Texas finally offers some flexibility on Reading Academies requirements
Educator Preparation | Certification Texas Legislature Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE
Date Posted: 3/25/2022 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
After years of ATPE advocacy, state officials are finally hearing educators' concerns and offering new flexibility for school districts around the Reading Academies requirements applicable to many Texas educators. The changes announced this week, including content streamlining and a new test out option, address several of the concerns ATPE members have raised about training requirements that are often duplicative and overly time-consuming.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), which requires all K-3 teachers and principals to complete extensive Reading Academy training. As the requirement rolled out while the pandemic crashed into public education, teachers found themselves completely overwhelmed by the training.
Not only did the training take twice the estimated time to complete at over 120 hours, but teachers were also inconsistently paid for their time and were working nights and weekends to finish. Veteran teachers and those who had to pass the new Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam for certification also found themselves spending long hours on content they had already mastered. Even educators who didn’t teach reading, such as art teachers, found themselves wrapped up in the requirement due to confusing guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
ATPE advocated for improvements to the Reading Academies requirement during the 2021 legislative session, securing an extension to the deadline by which educators were expected to complete the training. More needed to be done, especially as concerns from ATPE members consistently hit our inboxes.
In December 2021, ATPE conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 K-3 teachers and administrators to collect their experiences with the Reading Academies. We wrote about the survey here on Teach the Vote and shared the results and our policy recommendations with Commissioner of Education Mike Morath and other staff at TEA, providing a voice to educators and evidence of the time and effort being put into the training without consistent compensation.
Now it appears that many of these recommendations have been heard. TEA issued updates this week to its Reading Academies guidance offering new flexibility to districts. Specifically, the updates include the following provisions for year three of the Reading Academies implementation:
- Districts “continue to have the authority to exempt art, health education, music, physical education, speech communication and theatre arts, or theatre teachers.” Previous guidance from TEA said only teachers who held “all-level” certification in these areas could be exempt, which does not cover all specials-area teachers. ATPE looks forward to gaining further clarification that these exemptions are no longer limited to teachers holding an all-level certificate in these areas.
- Districts may allow “certain teachers” to test out of Reading Academies content. ATPE will monitor the agency’s application of this new flexibility, as we believe all qualified teachers should be afforded the opportunity to test out of some or all of the content.
- Teachers who passed the STR exam will not have to complete the full Reading Academies training.
- Participants with extenuating circumstances will have extra time, rather than a sharp 11-month cut-off, to complete the training. (In our report, we cite the instance of a teacher going on maternity leave who would lose their training progress under the previous guidance).
- Content will be streamlined to reduce seat time and the number of hours it takes to complete the requirement.
As also indicated in the TEA updates, future changes may include an indicator on educator digital certificates showing Reading Academies completion. ATPE has shared with TEA ideas from our members, which included a micro-credential for completion of the training. TEA, in conjunction with the Educator Preparation Advisory Committee on which ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier serves, is also working on the possibility of allowing educator preparation programs to offer some of the Reading Academies content to pre-service teachers.
ATPE is pleased that TEA has made positive changes to the Reading Academies requirements, especially in response to the experiences ATPE members shared with us through our survey. We look forward to monitoring how these new flexibilities roll out and to continuing our lobbying for all educators to be compensated for their time spent on this training.
TEA will be hosting three upcoming webinars with additional information about the new Reading Academies guidance on April 6 at 10:30 a.m., April 12 at 1:30 p.m., and April 14 at 10 a.m. (all times CDT). All three webinar options will cover the same information. Find additional information and registration links for the TEA webinars here.
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I am one of those Specials teachers whose certification predates the 2007 all-level certification test. I never took the all-level because I didn’t need it since my original certification is still perfectly acceptable, according to TEA. And I’ve been teaching for 23 years, all in a fine art content area. With three years until retirement, though, I had to make the choice to either do the Reading Academy or add the all-level onto my certification. Having heard other Specials’ teachers experiences online, I decided to pay $194 and take the test. I realize that’s my choice, but now, it doesn’t seem like I would have to do that. I’m just (really) salty that I’m out almost $200 and nobody really seems to care. I contacted TEA last summer about this issue and was basically told too bad.
