Following a close vote to advance it by the State Board for Educator Certification, a controversial superintendent certification proposal was considered and rejected by the State Board of Education at its meeting this week. TCTA circulated a letter opposing the proposal to SBOE members prior to the meeting and testified against it at the meeting, pointing out that the part of the proposal allowing school districts to hire someone with no educational experience who would then be eligible for superintendent certification was an abdication of the state’s responsibility to ensure that all candidates for certification possess the necessary knowledge and skills necessary to improve student performance.

Background

The superintendent certification proposal before the SBOE contained two parts. The first part was language resulting from recommendations of a stakeholder group convened by TEA to give input regarding the law’s requirement that “The qualifications for a superintendent must permit a candidate for certification to substitute management training or experience for part of the educational experience.” Apparently SBEC wasn’t comfortable that its current rules met that requirement. Those rules provide that a candidate for superintendent certification must:

  1. Satisfactorily complete the relevant certification exam(s);
  2. Successfully complete a SBEC-approved preparation program and be recommended for certification by that program;
  3. Hold, at a minimum, a master’s degree; and
  4. Hold, at a minimum, a principal certificate or the equivalent.

The stakeholder group, composed of practitioners and policy experts including TCTA’s Charlotte Clifton and Shelby Patrick, focused on the fact that current rules required a principal certificate “or the equivalent,” and suggested that, as an alternative to the principal certificate, a candidate could substitute management training/experience as long as it was at least three creditable years of managerial experience in a public school district and the candidate submitted an application to TEA to review the managerial experience and approve or deny it. 

However, some SBEC members weren’t satisfied with that proposal and asked TEA to form a second stakeholder group, more representative of the business community, to give input as well. That group did not limit itself to addressing the statutory requirement, but came up with a new route to superintendent certification that would be initiated by a hiring district. This route allowed the hiring local school district, not the state, to determine if a candidate had the necessary experience and skill set, after publicly posting the reasons for that determination, and did not require the candidate to possess a master’s degree. That group’s language was reflected in the second part of the proposal.

TCTA and others testified in opposition to the second part of the proposal, saying it was unnecessary given that there is already a waiver process by which the commissioner can authorize a school district to hire a non-traditional candidate for superintendent, and can put conditions on maintaining the waiver. TCTA additionally testified that our chief objection to the second proposal is that there was no level of state involvement in deciding whether a candidate for superintendent certification under this route possesses the necessary knowledge and skills, given that the person had never held a teaching or principal certificate. We believe that this is an abdication of the state’s role in carrying out its statutory charge to ensure that all candidates for certification demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the performance of the diverse student population of this state, as required by state law. TCTA urged rejection of the entire rule (the SBOE can only accept or reject, but not modify, an SBEC rule).

Ultimately, the SBOE agreed, rejecting the rule. Some board members, when voting, requested to send back only the first part of the rule for further SBOE consideration.