaders and officials to ensure that the expertise and value of Master Teacher certificate holders is upheld.

Under House Bill (HB) 3 passed by the 86th Texas legislature in 2019, Master Teacher certificates can no longer be issued or renewed, effective September 1, 2019. The bill also repealed the authorizing statutes for those Master Teacher certificates, which were offered in Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Technology, essentially wiping them from existence. Master Teacher certificate holders will now find their certificates marked with a “legacy” notation, as designated by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).

This change has left many of our state’s nearly 5,000 Master Teachers perplexed as to the status of their certificates and their teaching assignment prospects. Once their Master Teacher certificate expires, will they be able to continue teaching in their current position? Take the popular Master Reading Teacher certificate as an example (82% of Master Teachers hold this certificate). First issued in 2001, this certificate was designed for those who wanted to go above and beyond – only obtainable by educators who had already been teaching on a standard certificate. Because the certificate is EC-12, in some cases it allows an educator to obtain a teaching assignment for which they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible if they held only their underlying standard certificate. Teachers in this situation who want to maintain their current assignments must either pay to take a test for earning an appropriate credential, request permission to remain in their assignment on an expired certificate, or find another job.

ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier testifies before SBEC, Dec. 6, 2019

ATPE has been working with SBEC, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), members of the legislature, and state leaders to remedy this issue for several months. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier submitted written testimony at an SBEC meeting on October 4, 2019, written and oral testimony at the December 6, 2019 SBEC meeting, and written and oral testimony at the February 21, 2020 SBEC meeting. ATPE also submitted public comments on the rule review of Chapter 239, Student Services Certificates, which is where the original Master Teacher certificates were housed in the Texas Administrative Code.

These efforts have led to important developments, including a letter of intent being shared by House Public Education Committee chairman and HB 3 author Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) and a decision to add a discussion item to the agenda for an upcoming SBEC meeting on May 1, 2020, aimed at finding solutions to the Master Teacher issue. (The May 1 SBEC meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. and will be broadcast here. ATPE will also provide updates on the meeting here on our Teach the Vote blog.)

In unexpectedly dramatic fashion, Chairman Huberty’s letter in response to ATPE’s advocacy was delivered into SBEC members’ hands as ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier was delivering her testimony on the Master Teachers issue during the February SBEC meeting. The letter stated that the intent of the elimination of the Master Teacher certificates was to avoid naming confusion with the newly created “master teacher” designations under the state’s new Teacher Incentive Allotment, also included in HB 3.

“Our intent was never to abandon the expertise of these highly trained educators,” Huberty wrote in the letter. “Holders of legacy master teacher certificates should be entitled to maintain their existing assignments without interruption, additional cost, or the need to seek additional certifications.”

Responding to the requests from ATPE and the letter from Chairman Huberty, SBEC members voted to create a separate agenda item for the May SBEC meeting to discuss options for Master Teacher certificate holders. ATPE has also sent a letter letter to Gov. Greg Abbott expressing our appreciation for his interest in the issue.

Master Teacher certificate holders underwent time-intensive, rigorous, and often costly educator preparation programs in order to receive this extra credential. Their roles are content-specific and include teacher mentoring duties as they support the other professionals on their campus. Master Teachers are also highly educated, with 67% having either a master’s or doctorate degree. In many cases, the Master Teacher certificates (especially the Master Reading Teacher certificate) are highly prized, and at least in the early days of the certificate, were accompanied by stipends. Furthermore, Master Reading Teachers’ focus on literacy is crucial to the reading success of the state and is directly related to many of the aims of HB 3.

As this issue progresses, ATPE will continue to work carefully to preserve the hard work and expertise of Master Teacher certificate holders and share updates here on our advocacy blog.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 17, 2020

Across Texas and the nation, educators are rising to the occasion to provide distance learning for their students. It is no easy feat to keep students engaged from afar, especially with absenteeism on the rise (including a crop of high school seniors with severe senioritis). Hang in there because this won’t last forever! Here is a look at this week’s education news from the ATPE Governmental Relations team.


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Today, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference to announce several executive orders related to strategically reopening Texas in gradual phases. While sharing a plan to open businesses, Abbott stated that schools are to remain physically closed through the remainder of the school year, although teachers can still access school buildings in order to carry out their duties (including facilitating distance learning). Gov. Abbott’s executive orders issued today follow President Trump’s release of guidelines for a state-led, phased reopening of the country. For more detail, read today’s breaking news post on Teach the Vote here.