I agree and identify a million% with “LS” in these comments! I am only a couple of years away from retirement, ONLY teach math, haven’t taught reading in 5-6 years, already had every bit of this training IN COLLEGE, in which I graduated in 1993, have spent WAY longer than 120 hours on this during my own personal evenings and weekends, have had time taken away from my family, have had my stress level raised beyond belief, and it makes me want to steer all young people I know AWAY from the teaching profession. I have not been paid for my time on this training, don’t want the pay, just want back my TIME. This was, undoubtedly, a way for some people to make money, all the way to the cohort leaders in our Regions, and I resent the lack of respect to me, my former education, my time (that I already had very little of, my co-teachers that did not “need” this huge waste of time either (even the ones that teach reading because they are all excellent teachers!) and my own family, who needs their mom/wife to spend positive time with them. I feel that this whole year has taken away precious time in the life of my 10 year old daughter, especially! She deserves my time, not this “Waste of time” class! How inconsiderate and disrespectful of every single one of our Texas representatives to pass this “Waste of time” bill?!?! Did they get some kind of “kick-back” for passing it? Probably! I will NOT be voting for any of those fools! How pompous of them to have passed this…What a pompous person to have thought of this, created it, and pushed it through our legislature. Pathetic. Is that clear enough?
I only teach math. I have taught math for 27 years. I will retired in a couple of years. I will never teach reading. I agree waste of my valuable time. I have been stress out, cried and it has affect my mental health. I teach 5th grade. No pay. And it has been more than 130 hours and I am not done yet. I had all of these in college. I had to take 3 reading method classes in which I passed.
I’m in a district with almost no turn over compared to the district I was at the prior 13 years. We had teachers retire in droves over reading academy, and those of us who are eligible before the fourth grade deadline will also be retiring. They are losing great teachers in huge numbers. I’ve taught reading since 1997 from special education, and gen Ed from k-4. Only one of my students failed the STAAR last year, and that student only missed one question. I KNOW what I’m doing! I won’t retire early if I can test out! Thank you advocating for teachers! 🥰
It''s so terrible that teachers give so much more time than 40 hrs per week and then this was thrown on top of them. It was a lot of stress and then caused less time for me to prep for my class of students. I could have been spending time teaching and closing the gaps and instead I was miserable, crying, trying to get through the class, and hating my job. Teachers deserve to be happy and felt cared for. Instead, during a pandemic time you choose to make our job so hard that everyone wants to quit or retire. I hate that for our kids. They don''t deserve it. There needs to be a balance and teachers need to be heard. Most of us are women and we are walked all over because we will follow the rules to be the best for kids. It''s now affecting us and we can''t be the best. Mental health matters.
I am a FOCUS (behavior) teacher. I don’t teach reading. I support students who have emotional and behavioral challenges. Academics are an area of concern with the students that I support, however, their immediate needs revolve around all things that are not academic. Many of my colleagues as well as myself have been attempting to speak to my district to exempt FOCUS teachers. My personal experience, I retire in less than ten years. If I am forced into a classroom situation in which I have to teach academics, I quit.
And yet they have to put together a committee to figure out why there is a mass exodus of teachers? Well, here’s your sign!
I’m just about at my breaking point with teaching. I’m a dyslexia interventionist & most of this information I know from my current position or from 23 years of teaching experience (Language Arts/Reading). I’m almost done with RA (module 10), but it literally is bringing me to my breaking point. I have a Masters degree already & THAT wasn’t even this time consuming! I seriously am considering retiring early…sad too, b/c I only have 4 years left & leaving early will DRASTICALLY change how much I will receive in TRS. Between COVID gaps, all the new students qualifying for dyslexia with Child Find, and then TEA adds Reading Academy? It’s disheartening & makes me dread going to work every day…which I used to LOVE. I just don’t know if I can handle 4 more years in this field. 😢
This is completely ridiculous! I really feel sorry for those who have already done it and had to waste all their time. I do not understand why we are required to do this! Majority of the schools have trainings in reading. I feel like TEA doesn’t trust me as a teacher to do my job. Do doctors and lawyers, and other professions have to keep getting things like these sprung upon them for no pay??? I have a family, as it is right now, I don’t spend a lot of time with them because I’m staying late at school getting ready for lessons or documenting or having staff meetings. TEA has no regards for our mental health when they require us to stretch ourselves so thin and neglect our personal lives. I have seriously considered leaving teaching over this. My mom died last year and it made me realize no job is worth loosing precious time with family. This isn’t even about not getting paid, even though that also makes me mad, but it’s about taking our personal time away.
I have 30 years in education, a Masters Degree in Elementary Education, and several additional certifications. I am preparing my retirement paperwork for the end of next school year. If I have to complete TRA, I will retire sooner. Private school teachers who are not even certified should be the ones having to complete TRA!
Reading should be inclusive with students, parents and teachers. If l can teach l can read. TEA shame on you. Teachers have no time for Family , Friends, husband''s or wife''s, children as it is. I''m retiring in May l feel sad for all the other teachers.
