Commissioner lobbies SBOE to approve controversial changes to Texas teacher certification exam
Educator Preparation | Certification TEA | Commissioner | SBOE
Date Posted: 6/15/2022 | Author: Mark Wiggins
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath appealed to the State Board of Education (SBOE) to approve pending changes to teacher certification rules up for the board’s review this week. Morath devoted the majority of his scheduled update Wednesday, June 15, 2022, to a presentation encouraging the implementation of edTPA as the replacement for the current pedagogy exam for teacher certification.
As we reported yesterday on the Teach the Vote blog, the SBOE is set to either approve (by taking no action) or veto a rule proposed by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) that would require future certification candidates to complete edTPA instead of the state’s current Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam.
The edTPA program was developed by Stanford University as a training tool that includes a portfolio assessment. It was not originally intended as a high-stakes licensure exam, although Pearson has recently begun marketing it as such. States that have adopted edTPA for this purpose have since abandoned the program over negative impacts on the teacher pipeline.
ATPE joined with dozens of stakeholder organizations representing the vast majority of the public education community in asking the board Tuesday to reject the proposed rule and suggest SBEC instead focus on implementing a formative portfolio assessment as part of the programmatic requirements for educator preparation programs (EPPs).
The commissioner spent much of his presentation highlighting the shortcomings of alternative certification programs, which have generally performed poorly compared to traditional four-year university programs. ATPE has long advocated for improving the quality of alternative certification programs so that the candidates they produce are better prepared to face the rigors of the classroom and become successful educators.
Commissioner Morath presented edTPA as a solution to hold alternative certification programs more accountable and one that would help ease the teacher shortage. The commissioner also announced for the first time that $2 million in funding would be available to help offset the nearly $200 increase in the cost to candidates taking the edTPA assessment over the PPR. The specific source of the newly announced funding and details on how the funds would be disseminated are unclear.
Members questioned the commissioner extensively, asking how changing the certification exam would hold EPPs more accountable than the current accountability system overseen by SBEC. Members also poked holes in claims by Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff that SBEC lacked the ability to include a formative portfolio assessment under its EPP accountability requirements.
SBOE Chairman Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) highlighted the contradiction between increasing the rigor of the certification exam and expanding the teacher pipeline. Ellis echoed the suggestion of stakeholders including ATPE that the agency should look for ways to incorporate a formative portfolio assessment into the EPP accountability requirements.
The lengths to which the agency has gone to advocate for the edTPA rule have also raised eyebrows. Member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) pointed out the commissioner’s efforts to aggressively lobby SBOE members to vote in favor of the move to edTPA.
The SBOE Committee on School Initiatives will hold an initial vote on edTPA Thursday morning. The committee’s recommendation will go before the full SBOE Friday, where members will make a final determination whether to approve or veto the SBEC rule.
The commissioner began the morning by saying TEA is focused on increasing preparedness, school access, and security policies and procedures in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers with an assault rifle. Specifically, Morath said the agency is hiring a chief of school safety and security who will report directly to the commissioner. This comes in response to a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott that was announced last week.
Member Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D-San Marcos) asked whether school marshals, the program under which school boards may allow certain school personnel to voluntarily undertake training and carry firearms on campus, would become mandatory. The commissioner answered that there is no mandate under current law.
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