Gov. Abbott gives a press conference at the Texas State Capitol, April 17, 2020.

In the new Executive Order EO-GA-16 issued today, Gov. Abbott writes, “Public education teachers and staff are encouraged to continue to work remotely from home if possible, but may return to schools to conduct remote video instruction, as well as perform administrative duties, under the strict terms required by the Texas Education Agency.” This afternoon, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) swiftly released new guidance on entering school buildings following today’s press conference.

Gov. Abbott added that he will issuing updated guidance for the state on April 27, 2020.

COVID-19 continues to impact educators’ work lives. As we reported last week, educator preparation and certification procedures stand in limbo with certification tests suspended through April 30, 2020. This week TEA posted updated information about certification testing. TEA also announced this week that out-of-state educators who are on a one-year certificate will receive an automatic one-year extension. Solving this issue for those in other situations will likely require rulemaking by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and potential legislation during the next legislative session. Meanwhile, ATPE awaits a response from the commissioner of education to our request for statewide action in the application of educator appraisals, which are unlikely to yield fair and valid results under current conditions, as well as the recent request by a consortium of education groups including ATPE to suspend the expansion of charter schools during this pandemic.

As we have been reporting here on Teach the Vote, recent congressional action is making emergency funding available to individuals, businesses, and state governments during the pandemic. Read ATPE’s information about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) here and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act here. The CARES Act provided flexibility in the form of waivers of various federal laws, such as student testing and accountability requirements. CARES also provides $3 billion in relief through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Read more about the new funding available to Texas under this provision in this week’s blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier.

Here are some additional resources to help educators dealing with the pandemic:

  • The TEA coronavirus resource page offers a plethora of resources. New guidance added to the site this week includes information on instructional continuity, special populations, accountability, English language learner guidance, waivers and funding, educator and staff issues, remote counseling, and more.
  • Also, TEA is assisting in the promotion of a meal finder tool and a home-learning website with resources for parents, educators, and school districts.
  • Visit ATPE’s frequently updated Coronavirus FAQ and Resources page for frequently updated information for educators dealing with the pandemic.
  • Follow the ATPE lobbyists and @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest legislative and regulatory news related to this crisis.

ELECTION UPDATE: This week, a Texas district judge expanded the eligibility criteria for absentee ballots to include those who risk exposure to the coronavirus if they vote in person. The ruling effectively allows all Texans to vote by mail, but it is expected to be appealed. This is a temporary win for the Texas Democratic Party, which has filed two lawsuits against the state and the governor seeking expanded opportunities for mail-in ballots amid the risks associated with in-person voting during the pandemic.

According to a report in the Texas Tribune, Texas Democrats were concerned by the party-line decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in Wisconsin voters being forced to vote in person in contradiction to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey has voiced opposition to expanding mail-in ballots, suggesting that mail handlers could also risk COVID-19 infection. Gov. Greg Abbott stated in March that “everything’s on the table,” but has been relatively quiet on the subject since then.


SBOE conducted its April meeting by video conference.

This week, the State Board of Education (SBOE) met virtually to consider an abbreviated agenda. The board added a May 2020 meeting to its calendar to take up postponed items, including a discussion of the health and physical education TEKS.

The SBOE gave final formal approval this week to the new African American Ethnic Studies course after lengthy discussion over the past year. Additionally, members of the board’s standing committees discussed concerns about charter school expansion and the health of the Permanent School Fund (PSF) during the pandemic.

ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has reported on this week’s SBOE meetings for our blog: read his Thursday blog post and Friday blog post for more.


The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees also met virtually this week, covering a wide range of topics during its truncated meeting on Friday, April 17, 2020. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter reports that the board adopted TRS-ActiveCare rates and benefits, as well as plans to improve ActiveCare in response to information gleaned from outreach to employers and stakeholders.  Also of note, the board received a report on the TRS pension trust fund’s remarkable resilience during the current economic downturn.

TRS staff shared steps the agency has taken to protect the health of its employees while remaining  open and able to serve members during the COVID-19 Pandemic. On a related note, TRS has hit the pause button on resolving it leasing and sub-leasing plans surrounding the need to house the TRS investment division until markets stabilize. While rents at their current location, which they plan to release after a change of course, may come down, the ability to sublease the space at the Indeed Tower location may be greatly reduced. Additionally, TRS will reevaluate its broader plan to ensure it has adequate space in light of lessons learned throughout this period of forced telecommuting.

