Texas rejects more rigorous teacher certification exam
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The State Board of Education on Friday unanimously rejected a new teacher certification exam that supporters dubbed the solution to prepare and retain new teachers, but critics worried would create barriers for people of color to enter the profession.
Many board members said the exam currently used by the state to certify teachers, known as the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, is not an adequate test, but they did not feel switching to the new test, called the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, addressed concerns about retaining teachers during a statewide teacher shortage and holding current educator prep programs accountable for how they prepare future teachers.
“I feel there are some stones left unturned,” said SBOE Chair Keven Ellis, a Republican who represents Northeast Texas. “I would not consider a vote to reject a wooden stake through the heart of edTPA. This is not the end of the road.”
Ellis proposed bringing stakeholders back to the table Monday to discuss possibly developing an additional exam or other potential solutions.
The edTPA exam was first approved in late April by the 11-member State Board for Educator Certification, which oversees the preparation, certification and standards of conduct of public school educators, but it needed final approval from the State Board of Education to be implemented.
The test, which was developed at Stanford University, requires teachers to submit answers to essay questions and provide a sample lesson plan, a 15-minute video of themselves teaching in the classroom and a report on their students’ progress.
Proponents of the new exam say it will better support and retain new teachers because it can pinpoint exactly what a teacher lacks through the video recordings and written analyses provided. Those against the edTPA say it creates a barrier for people of color entering the profession because it costs nearly $200 more than the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam currently used. The new exam has been scrapped in New York and Washington, two states where it had been required.
“I don’t believe the teacher candidates should be the conduit for cleaning up the system, nor should they bear the expense of that,” said Audrey Young, a Republican representing Southeast Texas and part of the Greater Houston area.
This new licensing test would have replaced the PPR exam, a 100-question test that has been in use since 2002. Critics of the PPR teacher certification exam have called it a less-than-precise way of testing a new teacher’s potential. All the questions on the test are multiple choice, making it easier to pass.
Before Friday’s vote, the Board’s Committee On School Initiatives, which is made up of five State Board of Education members, on Thursday recommended the full board reject the edTPA exam. They cited that teachers and school administrators don’t want it, it will negatively affect people of color, it’s been adopted and then scrapped in other states, and there has been a lack of communication between stakeholders leading up to adoption.
State Board of Education member Aicha Davis, a Democrat representing the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, said on Thursday she doesn’t think there was enough done to try and solve the issues people have with PPR.
“We haven't figured anything out to make anything better,” she said. “We’re just kind of getting rid of one problem to have to create another one.”
Ruben Cortez Jr., a Brownsville Democrat, on Thursday brought up a letter from 26 different teacher unions and education groups sent to Texas State Board of Education members asking that the board reject the plan and instead mandate the certification board to increase training requirements of teacher preparation programs.
But Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told board members Wednesday that edTPA will help Texas’ new teachers as they are more likely to leave the profession quicker and are more likely to serve low income students and students of color.
He called the PPR “trash.”
“Shame on us for 20 years ago rolling this thing out,” he said. “We got to get rid of PPR.”
He also said it would take too long for Texas to come up with its own exam and it would be easier to contract a proven exam like the edTPA. The TEA is ready to set aside about $2 million dollars to help prospective teachers pay for the more expensive exam.
But on Friday, Davis accused the TEA of not providing board members with enough information to make an informed decision and wanted more information about why other states have scrapped edTPA after requiring it.
“I’m asking staff and the commissioner not to just lobby us with a product they want to push, but to give us unbiased data so we can make a good decision,” she said.
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