For the better part of 2016, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) dedicated a good portion of its bimonthly meetings to discussing, reviewing, and revising a number of rules involving educator preparation in Texas. The lengthy process concluded in October, and the result was a fresh set of rules covering teacher preparation, educator preparation program (EPP) requirements, teacher candidate pathways to full certification, and more.
The board’s work to rewrite the rules was done with a focus on raising standards and increasing outcomes for students in the classroom. ATPE retains a similar focus, recognizing that we do a disservice to our teachers and our students when inadequately prepared educators are placed in the classroom and expected to achieve excellence. Legislators and other state and national policymakers have spent significant money and time attempting to find ways to identify low-performing teachers and remove them from the classroom, but ATPE has maintained that a better goal is to ensure that all teachers are entering the classroom adequately prepared and with great potential.
Research continues to show that access to an effective educator is the most important school-based factor affecting a student’s academic success, and that we can better prepare Texas teachers and create a higher achieving student body by raising standards for educator preparation. Meanwhile, studies also show that candidates seeking certification through the state’s most popular pathway, alternative certification (or a post-baccalaureate path that can currently involve as little as two weeks of training), are leaving the classroom at a faster rate than their peers. These findings are a sampling of why ATPE focuses on ensuring all Texas teacher candidates receive the high-quality preparation and support they deserve.
The new rules do not raise expectations as much as we’d hoped, but they do set a foundation and represent a positive step. The changes include:
- a two-tiered system of probationary certification for alternative certification candidates, which better identifies a candidate’s level of training and requires supplementary support for less prepared candidates;
- revised measures of accountability for EPPs, such as a newly established new teacher survey;
- a more appropriate definition of “late hire” candidates, who are put in the classroom as the teacher-of-record with significantly less coursework and training; and
- an increase in the number of coursework hours a candidate must receive prior to an internship or clinical teaching.
SBEC’s new rules now go to the State Board of Education (SBOE), which can affirm the proposals or send them back to SBEC for further review. Regardless of the SBOE’s actions, another piece of education policy has the potential to interfere with SBEC’s work: Districts of Innovation (DOI). DOI was created by the Texas legislature last session and it allows certain districts to opt out of the majority of the Texas Education Code, including provisions requiring quality teacher preparation and certification. ATPE will continue to advocate for high-quality educator training and will encourage the upcoming legislature to join SBEC in its quest toward raised standards as they consider the potential negative effects of the broad exemption opportunities created under DOI.