For more on today’s hearing, view this Twitter thread by Exter who live-tweeted today’s hearing. You can also review the TRS board meeting materials or watch an archived video of today’s hearing.


As of yesterday, the 2020 U.S. Census national self-response rate was tracking close to 50%. There was a slight bump in responses after Census Day (April 1), and responses have been slowly increasing since then but appear to be leveling off now. Though Texas’ response rate is up to 45.1%, it is still under the national count. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to push online/phone/mail census completion options.

This week, the Trump administration proposed delaying the date that census counts would be delivered to the states, which would push redistricting decisions in Texas into the 2023 legislative session. The proposed 120-day extension would have to be requested of Congress by the U.S. Census Bureau. While having conversations about the census, it is important to not politicize the intent of the counts, which are meant to ensure a fair and representative democracy, plus funding for public benefits such as schools and roads. Learn more about the 2020 Census, including timeline delays already in place, in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier and find census FAQs here.


ATPE member James Butler of Austin was featured during the last two weeks in news stories by KUT and KXAN for his daily “Mindful Moment” postings on social media. Butler is the social emotional learning mindfulness specialist for Austin ISD. He works with children (and adults) to instill a routine that includes breathing, journaling, naming your feelings, and showing gratitude in order to be mindful and present. Check out his post today, shown below, for a quick reset and some good feelings.

ATPE wants to hear how you are adapting to a new educational environment during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to email us your stories, best practices for distance learning, or strategies you’re using to stay upbeat during the crisis.


Recap of the Dec. 2019 SBEC meeting

Certification board discusses educational aide certificates, teacher and principal survey data, and more at the fifth and final SBEC meeting of 2019.

Last Friday, Dec. 6, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met for the last time this year. The board discussed several agenda items, including reader teacher certifications, allowing high school students to obtain the educational aide certificate, an update on various educator certification statistics, and the latest on the EdTPA and T-TESS pilots. The board also elected a new Chairperson, Dr. Arturo Cavazos (Superintendent of Harlingen CISD), Vice-Chairperson, Rohanna Brooks-Sykes, a counselor in Klein ISD, and Secretary, Jose Rodriguez, an elementary school teacher in Leander ISD.

Master Reading Teachers

ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier testified before SBEC on Dec. 6, 2019

The board is undertaking a standard, four-year rule review of 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 239, Student Services Certificates. These rules pertain to the school counselor, school librarian, educational diagnostician, and reading specialist certificates. Under House Bill (HB) 3 of the 86th Legislature, the Master Reading Teacher (MRT) certification was repealed and replaced with a “Legacy Master Teacher” designation. For affected teachers, the Legacy designation will disappear when their existing Master Teacher certificate expires, leaving some teachers unable to maintain their current teaching assignments.

ATPE is urging SBEC to honor the work that MRT certificate holders have accomplished by allowing them to transition over to the Reading Specialist certificate, which has identical teaching assignments. ATPE previously submitted written testimony to the board on this topic at its October SBEC meeting. At Friday’s meeting, ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier again provided written and oral testimony (watch archived video here at the 41:00 mark) in support of MRTs who may be negatively affected by this aspect of HB 3 and the elimination of their certificate.

Potential changes to the language in these SBEC rules will be acted upon at a future meeting. The board will accept public comments on this topic from Jan. 3 to Feb. 3, 2020, through the Texas Register. Additionally, interested educators can testify or submit written comments to the board at its next meeting on Feb. 21, 2020. (Witnesses must submit comments or register to testify at least 48 hours before the meeting.)

Other action items on the agenda:

The board voted to amend disciplinary rules contained in 19 TAC Chapter 249, implementing several educator misconduct bills passed during the 2019 legislative session, including Senate Bill (SB) 1230, SB 1476, and HB 3, as well as SB 37, which eliminates student loan default as a ground for SBEC discipline. This agenda item originally included proposed rule changes to allow SBEC to deny certification to someone who had abandoned a contract within the preceding 12 months. The proposed amendment sought to address intern and probationary certificate holders who abandon their contracts before SBEC can take disciplinary action against them, since their certificates are only valid for one year. The board voted to postpone discussing the contract abandonment language until after a planned stakeholder meeting in January, which ATPE will attend.

