Texas House committees hear hours of testimony on educator recruitment, preparation, and retention ahead of the 2023 legislative session
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Date Posted: 9/22/2022 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
The Texas House Public Education and Higher Education Committees met Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, for a joint meeting specifically geared towards teachers. The meeting lasted well into the night, as it should, given the importance of the topic and long overdue discussion about teacher workloads, pay, retirement, and preparation.
The committees jointly considered the following interim charge issued by Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont): Evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the state’s teacher workforce, and current practices to improve the recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators. Explore the impact of the educator preparation program regulatory environment. Make recommendations to improve educator recruitment, retention, and preparation throughout the state.
ATPE was invited to provide testimony to the committee regarding educator preparation. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier shared the work of the new Texas Coalition for Educator Preparation (TCEP), which was founded by ATPE and the other three major Texas teacher groups, as well as representatives from several organizations that serve educator preparation professionals. Chevalier shared testimony provided by TCEP that outlined key issues in educator preparation and numerous recommendations. (Because TCEP is still solidifying its membership, the testimony was developed by representatives of founding organizations but was not formally approved by all the coalition member organizations.)
Key issues highlighted by TCEP include the inconsistency in quality across educator preparation routes and the way various policy changes over the past few decades have incentivized aspiring teachers to choose preparation programs that are often less effective. For instance, a college student will find that it is cheaper, faster, and easier to finish their bachelor's degree and then enter an alternative certification program rather than investing the time and tuition to take additional educator preparation courses for certification at their institution of higher education (IHE). Unfortunately, the teacher retention rates for those prepared through alternative certification, particularly for-profit programs, is much lower than for those who are prepared through traditional IHE programs.
Chevalier also testified that 40% of new teachers in Texas are full-time teachers of record on an intern certificate. Of these, an unknown number are considered “late hires.” A teacher candidate can obtain an intern certificate by completing 150 hours of coursework, at least 30 hours of field-based experience, and passing a content exam. A late hire (hired within 45 days of the first instructional day in a school district) need only pass a content exam and then has 90 days (roughly a semester) to complete the 150 hours of coursework and 30 hours of field-based experience. Can you imagine standing in front of a classroom, alone, without knowing a lick about classroom management? It is a recipe for disaster, but Texas has allowed what should only be done in an emergency to become acceptable as the norm.
The intern certificate and late hire provision are almost exclusively used by alternative certification programs. A+ Texas Teachers, which does business as Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, has the largest share of alternatively certified candidates in Texas and is on probation for violating state regulations. The for-profit company has long advertised “late hire season” as a key element of its marketing plan.
Whether on the topic of educator preparation or other areas, Chevalier implored legislators to test every policy against the question of whether it helps teachers do their jobs. Chevalier noted ATPE’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force survey report aptly titled “Let Us Teach,” emphasizing that the phrase was a fair summary of teacher testimony that had occurred throughout the day’s hearing. Teachers and those who advocate for teachers all shared during the hearing that the job had become so burdened with legislative and regulatory mandates meant to ensure delivery of education that teachers felt, ironically, they could not even teach.
This was the final interim hearing of the House Public Education Committee. Chairman Harold Dutton (D-Houston) ended the meeting by recognizing his predecessor, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), who is finishing out his final term in the House and on the committee.
View an archived version of the hearing here. Handouts from the hearing will be posted here.
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