The 83rd Texas Legislature passed comprehensive legislation addressing various aspects of the teacher quality pipeline, including educator preparation program admission standards, professional development audits, teacher appraisal and working conditions, with significant TCTA involvement in reshaping these provisions.

Shaping the teaching quality bill

House Bill 2012 by Rep. Mike Villarreal was signed into law by the governor, but it was actually the second vehicle for changes to the teacher quality pipeline. The original bill, Senate Bill 1403 by Sen. Dan Patrick, failed to meet a legislative timeline, so many of its provisions were amended onto HB 2012. TCTA had worked closely with Rep. Villarreal’s office in drafting HB 2012 and remained heavily involved throughout the process to ensure that no harmful provisions were added as a result of merging the two bills. (Read TCTA's April 23 testimony on HB 2012.)

This was because early versions of SB 1403 contained provisions that would have eliminated the minimum salary schedule, required annual appraisal of all teachers, and required that the commissioner adopt an evaluation framework that set the stage for a tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.

SB 1403 was the product of recommendations by the Texas Teaching Commission, a statewide group convened by Educate Texas (a public-private initiative) on which TCTA actively served during the year prior to the legislative session. However, when it became clear at the end of the process that key members of the group would insist the final report contain recommendations eliminating the minimum salary schedule and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, TCTA withdrew from the commission.

TCTA made it clear when we withdrew that we would actively oppose any legislation containing these harmful provisions. At the same time, given that TCTA’s participation on the commission yielded many good recommendations also contained in the commission’s final report, TCTA intended to work with Educate Texas on provisions with which we agreed.

Many of the recommendations included in the commission’s report were encompassed in SB 1403 and later, in HB 2012. Th final bill does the following:

Salary data collection

Requires TEA to collect the average salaries of educators by position, and for teachers, by subject and grade level. TEA must publish the information in summary form, by school district, on the agency’s website.

Requires TEA to use the teacher salary data collected to conduct a cost-of-living comparability analysis in each region of Texas to determine how classroom teacher salaries compare to salaries in similar professions, as determined by the commissioner of education. A report is due to the governor and legislative leadership by Dec. 1, 2014.

Statewide teaching and learning conditions survey

Contains TCTA-drafted provisions requiring the commissioner to develop an anonymous online survey of teaching and learning conditions to be administered statewide at least biennially to all full-time professional educators. The commissioner must contract with a third-party entity with appropriate research and evaluation expertise to administer the survey, and the commissioner must make the survey results public and provide them to school districts and campuses.

Each school district must use the survey results to review and revise, as appropriate, district-level and campus-level improvement plans and for other purposes to enhance the district and campus learning environments. The commissioner is required to use the survey results to develop, review and revise TEA’s professional development offerings, TEA initiatives aimed at teacher retention, and standards for principals and superintendents.

The survey must be designed to assess:

  • teaching and learning conditions as predictors of student achievement and growth
  • the relationship between teaching and learning conditions and teacher retention
  • the influence of school leadership on teaching and learning conditions, including:
  1. meaningful involvement of teachers in determining professional development needs
  2. meaningful involvement of teachers in campus decisions and initiatives
  3. support for teachers in student disciplinary matters and
  4. limiting required meetings for and non-instructional duties of teachers
  • the relationship between teaching and learning conditions and student attendance and graduation
  • the appropriate time during the day for collaborative instructional planning
  • facilities resources needs and
  • other supports needed for educators to be successful in the classroom

Educator preparation programs

Requires educator preparation programs, as part of the program, to provide enrollees with information about:

  • the skills that educators are required to possess, the responsibilities that educators are required to accept, and the high expectations for students in this state
  • the effect of supply and demand forces on the educator workforce in this state
  • the performance over time of the educator preparation program
  • the importance of building strong classroom management skills and
  • the framework in this state for teacher and principal evaluation, including the procedures followed in accordance with Subchapter H

Specifies admissions requirements for educator preparation programs, including a GPA not to exceed 2.75, or not to exceed a 2.75 GPA for the last 60 semester credit hours at an institution of higher education. Provides exemption from this requirement for up to 10 percent of the total number of persons admitted to a program each year in extraordinary circumstances in which the person’s work, business or career experience demonstrates academic achievement comparable to the required GPA.