The board also adopted the required four-year rule review for two more sets of SBEC rules: 9 TAC Chapter 232, General Certification Provisions, which regulates certificate renewal, continuing education, and criminal history records; and 19 TAC Chapter 230, Professional Educator Preparation and Certification, which deals with procedures for issuing certificates and permits, testing requirements and fees, and the types and classes of certificates issued by the board.

In a separate agenda item, the board amended 19 TAC Chapter 230 to implement SB 1839, HB 2039, and HB 3349 (85th Legislature), plus HB 3 (86th Legislature). The changes include reducing  the time for certification test retakes from 45 to 30 days, and requiring candidates to take the English as a Second Language Supplemental assessment for issuance of an intern certificate obtained through the intensive pre-service route. ATPE is pleased with a change in this chapter to allow the Educational Aide I certificate to be issued to high school students who have completed certain courses within the Education and Training career and technical education cluster. Other changes include the addition of the Early Childhood: Prekindergarten-Grade 3 certificate to the list of certificates that cannot be obtained via certification by exam.

The board also took several actions relating to EPPs, including the approval of the accreditation statuses of 10 programs. Additionally, the board approved a request by East Texas Baptist University to offer the School Counselor class of certificate. Two programs, South Texas Transition to Teaching Alternative Certification (STTT) Preparation Program and Teaching via E-Learning (TEACH) Alternative Certification, were approved to continue to operate with conditions following SBEC orders to improve their programs due to inadequate performance. The board also approved the continuing approval review and lifted the board orders from August 2015 for TeacherBuilder.com Alternative Certification Educator Preparation Program.

Discussion only agenda items (no action taken):

The board discussed several possible future revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 228, which covers requirements for EPPs. The revisions would simplify a table of requirements in the chapter; implement portions of HB 18 of the 86th Legislature; authorize teaching sites outside of Texas under certain situations such as military assignment; provide admittance policy guidance to EPPs that are closing or consolidating; restrict a summer-only practicum unless it is part of a year-round school or extended year program; add language for a dismissal policy for candidates who violate the code of ethics; provide concise reasons that an EPP would no longer support a candidate in an internship; and clarify the number (three) and spacing of the formal observations conducted during a practicum.

Later in the afternoon, the board discussed possible amendments to 19 TAC Chapter 235 on certificate standards, including a TEA-recommended split certification for special education, with separate certificates for EC-5 and 6-12. TEA staff also presented information on two supplemental certificate sets of standards: one for bilingual Spanish, grades EC-12 that focuses on bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism; and another for “DeafBlind” grades EC-12. The proposals reflect input from stakeholders in the bilingual and special education communities and from an April 2019 SBEC work group meeting.

TEA also updated the board on the EdTPA performance assessment pilot, which is almost halfway through its first year. In November, 34 candidates submitted their portfolios. Thirty-two applications have been submitted for the second year of the pilot, including 15 from alternative certification programs. Dr. Stacey Edmonson, Dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University, is directing an alternative pilot to the EdTPA pilot that is based on the T-TESS. The pilot attempts to use the T-TESS as a performance assessment tool.

Finally, the board discussed proposed revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 232 on general certification provisions and professional development, which would implement several bills passed by the 86th Legislature. These include continuing professional education instruction regarding mental health and substance abuse training (HB 18 and SB 11); training requirements for superintendents regarding sexual abuse and human trafficking (HB 403); and the removal of student loan default as grounds to deny the renewal of a certificate (SB 37). The chapter would also be simplified and reorganized as suggested by ATPE and other stakeholders.

Facts and figures:

Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff updated the board on Texas educator certification statistics from fiscal year (FY) 2018 (September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018) to FY 2019 (September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019). Of note, the number of standard certificates issued increased from 67,748 to 85,708. Nearly half (49%) of all initial teacher certificates issued are through alternative certification programs. The percentage of EPPs accredited as warned or on probation greatly increased, from 5.1% to 27.6% and 5.1% to 13.4%, respectively. This increase is due to additional ASEP standards becoming operational. As for educator leadership and quality, most legal cases opened were due to contract abandonment, the number of which increased by 124% from 111 up to 249 in FY 19.