I find it comical that decisions are made regarding education that HAVE NEVER ENTERED A CLASSROOM TO TEACH. Teachers are at the mercy of spineless politicians, who simply want to deplete public schools, in favor of private schools. My job is stressful enough. This year my goal was to simply close the COVID gap. Now, I have another obstacle looming ahead-the unnecessary Reading Academy. So here’s my question Mike Morath: what will you do if I refuse to participate in this redundant, time consuming academy? What if many teachers refuse? Another question. Are you still working from home? Probably so. However, teachers are now front line workers. COVID has inhibited my body twice. The Trump Administration allocated many dollars to states for education during the pandemic. Is this where you, Mike Morath, chose to spend those dollars? This whole process is WRONG. You are the modern day Mark White, as is Abbott, when all teachers had to take the TE-CAT test. I hope that your proud of yourself. You’ve insulted the intelligence of every teacher in the state of Texas.
I agree with it being time consuming and then we didn’t even get a book like the others did prior to those taking it now. We have to print our own copies. 120 hours is definitely not accurate. Teachers are up at 2 and 3 in the morning working on this. It is really sad. Some of my pregnant friends who teach are working extra hard to finish before their child is due. Teachers with ill parents and children are still required to get it done.
40 years teaching and I have a master’s degree, but it counted for nothing. College students take about 15 hours a semester, but we’re supposed to take a college level course with (on paper) 4 times that many hours and hold a full-time job that was already hours of overtime work. I would challenge the legislators who thought this was a good idea to come teach full-time and take this course themselves. I think they would realize pretty quickly what a disservice they have done to some of the most important people in a community- the teachers of our future generations. I love children and probably could have taught a little longer, but it was not worth the inordinate amount of time and effort to finish this course, so I made the decision to leave teaching.
I’ve taught 16 years K/1st and stayed home for 7 in between. Should I go back and apologize to the hundreds of students I’ve taught to read and write? As well as my own two boys who are both gifted? I told my reading facilitator I have literally learned nothing new from RA, it’s just a rehash of what I was originally taught. I told her it’s been a huge waste of my time, spending nights, weekends and holiday breaks to just “keep on schedule”. I’m just wondering what is really behind this push… thinking $$$$. The written English language has been around for so long and yet RA has just now determined HOW we should be teaching children how to read and write? Ridiculous.
I have one more year I can teach before I HAVE TO take the Reading Academy. I am retiring (after 31 years) next year. I refuse to put myself through all the extra work and stress.
They should have to pay those of us who were mandated to waste our time and received no compensation...OVER 120 hours and $0
I had to complete this during the height of the pandemic, during hybrid teaching and didn''t learn a damn thing. I was just going through to get it done. I have been teaching for 17 years, I would hope I have this by now.
It is too late for me. I have already applied for retirement.
A little too late, in my opinion. Thank you TEA for taking time away from my family, friends and even my students. I had to miss time spent on staff development days off (where my team and I could of been planning for the classroom as we’ve always done in the past) just to sit in front of my computer for 7-8 hours working on this nonsense. The amount of money they spent on STR could of been spent increasing our salaries. And now they are in a panic because teacher shortages are a major problem around Texas. Hmmmm, I wonder why?!
I have been teaching 24 years. I am certified in Reading, ESL, I have a master''s degree and I am a Certified Academic Language Therapist. There was no reason for me to take this course. It was a waste of time and added a great deal of stress to a job that is already stressful and doesn''t pay much.
I have taught math and science for the the last 7 years. I will not be teaching L/A again in my teaching career. I’m out. Next year is my last year of teaching. I wanted to make it to 30 years, but I’ll be short 3 years🤷♀️
If the state is requiring us to do this then the state should be compensating us for the hours taken away from my family, friends, and my mental health. No other profession would be required to give this many hours without being paid! Just ridiculous.
Too little too late. I just wrapped up my 140 hours doing the Reading Academy…mostly on my own time, and for no pay. I have put in the time that should give me a masters degree in Reading…will I get that? No. A dime? No. I hear what we get in the future is additional academies. Is this so? I’ll tell you that with all the gaps Covid has caused, those 140 hours should have been spent finding ways to close those gaps. TEA thought STR was more important I guess. All of my energy went to STR and not to my kids. Teachers are leaving in droves. We think this year was bad, wait until next year….
Teachers can make their voices heard by making a drastic change in leadership by voting at the polls in November 2022. The leadership as it stands in the TX Legislature is sadly LACKING in its respect for education and TX teachers! Every TX teacher and family member that can vote needs to show up at the polls and vote in new leadership that will support teachers.
