Senate Education Committee’s Recommendations: More Gleanings

The previous Hotline described notable committee recommendations, in an interim report intended to guide legislative action in 2011, on the topics of charter schools, teacher evaluation, modification of class-size limits, and educator contracts. Additional topics addressed include:

–Teacher pay:  The committee’s interim report calls for providing “flexibility to school districts to meet local conditions” (without noting the broad flexibility districts already have). An issue to watch for under this heading will be any attempt to backtrack on recent state-directed pay raises, which have required that state pay increases be provided on top of the amount called for under a district’s local salary schedule.
–Teacher training:  Multiple committee recommendations address this topic. For instance the committee calls for development of “standards to ensure the quality of content in courses for university-based teacher candidates in core subject areas as well as elementary reading instruction.” The interim report also recommends requiring that middle-school “core content classes be taught by a certified teacher in that specific content area.” The report also says “the state should explore ways to remedy the gap in demand and supply of” ELL teachers and should “raise the bar for teacher training across the state, including for bilingual teachers, as well as provide effective professional development.” In regard to special education, the committee focuses again on teacher training, asserting that the state ought to “require teacher candidates for elementary special education to take courses in relevant academic subjects and take subject matter tests.” The report also says secondary special-education teachers should be required “to earn the equivalent of one subject area minor and pass tests in those areas so they have content knowledge necessary to educate their students.”

–Middle grades:  Beyond the call for specific subject-matter certification of middle-school teachers in core subjects, the report recommends creating “an advisory class which would address students’ academic and socio-emotional needs.” The committee also says the state should “expand and improve the writing component of the Texas Adolescent Literary Academies across all content areas.” The interim report further recommends, without elaboration, that the legislature “redesign personnel practices in order to increase the quantity and effectiveness of middle grades teachers.”

–Cost savings:  Besides the calls for enhanced local “flexibility” on class size, educator contracts, and teacher pay, the committee proposes to curb costs by other means, including creation of a new “Center for Financial Accountability and Productivity” (of which we’ll have more to say in future Hotline coverage). Also proposed are “incentives for cost savings at the district and campus level,” including one described as follows:  “Require school districts to implement programs whereby a campus may earn funding for operating more efficiently than their prorated share of costs in such areas as substitute teacher utilization, utilities, maintenance, food service, transportation, etc.”