This is the final of three deep dives we will take into the final report from the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force. The recommendations from the report fell into three broad categories:
- Working Conditions
- Training & Support
In the 2021-2022 school year, approximately 40% of newly hired teachers came from alternative certification programs (ACPs) or were not certified. Data shows that these teachers receive inadequate preparation and are more likely to leave the profession. These first-year teachers serve at least half a million Texas students annually, and their students are more likely to be economically disadvantaged and students of color. The report recognizes the need to improve the pre-service pipeline for new teachers entering the profession and to create support to help retain them in the classroom.
Grow Your Own
The report’s first recommendation is one we have long supported, “grow your own” pathways that foster new teachers from within a community.
Texas AFT has advocated for a dramatic increase in funding for the educational aide exemption program, an innovative, though underfunded program that could quickly and efficiently address the current teacher shortage. This kind of “grow your own” program allows teacher aides to enter a state university tuition-free in exchange for teaching in a critical shortage area. This program would help school districts meet the increasing demand for appropriately certified teachers in shortage areas and has an exceptionally high retention rate when participants become certified teachers.
The TEA and State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) have been promoting this new pathway to certification and it has been offered in both the House and Senate priority teacher bills. If enacted, educator preparation programs would partner to offer a paid, year-long clinical training/co-teaching experience for an educator candidate in a PK-12 classroom. These “residents” would be paired with an experienced, highly effective mentor teacher while receiving hands-on experience. While there is no doubt this type of embedded training, more like an apprenticeship, could have enormous benefits for teacher candidates, the state has not offered a funding proposition for this pathway.
Mentor Training and Allotments
The taskforce also recommended the development of a statewide training and allotment for cooperating teachers and mentor teachers to ensure quality mentorship. The Mentor Program Allotment (MPA) established by HB 3 (2019) was capped at $1.65M. There are some bills that would increase the allotment to $2,000 per mentor teacher (limited to 40 per district) which would be a massive increase, but does seem to be limited in a way that would be limiting to larger districts that hire a substantially higher number of new teachers per year.
Provide Access to and Support for High-Quality Instructional Materials
We have already seen some legislative action regarding the final recommendation of the taskforce: access to and training for high-quality instructional materials (HQIM). Access to HQIM would theoretically reduce the amount of time teachers spend searching for and curating materials, and with support for implementation, would lead to improved outcomes for students by ensuring consistent access to aligned grade-level content. The taskforce also called on EPPs to provide mandatory training for these materials.
Earlier in this Hotline, we discussed HB 1605 which is the vehicle for sweeping changes to the way in which instructional materials are reviewed, adopted, and procured by the state. While HQIM would not be required, the bill would incentivize the use of these materials with allotments. Additionally, this bill could further limit the amount of adopted materials available for our enrichment content areas such as fine arts and CTE. We will be closely monitoring the progression of this bill and providing feedback along the way.
While we don’t deny that many novice teachers, especially those who have not been sufficiently prepared by their EPP, might benefit from access and training on how to use instructional materials, this should not be used as a mechanism to remove individual teacher autonomy and local control over curriculum decisions.