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Every session, teacher training is seen as a remedy for some of the most problematic aspects of public education, and every session TCTA spends many hours with well-meaning legislators to try to mitigate the impact of these increasing demands on teacher time. Let us be clear — we agree that the topics that teachers must be trained on under state law address very important issues. But TCTA has growing concerns that (a) teachers, as professionals, are not being given opportunities to select the type of training that is most useful for them, and (b) the growing list of required training is becoming excessive and frequently repetitive, leaving less time for self-selected professional development opportunities. 

TEA released information this week identifying the allowable use of funds that districts will receive for preparing students for college, a career, and the military. One option will allow districts to use the College, Career and Military Readiness Outcomes Bonus for teacher training.

In a Dec. 12 letter to administrators, TEA outlined four cohorts and possible timelines for districts to apply for the teacher incentive fund allotment authorized by House Bill 3. Eligible districts must have adopted a local teacher designation system designating a certified classroom teacher as a master, exemplary or recognized teacher for a five-year period based on the results of single or multi-year appraisals that comply with T-TESS or a locally developed appraisal process. The district will receive funding for each designated teacher, with 90% going toward teacher salaries on the campus. TEA instructed interested districts to determine which cohort fits best and submit a letter of intent by Jan. 24, 2020.

The TRS Board of Trustees held its final board meeting of 2019 on Dec. 12-13 in Austin. The board received a briefing on the financial health of the fund, in which the actuaries noted the long-term benefits of legislative decisions to increase contributions. TCTA addressed the board about a proposal under consideration to move TRS out of its current downtown Austin building, urging caution and encouraging more discussion and public input before a final decision is made.

Responding to complaints about the readability of STAAR tests, Texas lawmakers included provisions in HB 3 that required the commissioner of education to study the exams used in grades 3-8. TEA contracted with the University of Texas at Austin to conduct the study. UT released its report on 2018-19 STAAR tests in early December. It found that the vast majority of passages in that year’s reading and writing exams were within or below the test’s grade level, and that most questions aligned with what the state expects students to learn in each subject. But the researchers struggled to determine whether the test questions were too challenging for students. They concluded that analyzing the complexity of the test questions "in a reliable manner for this report is not possible."

In a recent video, the Texas Education Agency released more information regarding the rollout of new literacy achievement academies. House Bill 3 requires teachers and principals in grades K-3 to enroll in a reading academy by summer of 2022. Along with outlining the timeline for selecting and training reading academy providers, TEA also announced plans to temporarily exempt special area teachers (such as music, art and P.E. teachers) from the training requirements. TEA anticipates it will take about 80 hours to complete the training and encourages school districts to schedule participation in one of the three approved models within designated campuswide professional development days.

I’ve been teaching second grade for 18 years, and have heard that I have to go through extensive new training soon — is that true?

HB 3, passed during the 2019 legislative session, requires each classroom teacher and principal for grades K-3 to attend literacy achievement academies not later than the 2021-22 school year. New teachers subsequently must attend an academy prior to their first year of assignment in those grades.

Headlines warn lawmakers to “Stop Fleecing Teachers” (Dallas Morning News editorial 10/30), and assert that a recently-passed bill “…declares open season on Texas teachers’ retirement funds” (DMN 10/27). How concerned should educators be?

Are you interested in TCTA statewide office? If so, a key deadline is Nov. 9. Four positions on TCTA's Executive Board are up for election at the 2020 Annual Meeting on Feb. 7 in Austin. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Oct. 30 released interim charges for Senate committees to work on before the next session begins in January 2021. Several committees were given items directly or tangentially relating to public education in Texas.