Wait, there are districts that are paying teachers for completing this? Must be nice..
I passed the STR , and had to take the reading academy all during my first year of teaching….not to mention the hundreds of dollars in gas to drive back and forth, and the countless hours doing the “homework”. I’m glad the future people don’t have to do it, but it’s sad for us that had to be the Guinea pigs.
Little to late TEA! I passed my STR test last school year and had to do the reading academy this year!! The amount of late nights and weekends I’m using to complete this is unacceptable! I’m not being compensated and again I already PASSED STR test! I have never been this stressed in my life! Teaching while trying to complete this has been TOO much! The stress has brought on health conditions I’ve never had before! I also have not been able to devote the time to my family because I am doing this on my own time at home!! Then you wonder why all the teachers are running to other professions!
I just took the STR last summer along with EC-6th content to move into a new position. I just completed tha Academy. It says STR all over it. If someone has passed the STR then I feel like this is just added work. Also, my district did give us some professional days to work on this but most of the work has to be done outside of that. I spent evenings and Saturdays pushing through to complete this before the end of the year.
Flood Texas governor and your representatives with your stories. It is so pathetic that our state and federal government treats our greatest commodity- our children- as a low priority and in turn holds little regard to the passionate, resilient educators that are called to teach. TRA has some good stuff but TEA has bad timing and a total lack of understanding of our current situation. Everyone that works in TEA Ned’s to step out of their comfy position and come sub in our schools for just one week.
I feel that they should also exempt teachers with 20 or more years of experience. Also, will all districts give teachers the option to “test out” or is it up to each individual district? It should be consistent across all school districts, and teachers should be given that option especially those of us who have been teaching 20 or more years.
When does this go into effect? I passed the STR exam less than a year ago and would love to not have TRA on top of my school workload and internship workload. My district is not paying us for TRA and offered us one workday to work on TRA but the sub pay would have been taken out of our paycheck. Hard pass.
Already completed while teaching face to face and writing virtual curriculum during pandemic. Zero compensation.
You are putting so many unpaid hours on our teachers they are leaving by the droves! Then look at the unprepared teachers you will get that will only work an year. Just voicing my opinion
It too late I’ve been teaching 14 years and my application and resume is already in for a career changed. TRA time requirements have be not able to care for my special needs child at home. So I’m out! My wife also a teacher resigned this year due to devote more time to our special needs son she now works for home as a project manager and is making 20k more than she got after 13 years teaching public school. TEA and the State legislature are diving teachers out I’m one of them too… two in our house hold! Thanks TRA for showing me how much lack of respect there is for teachers well being there is. I’m out!
I also feel anyone over 20 years of teaching should be exempt period. And we need to add teachers with post graduate degrees in Curriculum and Instruction should be exempt.
This academy is silly. All content was learned through college courses. For me that was 16 years ago. I teach more in depth now than I did back then. We need monetary raises for all teachers not some bogus program that districts end up struggling to meet all the requirements set by a bunch of people that have never taught or even stepped into a school since 12th grade.
My district is not providing ANY time OR compensation to complete any of the reading academy program. Additionally, we are still under the pressure of ever growing workloads and expectations in the classroom. On top of all of this-we are still dealing with the lasting effects of covid (I teach 1st-so my students have NEVER had a normal school year and is shows), but there is no grace given to my students nor to myself. I hope teacher’s voices continue to be heard, and significant changes continue to occur.
I have a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Triple Literacies and fifteen years experience. I don’t understand why I, or MANY OF US, still have to prove ourselves to the state. Do our Bachelor’s degrees in Education, Reading, Psychology, or Human Development mean anything? Will these be considered? Specifically, will a degree in literal* Reading instruction exempt me? Our district, Ector County ISD, is giving zero out of class time or monetary compensation. Will this be decided at a state level or a district level? How soon can we expect answers? My completion date is quickly approaching, and I’m still behind a considerable amount.
Those who are already teaching and/or serving as administrators in a school with K-3 students should be grandfathered in to this new “rule/expectation”. It’s absolutely ridiculous to have certified and seasoned teachers go backward and basically take a college level course to prove they know how to teach. Newsflash-they are already doing it!
Nice but What about those of us that already went through them??? I thought I was going to die!! Literally, no joke!! So many mental breakdowns!! Horrible timing..... In the middle of online learning at most schools!! TEA failed us!
My district didn’t even pay us.
Thank you for listening to us teachers. So many of us are so overwhelmed by our case load of just teaching and then having to give up our personal time to complete the Reading academies and all for our district to compensate us with a measly $300 if we pass it. That is so wrong in every level.