SBEC adopts ATPE-backed changes to contract abandonment rules at December 2021 meeting
Educator Preparation | Certification Texas Legislature TEA | Commissioner | SBOE
Date Posted: 12/13/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) held its final meeting of the year, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. The board’s lengthy agenda included contract abandonment, virtual observations, and the EdTPA performance assessment pilot. Here are some highlights of the meeting:
- The board said farewell to its teacher member from Dallas Shareefah Mason and welcomed a new teacher member, also from Dallas, Josue Tamarez Torres.
- The board gave final approval to ATPE-supported amendments that improve the SBEC disciplinary rules on contract abandonment.
- SBEC approved a new educator preparation program (EPP) application by the International Leadership Texas (ILTexas) charter school.
- The board formally proposed new rules on virtual observations of certification candidates.
- ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier was approved as a member of a new SBEC advisory committee on continuing education and training.
- Education Commissioner Mike Morath gave a presentation on student achievement gaps created by the pandemic and the need for high-quality teacher preparation, including a push for SBEC to adopt the EdTPA.
ATPE weighed in on five agenda items at Friday’s meeting: contract abandonment rules, the ILTexas Charter’s EPP application, CPE requirements, virtual observation rules, and EdTPA.
Contract Abandonment: ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier testified in support of proposed amendments that change the way SBEC handles educator disciplinary cases stemming from contract abandonment. The amendments implement House Bill (HB) 2519 passed by the 87th legislature this year and other ATPE-supported changes that have been the result of three years of negotiations. Read ATPE’s written testimony here.
Contract abandonment occurs when an educator resigns from their position 44 days or less before the first instructional day. If the educator doesn’t have a valid reason for resigning, known as “good cause,” and is reported to SBEC, they may face sanctions on their certificate. The rule changes add a new reason for good cause that would allow the educator to resign penalty-free if they have a “reasonable belief” that they “had written permission from the school district administration to resign.” In some situations, an educator may receive written permission from their school principal to resign, although only the school board or a board designee (the superintendent) has the legal power to release an educator from their contract.
The proposal also included four new mitigating factors, which are opportunities for SBEC to consider evidence provided by the educator or their school district that could reduce the educator’s sanction for abandoning their contract. The new factors proposed by the board in October include instances where an educator changed careers within the field of education, had a reduction in base pay in the same district as compared to the prior year, had a change in campus assignment (required by the district) that caused an adverse impact on the educator’s family or health needs, or resigned due to working conditions that caused an immediate threat of physical harm. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) presented a summary of public comments submitted on the proposal from ATPE and other stakeholders, as well as three staff-suggested changes that would address some of those comments: 1) making it clear that SBEC would consider “any other relevant circumstances or facts” when deciding on sanctions for contract abandonment; 2) clarifying that the mitigating factor relating to a change in certificate could include situations where educators move to charter schools, which are not required to employ certified teachers; and 3) making other non-substantive changes for clarification.
- Board Action: After hearing testimony, SBEC members discussed the proposal and potential changes they may make, which at this final adoption stage were limited to non-substantive changes and deletions. Citizen member Tommy Coleman moved to accept TEA’s three suggested changes, while inserting Districts of Innovation into the suggested change regarding charter schools (since they, too, may not require teacher certification) and eliminating the proposed mitigating factor related to an educator’s change in campus assignment. The motion was approved with Dr. John Kelly, Andrew Kim, and Bena Glasscock voting no. The rules must now be reviewed by the State Board of Education (SBOE) during its next meeting, Jan.25-28, 2022. The SBOE has authority to veto the rule changes or take no action on them, which would allow SBEC’s adopted changes to take effect Mar. 3, 2022.
ILTexas EPP: SBEC was slated to consider as part of its consent agenda (typically used for uncontested and non-controversial matters) an application from the charter school ILTexas to start its own EPP. ATPE submitted joint testimony with other stakeholders asking the board to take more time to review the application and expressing concerns with the charter’s track record with teacher turnover and retention, which affects the quality of the learning environment for candidates who enter the program and learn how to teach in ILTexas schools.
- Board Action: After hearing testimony and asking questions of ILTexas leaders, the board voted to approve the new EPP. Members Rex Gore and Tommy Coleman abstained from the vote.
