SBEC hears info on learning loss and the need for higher teacher pay

Board also approves new rules on teacher sanctions

Gold state seal of star and laurels with texst: The state of Texas Education Agency

This past Friday, the State Board for Educator Certification met for its quarterly board meeting to receive comments from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, discuss the proposed implementation of a new teacher certification assessment, implement new rules on teacher sanctions, and consider the approval of a new educator preparation program at the International Leadership Texas (ILTexas) charter network.

Morath told the board that if dramatic declines in reading and math scores resulting from the pandemic are not properly addressed, the reduced scores could be predictive of worse career outcomes. Morath said the “status quo is untenable” and policy changes to address learning loss need to be “bold and aggressive.” He said teachers were the most important piece to improving educational outcomes and stressed to the board the importance of hiring and retaining “high-quality” educators. The education commissioner suggested teacher quality and retention could be handled by increasing training requirements. Morath proposed increasing teacher pay for teachers deemed to be “high quality” based on TEA metrics to tackle these issues, stating, “If you’re making it rain for kids, then we’ll make it rain for you.” That translates into pay tied to standardized test scores.

Texas AFT agrees with Morath that enhanced pay and training are crucial to attracting new, high-quality teachers. But the research shows that tying pay to students’ test scores is ineffective, further emphasizes standardized tests, and stifles critical thinking.  What is really needed is a higher base pay for educators that is comparable to jobs requiring similar skills along with the necessary resources for schools and teachers to address students’ needs. 

Morath also discussed the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), a private teacher training product that could be employed statewide after a recent pilot period. If edTPA is adopted, it will replace the PPR (Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities) exam. The board heard hours of invited testimony on the issue—including a letter signed by university education preparation providers, Texas AFT, and other teacher organizations that opposed the expansion of edTPA—citing independent research showing that edTPA has a negative impact on student achievement. Additionally, edTPA is not fully aligned with the SBEC standards, while the PPR is. edTPA is owned by the private publishing conglomerate Pearson, which has promoted private online schooling and has connections to charter schools. edTPA would also be more costly to teaching candidates. SBEC was divided on implementing edTPA, with several members worried about the rigor and cost. The board will discuss the matter further at its February meeting.

SBEC also amended its rules to implement HB 2519, which passed during the regular legislative session this year and amends the rules regarding sanctions for contract abandonment. SBEC voted to adopt rules that would broaden the scope of mitigating factors that can be considered when deciding the punishment for teachers who abandon their contracts.

Finally, SBEC voted to approve a new educator preparation program to be run by the ILTexas charter-school network. ILTexas stated it desperately needed the training program to recruit new teachers. Speakers who opposed the approval pointed out that ILTexas has very low teacher retention rates. They argued that a school that could not retain its existing teachers should not be responsible for training new teachers. ILTexas has also received failing scores from the TEA at several of its campuses. Despite these factors, the board voted to approve the new training program. For more information, read the letter sent to the board by Texas AFT and other teacher organizations.