Requires that for persons seeking initial certification:

  • If seeking math or science certification at seventh grade or higher, successful completion of at least 15 semester credit hours in the subject-specific content area in which certification is sought; or
  • If seeking certification at the seventh-grade level or above in areas subjects other than math or science, successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours; or
  • Has achieved a satisfactory level of performance on a content certification exam.

Requires the State Board for Educator Certification to determine a satisfactory level of performance required in each core subject covered by the Generalist Exam in order to pass the exam. Prohibits the board from requiring that more than 45 days must elapse before a person can retake an exam.

Teacher appraisal

Requires that a teacher is entitled to receive a written copy of an evaluation promptly upon completion.

Requires school districts to ensure that appropriate components of the appraisal process, such as classroom observations and walk-throughs, in addition to formal evaluations, occur as frequently as necessary to ensure that a teacher receives adequate evaluation and guidance. In doing so, school districts must give priority to inexperienced or struggling teachers.

Requires school districts to use a teacher’s consecutive appraisals for more than one year, if available, in making employment decisions and developing career recommendations for the teacher.

Requires the district to notify a teacher of his/her appraisal results in a timely manner so that it can be used as a developmental tool by the district and teacher to improve performance.

Professional development audit

Requires TEA to periodically conduct an audit of educator professional development requirements imposed by state and federal law and by school districts in an attempt to eliminate conflicting requirements and consolidate duplicative requirements. The initial audit must be completed by Aug. 1, 2014.

Requires TEA to provide guidance to school districts regarding high-quality professional development and expected outcomes.

Requires that funds districts receive under the mentoring program must be used for scheduled release time for mentors and mentees for meeting and engaging in mentoring activities.

Requires the commissioner to annually report to the Legislature regarding the effectiveness of school district mentoring programs.

Mentoring program

Requires the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to form an advisory committee by Nov. 1, 2013, to develop recommended guidelines for the mentoring program that align with teaching practice standards, and to provide a report of such to the governor and the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2015.

More teacher quality bills

Other bills that address specific aspects of teacher quality passed as well, including:

HB 2318/Aycock

Requires SBEC to require educator preparation programs to provide candidates with information concerning required skills and responsibilities, expectations for student performance, current teacher supply and demand, the importance of classroom management skills, and the framework for teacher and principal appraisal (same as HB 2012, except HB 2012 adds: “the performance over time of the educator preparation program”).

Requires that the satisfactory performance on the generalist certification exam as determined by the commissioner must require satisfactory performance in each core subject covered. SBEC must consult with higher education faculty, teachers and administrators to develop a process for reviewing and updating standards for educator prep programs, with an initial review to take place before Sept. 1, 2014 (also contained in HB 2012).

HB 642/Patrick

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, up to 25 percent of teachers’ continuing professional education requirements (for standard certification renewal every five years) must include:

  • collecting and analyzing information that will improve effectiveness in the classroom
  • recognizing early warning indicators that a student may be at risk of dropping out of school
  • integrating technology into classroom instruction
  • educating diverse student populations, including:
    • students with disabilities, including mental health disorders
    • students who are educationally disadvantaged
    • students of limited English proficiency
    • students at risk of dropping out of school

Up to 25 percent of counselor continuing professional education requirements must include assisting students in developing high school graduation plans, implementing dropout prevention strategies, and informing students about college admissions and career opportunities.

Up to 25 percent of principal continuing professional education requirements must include requirements very similar to those of the classroom teacher, in addition to effective and efficient management and supervising student discipline.

Provides that an educator subject to continuing education requirements immediately before the effective date of this Act is not required to comply with these requirements for any continuing education requirements period that ends before January 1, 2017.

HB 1751/Patrick

Effective in the 2014-15 school year, this bill converts the existing Educator Excellence Awards to the Educator Excellence Innovation Program, designed to transform educator quality/effectiveness through improved recruitment, preparation, hiring, induction, evaluation, professional development, strategic compensation, career pathways and retention. The focus is on districts that receive Title I funds, of which the majority of campuses have at least 50 percent educationally disadvantaged enrollment.

The competitive grant program is funded by appropriation ($16 million per year appropriated). District planning and decision-making committees will develop the local excellence innovation plan for the district.

Awarded grants can be used to implement a high-quality mentoring program for new (three or fewer years) teachers; a teacher evaluation system using multiple measures to include classroom observation (can also include student comments), degree of student learning, and results of teacher self-evaluations; restructuring of the school day or year to maximize collaborative learning for educators; an alternative teacher compensation program; and incentives to reduce teacher turnover.

