TCTA presented invited testimony Aug. 16, 2016, to the Senate Education Committee as part of a panel addressing an interim committee charge related to raising the standards of teacher preparation programs. (Click here to watch the video. Holly Eaton's testimony starts at the 7:18:40 mark.) In addressing high-quality teacher preparation, TCTA focused on a key aspect that research shows leads to successful teaching careers: extensive pre-service exposure to real classrooms for teacher candidates. TCTA highlighted a clinical teaching model, which would involve financially supported, yearlong clinical co-teaching experiences for teacher candidates, and pointed to a recent report advocating such a model. According to the report, when aspiring teachers experience this kind of pre-service exposure to real classrooms by co-teaching in a well-functioning classroom alongside an effective educator, they learn to translate the best of educational theory into effective practice and gain a deeper understanding of techniques and strategies that are proven to help children learn.

Certification exemptions

In focusing specifically on HB 2205, an educator preparation program passed last session, TCTA used a provision of the bill to notify senators about an alarming phenomenon that TCTA has observed in the context of Districts of Innovation. TCTA pointed to a provision that was meant to address concerns by school districts that they would be unable to find enough certified teachers to teach the expanded number of career and technology education courses for high school graduation that resulted from HB 5 passed several sessions ago. The provision allowed school districts to hire uncertified teachers for non-academic CTE courses on school district teaching permits without needing approval from the commissioner of education. However, school districts had to ensure these individuals received at least 20 hours of classroom management training. TCTA alerted the committee to the fact that an increasing number of school districts were seeking exemption from not only CTE teacher certification requirements, but all manner of teacher certification requirements as Districts of Innovation. TCTA asserted that allowing school districts to unilaterally decide to exempt themselves from teacher certification requirements was at cross purposes with the state’s obvious desire to raise standards in teacher preparation. In closing, TCTA urged the committee to give consideration to how, in the upcoming legislative session, efforts could be made to resolve the situation to ensure students are being taught by professional educators who are well prepared to help them achieve academic success.

Other issues

The other interim charges considered by the committee at the hearing included examining current school board governance policies and practices and making recommendations that could improve the focus, attitudes and outcomes of Texas school boards, districts and students; studying existing board training requirements and making suggestions to educate school board trustees on policies that could achieve better student outcomes, particularly within the framework set for low-performing schools in House Bill 1842; and monitoring initiatives to build a high-quality pre-kindergarten grant program (HB 4).