The following was included in TCTA's 2019-20 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2019 but is subject to change.

This section previews some new laws that will go into effect in the 2020-21 school year and beyond.

Bills require more topics for teacher training

House Bill 18, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019, added quite a few required topics to training that school districts must provide educators. 
Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, school districts must provide training on:

  • recognizing signs of mental health conditions and substance abuse;
  • strategies for establishing and maintaining positive relationships among students, including conflict resolution;
  • how grief and trauma affect student learning and behavior and how evidence-based, grief-informed, and trauma-informed strategies support the academic success of students affected by grief and trauma; and
  • preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidents of bullying. 

This training must be provided on an annual basis as part of employee orientation to all new school district/open-enrollment charter school educators and to existing school district/open-enrollment charter school educators on a schedule adopted by TEA, and must use a best practice-based program recommended by the Health and Human Services Commission/TEA. HB 18 includes a TCTA-initiated provision that allows for the training to include two or more of the listed topics together.

Also beginning in 2020-21, school districts may provide training in positive behavior intervention and support; strategies including classroom management, district discipline policies, and the student code of conduct; and digital learning.

HB 3 requires all school districts/open-enrollment charters to ensure that, not later than the 2021-22 school year, each K-3 classroom teacher has attended a teacher literacy achievement academy and that, beginning with the 2021-22 school year and subsequent school years, all K-3 teachers must have attended a teacher literacy achievement academy prior to the teacher’s first year of placement in any of those grade levels. (Current law already provides for the commissioner to make literacy achievement academies available for K-3 reading teachers to voluntarily attend.)

ACE turnaround plans affect teacher pay

Recent legislation (HB 4205) created an “ACE” (accelerated campus excellence) turnaround plan as an option for campuses that have been rated unacceptable for two consecutive school years. Like all campus turnaround plans, the ACE plan must be prepared by the school district in consultation with the campus intervention team and allow parents, the community and stakeholders an opportunity to review the plan before it is submitted for approval to the board of trustees. The plan must include written comments from the campus-level site-based decision-making committee, if applicable; parents; and teachers. However, unlike other campus turnaround plans, an ACE plan must include a detailed description of employment and compensation structures for the principal and teachers, and the principal assigned to the campus has final authority over personnel decisions. Additionally, the commissioner is authorized to determine whether the plan meets the applicable statutory provisions in deciding whether to approve the plan.

At least 60% of the teachers assigned to the campus must be teachers who have demonstrated instructional effectiveness during the previous year. For a teacher who was in the district the previous year, effectiveness is based on the teacher’s impact on student growth as determined through a locally developed value-added model that measures student performance on at least one assessment selected by the district, and an evaluation based on classroom observation. For a teacher who was not in the district the previous year, effectiveness is determined through data and other evidence indicating that he/she would have performed in the top half of teachers in the district.

The significant amount of authority given to the commissioner to deem a campus ACE plan’s employment and compensation structures acceptable is cause for concern. The commissioner’s decision regarding approval of an ACE plan is final and not appealable. Last, the final authority given to the principal of an ACE campus over personnel decisions is also cause for concern.

With the exception of a provision allowing one campus rated “unacceptable” in the 2017-18 school year to submit an ACE turnaround plan for the 2019-20 school year, the ACE turnaround plan provisions do not go into effect until the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. It will be important for teachers and support personnel at struggling campuses to pay close attention to school district attempts to create ACE turnaround plans, and to review and comment on such plans. Since any campus turnaround plan must include written comments from the campus site-based decision-making committee, this serves as yet another example of the need for teachers and instructional personnel to participate on their campus SBDM committees (see page 8).

Student assessment changes

HB 3906 made some significant changes to the state assessment program, some of which will be phased in and implemented in future years. Upcoming changes include:

  • A three-year phaseout of the stand-alone grades 4 and 7 writing test. Instead, several questions designed to assess writing will be incorporated in the STAAR Reading test in grades 3-8 (new ELAR TEKS are designed to support an integrated approach to teaching reading and writing). Effective beginning Sept. 1, 2021.
  • Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, no more than 75% of questions in an assessment can be in multiple choice format.
  • TEA must, in consultation with the State Board of Education, develop a transition plan to administer all required state assessments electronically no later than the 2022-23
  • school year. TEA must report on the plan to state leadership and the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020, along with a recommended timeline for statewide implementation of electronic administration.
  • School districts must permit students enrolled in courses requiring use of a graphing calculator to use calculator applications on a computing device. (Effective with the 2019-20 school year.)
  • The commissioner must adopt or develop optional electronic interim assessment instruments for each subject and for each grade level subject to assessment under the state assessment system; such assessments must be predictive of the applicable state assessment for that subject/grade level and may not be used for accountability purposes. (Effective with the 2019-20 school year.)

HB 3 requires the commissioner to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a public higher education institution to conduct a study to determine whether, for each applicable grade level, each STAAR assessment in grades 3-8 during the 2018-19 school year or scheduled to be administered during the 2019-20 school year is written at the appropriate reading level for students in that grade level and includes only questions/passages that are not higher than the grade level at which the assessment is administered. The commissioner must report the result of the study to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.

HB 1244 requires that the U.S. History end-of-course exam include 10 questions randomly selected by TEA from the civics test administered as part of the naturalization process. Effective beginning with students entering ninth grade during the 2019-20 school year.

Bills change certification/CPE requirements

HB 2424 requires the State Board for Educator Certification to establish a program to issue micro-credentials to educators in fields of study related to an educator’s certification class (classroom teacher; school counselor, school librarian, principal, etc.) and to approve continuing education providers to offer micro-credential courses. A micro-credential received by an educator must be recorded as part of the educator’s public certification records. 

HB 3217 eliminates the statutory prohibition against education as an allowable academic major for a teaching certificate, as well as the limit of no more than 18 semester credit hours of education courses at the baccalaureate level allowable in granting a teaching certificate.

HB 18 makes a number of changes to continuing professional education requirements, to be adopted by SBEC rule no later than May 1, 2020:

  • Lifts the 25% cap on required topics for educator CPE.
  • Adds to the required topics for classroom teacher CPE: educating diverse student populations, including students eligible for Section 504, Rehabilitation Act, students with mental health conditions or who engage in substance abuse, students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and how mental health conditions, including grief and trauma, affect student learning and behavior. Provides that two or more of the required topics can be included in a given training course.
  • Adds to the required topics for counselor CPE: counseling students concerning mental health conditions and substance abuse, including through the use of grief-informed and trauma-informed interventions and crisis management and suicide prevention strategies; and effective implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program under Section 33.005.
  • Provides that SBEC shall adopt rules allowing an educator to fulfill up to 16 hours of CPE requirements by participating in an evidence-based mental health first aid or grief/trauma-informed care program that is offered through a classroom instruction format with in-person attendance. 

HB 3 made several changes to teacher certification, including requiring that, beginning with certificates issued by SBEC to teach prekindergarten through sixth grade after Jan. 1, 2021, a teacher certification candidate must demonstrate proficiency on the science of teaching reading on the certification exam.

As of Sept. 1, 2019, HB 3 repealed statutory provisions establishing Master Math, Reading, Science and Technology certificates, providing that SBEC must recognize a Master teacher certificate formerly issued under these provisions as a “legacy” certificate until the certificate expires. 

For current certification/CPE requirements, see pages 15-18.