Continuing Professional Education (CPE): ATPE submitted written testimony in support of rule amendments that would implement Senate Bill (SB) 1267, passed by the 87th Legislature this year. ATPE was one of several stakeholders invited to submit feedback to TEA on a proposal to implement the bill, which streamlines CPE requirements for educators by eliminating duplicative training mandates. In a separate agenda item, ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier was appointed to the Continuing Education and Training Clearinghouse Advisory Group required by the bill.
- Board Action: SBEC gave preliminary approval to the CPE rule changes, which will open for public comment in the Texas Register from Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022.
Virtual Observation: ATPE also submitted written testimony on a proposal to implement several bills, including SB 1590, which gives EPPs the flexibility to implement virtual observations in addition to in-person observations for certification candidates. Friday’s proposal delineates the specific combinations of in-person and virtual observations EPPs can use and, in doing so, restricts EPPs from offering a majority of their observations virtually.
- Board Action: SBEC gave preliminary approval to the rule change, which will open for public comment in the Texas Register from Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022.
EdTPA: Chevalier also testified before SBEC on a discussion item relating to the conclusion of the EdTPA performance assessment pilot. For the past three years, TEA staff have pushed the adoption of EdTPA as a replacement for the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam, but ATPE has voiced concerns that the cost and onerous requirements of EdTPA do little to address the need to raise teacher quality while ensuring rigorous preparation. Read ATPE’s written testimony about EdTPA here. ATPE also signed onto a letter to SBEC from a diverse group of EPPs, education organizations, and other stakeholders who recommend that EPPs be required to use performance assessment as a component of program completion rather than as a means for high-stakes licensure. Additionally, the letter advocated that the PPR can be used as a reliable measure of candidate readiness and could be modified to enhance rigor by raising the cut score and/or including constructed response items.
- Board Action: SBEC members expressed the need for more detailed information, particularly how TEA would address the increased cost of EdTPA to candidates and support districts in handling new requirements, such as the technology needed for EdTPA video submissions. Members also supported testimony that called for a modification of the PPR and options for EPPs to use performance assessments, rather than requiring EdTPA alone. Member Rex Gore called for the continuation of efforts to pilot alternatives to EdTPA. Based on comments by Chair Dr. John Kelly, SBEC may schedule a workgroup meeting on EdTPA and performance assessment before the board’s Feb. 2022 meeting. It also seems likely that the EdTPA rule proposal expected in February will include implementation of EdTPA as well as vetting any alternatives.
Commissioner’s Comments: Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath gave a rare presentation to SBEC Friday morning. He focused on discussing how student achievement and attainment has declined due to the pandemic, as much as 18% in the percentage of 3rd graders who are at grade level in math. Morath commented on SBEC’s role in ensuring quality educator preparation, citing high-quality residency programs, rigorous licensure exams, and the EPP accountability system as examples. He also outlined three TEA efforts to increase the recruitment of teachers: the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) to increase teacher pay, Districts of Innovation to create flexibility in hiring, and grow-your-own programs to encourage high school students and paraprofessionals to become teachers. Morath’s comments set the stage for the discussion on EdTPA at the end of the day and were frequently mentioned in the TEA staff presentations and public testimony.
Consent Agenda: In one vote, the board acted on eight non-controversial items to accomplish the following:
- Final adoption of amendments to rules for candidates from other countries to pass an English proficiency exam and rules on certification of military service members, spouses, and veterans that will implement recently passed legislation.
- Final approval of updates to the teacher and principal surveys used in the EPP accountability system to incorporate new terminology required by SB 2066 to replace “students with limited English proficiency” with “emergent bilingual students.”
- Final approval of the five-year continuing reviews of EPPs initiated in 2020-21.
- Commencement of the standard four-year rule review of three chapters of SBEC rules covering the accountability system for EPPs, educators’ code of ethics, and SBEC administration. The public comment period for these chapters will run from Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022, via the Texas Register.
- SBEC gave preliminary approval to updates on the rules for individuals from other countries or states who want to teach in Texas, such as deleting an onerous requirement that individuals from other countries obtain a written statement from the licensing authority in their country. The two sets of proposed rule changes will be open for public comment in the Texas Register from Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022.
- SBEC approved agreed orders for EPPs at the University of St. Thomas and Texas A&M – Texarkana outlining actions they must take to improve their accountability ratings.
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