TEA staff also updated the board on the results of the 2018-19 principal survey of first-year teachers and new teacher survey, which are part of the Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs (ASEP). The survey results show that principals find their first-year teachers from alternative certification programs to be the least prepared. Similarly, new teachers from alternative certification programs indicated they felt the least prepared. Forty-nine percent of new teachers in 2019 were prepared in alternative certification programs, compared to 32 percent from traditional, undergraduate programs.

Additionally, TEA updated the board at its request on educator testing data. The data show that pass rates even into the third test attempt can be quite low. A representative from an EPP suggested that programs be given more time to remediate candidates who cannot pass tests.

Future meetings:

Mark your calendars! The approved SBEC meeting dates for 2020 are:

  • Feb. 21, 2020
  • May 1, 2020
  • July 24, 2020
  • Oct. 9, 2020
  • Dec. 11, 2020

Exploring legislators’ 2019 voting records on education: Part I

Last week on TeachtheVote.org, ATPE published a series of voting records for all Texas state lawmakers, analyzing their actions taken on significant education-related legislation. This blog post is Part I of a two-part feature on the record votes. Here, we’re taking a closer look at how the ATPE lobby team analyzed and chose the record votes that are featured on the legislators’ profiles.

Which bills are featured in the 2019 legislative voting records on Teach the Vote, and why were they chosen?

Without question, the most significant bill debated and ultimately passed by the 86th Texas Legislature this year was House Bill (HB) 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood). This major school finance and public education reform bill, deemed the top priority of the session, resulted in $6.5 billion in increased funding for public education and $5 billion for property tax relief. ATPE’s lobbyists have written extensively about the omnibus bill here on our Teach the Vote blog, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has also dedicated a set of online resources to helping Texans understand the many components of the bill. With its high profile, HB 3 figures prominently in the 2019 record votes compiled by ATPE. We’ve selected both the House’s and Senate’s votes on HB 3 on “third reading” as the first record vote featured in this year’s list for Teach the Vote.

There are also a few votes on floor amendments to HB 3 that made our list this year. On the House side, we’ve provided representatives’ votes on House Floor Amendment #15 to HB 3, which dealt with charter school transparency and efficiency. The amendment by Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd), which passed and was incorporated into the House’s version of HB 3 but later stripped out by the Senate, requires charter schools to undergo an audit of their fiscal management. The Bailes amendment would have required such an audit to be conducted before a charter could expand or open new campuses, and it also called for charter schools to share the results of those audits publicly on their websites.

For senators, we similarly tracked their votes on three amendments to HB 3:

  • Senate Floor Amendment #8 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) attempted to remove from the Senate’s version of HB 3 a controversial merit pay program that ATPE and most of the education community opposed.
  • Senate Floor Amendment #30 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) also failed to pass but aimed to provide a guaranteed pay raise for all professional public school employees. While teacher pay was another high-profile issue debated throughout the 2019 legislative session, most discussions about pay raises at that point in the session had been limited to classroom teachers and librarians.
  • Also, Senate Floor Amendment #66 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) was an unsuccessful attempt to add language to the Senate’s version of HB 3 to ensure that state standardized tests were written at the appropriate grade level. Testing was also a subject of great importance to the education community during the legislative session, particularly after studies found that certain test questions on the STAAR test had been written at reading levels well above the grade level being tested. Although the Menendez floor amendment did not get approved by the Senate, another bill passed during the 2019 legislative session (HB 3906) requires a study of STAAR readability, and results of that study should be released beginning in December.

HB 3 ultimately included some additional funding for increasing educator compensation, but it was not the only bill pertaining to teacher pay that lawmakers debated in 2019. Early in the session, the Senate rallied behind Senate Bill (SB) 3 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) pledged would be one of the first bills passed by the full Senate in 2019. Although SB 3 was later rejected in favor of the alternative compensation-related language in HB 3, we’ve included the Senate’s third reading vote on SB 3 in our list of record votes due to its early significance.

ATPE also supported a stand-alone bill in 2019 that was designed to fund and strengthen mentoring programs for teachers. The House’s third reading vote on HB 102 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) made our list of record votes this year. HB 102 did not get heard in the Senate, but its language was later incorporated into HB 3.

