TCTA successfully persuaded the Texas Education Agency to eliminate rule language requiring prekindergarten teachers to get 150 continuing professional education hours in prekindergarten in order to teach in a new $130 million prekindergarten grant program. In submitting comments on proposed TEA rules implementing a new high-quality prekindergarten grant program as required by the passage of House Bill 4 last session, TCTA also convinced TEA to include a requirement a school district/charter school receiving such a grant must attempt to maintain an average ratio in any prekindergarten program class of not less than one certified teacher or teacher's aide for every 11 students. TEA recently issued final rules granting both of TCTA’s requests. The rules became effective April 6, 2016.

The statutory provisions of HB 4 contain a list of eligibility requirements in order to teach in the prekindergarten grant program, including that each teacher must hold a Texas teaching certificate and one of the following:

(A)  a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or another early childhood education credential approved by the agency;

(B)  certification offered through a training center accredited by Association Montessori Internationale or through the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education;

(C)  at least eight years' experience of teaching in a nationally accredited child care program;

(D)  be employed as a prekindergarten teacher in a school district that has received approval from the commissioner for the district's prekindergarten-specific instructional training plan that the teacher uses in the teacher's prekindergarten classroom; or

(E)  an equivalent qualification.

For school district prekindergarten teachers, the proposed rules required they that must have completed or will soon complete at least 150 cumulative hours of continuing professional education over a consecutive five-year period that addresses all ten domains in the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines.

TCTA submitted comments objecting that the proposed rule was not a reasonable interpretation of the statute, because, rather than referring to the district’s training plan, it required teachers to get 150 CPE hours (ostensibly on their own). TCTA argued that this was inappropriately prescriptive and overly burdensome on teachers who, rather than getting training from their districts, apparently had to go get 150 CPE hours. 

In response, TEA agreed and eliminated the reference to continuing professional education hours, instead using the term “professional development” hours in the final rules.

The final rule pertaining to eligibility of school district prekindergarten teachers to teach in the grant programs is:

Prior to assignment in a prekindergarten class, teachers who provide prekindergarten instruction have completed at least 150 cumulative hours of documented professional development addressing all 10 domains in the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines that were approved prior to 2015 in addition to other relevant topics related to high-quality prekindergarten over a consecutive five-year period;

Teachers who have not completed the training required above prior to assignment in a prekindergarten class complete:

(i) the first 30 hours of 150 cumulative hours of documented professional development addressing all 10 domains in the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (updated 2015) in addition to other relevant topics related to high quality prekindergarten before the end of the 2016-2017 school year; and

(ii) complete the additional hours in the subsequent four years in order to continue providing instruction in a high-quality prekindergarten classroom; and

At least half of the hours required by subparagraph (i) or (ii) shall include experiential learning, practical application, and direct interaction with specialists in early childhood education or instructional coaches.

TCTA also pointed out that noticeably absent from the proposed rules was the statutory provision that a school district must attempt to maintain an average ratio in any prekindergarten program class of not less than one certified teacher or teacher's aide for each 11 students. In response, TEA agreed and included the language in the final rules, also noting that data will be collected to allow TEA to calculate the teacher- or teacher aide-to-student ratio in prekindergarten classrooms. 

Other components of the grant program in the final rules are:

  • Participating school districts and charter schools must implement a curriculum that addresses all of the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (updated 2015);
  • Participating school districts and charter schools must measure the progress of each student in meeting the recommended outcomes identified in the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (updated 2015) using a progress monitoring tool selected from the commissioner's list of approved prekindergarten instruments as well as the preparation of each student for kindergarten using a kindergarten readiness instrument for reading;
  • Identification of the family engagement components that districts and charter schools are required to address in a family engagement plan in order to be eligible to receive grant funding under this program.