The bill also provides that in implementing such a program, a school district may apply to the commissioner for a waiver from the following:

  • Any appraisal system must include criteria regarding teachers’ implementation of discipline management procedures and the performance of teachers’ students.
  • Teachers who direct extracurricular activities in addition to performing classroom teaching duties shall be appraised only on basis of classroom teaching performance.
  • School districts are prohibited from paying administrators who have not been appraised in the preceding 15 months.
  • Annual appraisal of principals is required.
  • Staff development requirements (requiring that staff development must be predominantly campus-based, related to achieving campus performance objectives, and developed and approved by the campus-level site-based decision-making committee. Also that staff development must include training for regular education teachers who teach special education students.
  • Mentor program

Note: The bill originally allowed waiver of the state minimum salary schedule. TCTA worked with the Senate sponsor of the bill to eliminate from the bill as passed.

Any waivers sought in order to implement the plan must be approved by a majority vote of the school board and of the educators at the affected campus. A waiver expires when the waiver is no longer necessary to carry out the purposes of the program.

Eliminates current law requirement that school districts must use 60 percent of the grant funds to award classroom teachers and principals who effectively improvement student achievement as determined by meaningful, objective measures.

HB 1752/Patrick

Creates the Texas Teacher Residency Program at a public institution of higher education, which will form a partnership with an area school district or charter school. The program will award master’s degrees and lead to certification for individuals not already certified. The residency program will include competitive admission requirements, integration of pedagogy and classroom practice, rigorous master’s level coursework in conjunction with an apprenticeship at the partner district/charter school, criteria for the selection of mentor teachers based on measures of teacher effectiveness, a livable stipend for teaching residents, a commitment to serve four years at hard-to-staff schools, job placement assistance, and support for at least a year after completion through mentoring/network/professional development.

Eligibility requirements include either recent certification (within the last two years, with less than 18 months of teaching experience), or a bachelor’s degree in combination with being a mid-career professional with strong content knowledge or being a non-certified educator such as a substitute or teaching assistant. Selection criteria include comprehensive subject matter knowledge or a record of accomplishment in the subject area, strong verbal and written communication skills, and attributes linked to effective teaching.

HB 1952/Senfronia Thompson

Requires principals or other administrators who oversee student discipline to, at least once every three years, attend professional development training regarding school discipline laws, including distinctions between a principal’s discretionary discipline management technique and a teacher’s discretionary authority to remove a disruptive student.

SB 460/Duell

Requires that minimum academic qualifications for a teaching certificate requiring a bachelor’s degree must include instruction in detection of students with mental or emotional disorders. The instruction is to include characteristics of the most prevalent mental or emotional disorders among children; identification of disorders; effective strategies for teaching and intervening with students with disorders, including de-escalation techniques and PBIS; and providing notice and referral to parents. Includes recommendations regarding mental health concerns and related issues, as well as school employee wellness, in the required duties of the local school health advisory council.

Requires districts to provide training regarding early mental health intervention and suicide prevention to teachers, counselors, principals and other appropriate personnel (the training is only required at elementary campuses to the extent sufficient funding and programs are available). In schools providing the training, the relevant employees must receive the training at least once, and the district must maintain records of who received the training.

SB 939/West

Ensures that charter school employees are required to report child abuse or neglect. Provides that the training on sexual and other abuse of children previously required for new employees must also be provided to existing employees. Requires schools to prominently post a sign that includes the state toll-free number to report child abuse and neglect. Requires child abuse/neglect training for higher education employees and includes higher education employees as mandatory reporters. Training must be provided on a schedule adopted by TEA until all employees have taken the training.

SB 1720/Patrick

Authorizes a student loan repayment program for graduates who agree to teach math or science at least four hours per day for four years in districts that receive Title I funding, followed by four years at any public school. Eligibility requirements include an undergraduate or graduate degree in math or science, a GPA of at least 3.5, math or science teacher certification or enrollment in a certification program, and at least one year of teaching experience in math or science in a Title I district. No more than 1,000 teachers can receive loan repayment assistance in 2016-17, phasing in at an additional 1,000 per year up to 4,000 teachers receiving assistance in 2019-20 and beyond.