Another piece of legislation related to educator quality produced one of the record votes published on Teach the Vote this year. The House voted to approve HB 1276 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston) on third reading. HB 1276 was designed to prevent elementary grade students from being assigned for two consecutive school years to teachers who had less than one year of teaching experience or teachers who were not certified in the subject being taught as part of the foundation curriculum. Exceptions would have been provided under HB 1276 for new transfer students and for students whose parent or guardian consents to the non-compliant placement. Also, the bill would not have applied to school districts serving fewer than 5,000 students, those exempted under the District of Innovation (DOI) law, or those districts that received a hardship waiver from the commissioner of education. Unfortunately, this ATPE-supported bill did not get heard in the Senate.

School safety was another high priority issue debated during the 2019 legislative session. The key piece of legislation on keeping schools safe was SB 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), aimed at driving funding to implement school safety improvements and provide mental health resources. We’ve featured on our website the third reading vote taken on this bill in both the House and Senate chambers. Also on our list is the House’s treatment of House Floor Amendment #8 by Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) to SB 11, aimed at improving mental health support by requiring the state to identify regional resources that schools could use to address their students’ mental health needs. Legislators were considering a number of different measures pertaining to mental health resources in the context of the debate about school safety. Particularly in the House, some lawmakers were openly skeptical of efforts to link students with outside mental health professionals, worried about privacy concerns, and generally opposed to perceived government overreach. The controversy surrounding those issues had seemingly killed another high-priority bill aimed at addressing mental health earlier on the same evening that SB 11 was being debated. House leaders used Rep. Allison’s floor amendment as a vehicle for resurrecting the lost bill. Thus, Allison’s original amendment to SB 11 passed, was reconsidered, got amended to include language from the other mental health bill that had already been voted down, and then Floor Amendment #8 passed again. We provided data on both votes approving Floor Amendment #8 since there were some representatives who opted to change their position on the Allison amendment after it was expanded.

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) also garnered attention during the 2019 session and was an ATPE legislative priority. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which increased the contribution rates for the TRS pension fund. ATPE included the third reading votes on this bill taken by both the House and Senate among our record votes compilation. The legislature’s passage of SB 12 resulted in immediate actuarial solvency for the fund, which made it possible for TRS to issue a one-time 13th check to retirees in Sept. 2019. Read more about the TRS bill here.

Another ATPE legislative priority for 2019 was opposing vouchers and stopping the privatization of public schools in any form. Few voucher bills were considered this session, but the full Senate did take a vote on Sen. Taylor’s SB 1455, which we included on our list of record votes. The bill would have expanded full-time virtual schools and created a “virtual voucher.” Despite passing the Senate, SB 1455 did not make it out of a committee on the House side.

The House also took a record vote on HB 1133 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), which is included on our list. That bill produced one of the most dramatic debates but did not garner enough votes to pass the House. HB 1133 would have weakened the existing 22:1 cap on elementary school class sizes by moving to a campus-wide, grade-level average. Many ATPE members reached out to their legislators in opposition to this bill, which would have allowed class sizes in the lower grades to dramatically expand.

Finally, there are a few record votes on our list this year that pertain to efforts to restrict legislative advocacy by school districts or dissuade educators from being politically active. One such bill was SB 1569 by Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper), which the Senate voted to approve on third reading but the House left pending in committee. ATPE staunchly opposed SB 1569, which would have restricted educators’ First Amendment rights to engage in political speech, limited their ability to teach students about elections, and unreasonably subjected educators to criminal penalties. Another troubling bill was SB 29 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), which tried to prohibit school districts and other local governmental entities from funding legislative advocacy efforts or paying membership dues to organizations that engage in legislative advocacy. SB 29 made our record votes list in two places. First, the Senate voted to approve the bill on third reading. Later, the House voted the bill down. Interestingly, the vote to defeat SB 29 on the House floor became even more significant after the legislative session ended, when certain Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill were seemingly targeted for retribution by their own party leadership in a taped discussion between House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and the head of the controversial dark money group, Empower Texans. The scandal resulted in Bonnen’s announcing that he would not seek re-election, opening the door for election of a new speaker when the 2021 legislative session convenes.

In any legislative session, there are limited votes taken on the record, offering relatively few options for us to showcase how individual legislators voted on education-related bills. However, we believe the votes listed above offer an informative glimpse into the treatment of public education by the 86th Texas Legislature, and we invite you to check out how your legislators voted by looking them up on our search page here on Teach the Vote. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for Part II of this blog feature where the ATPE lobbyists will explain more about the usefulness and limitations of record votes in general.

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.