The Texas State Board of Education has unanimously rejected a proposal to replace the state’s multiple-choice teacher certification exam with a more rigorous test, even after the Education Commissioner called the current assessment of “trash”.
Friday’s board vote comes amid concerns that the proposed new exam – called the Educational Teacher Performance Assessment or edTPA – could be more costly for candidates than the current one and could limit the teaching pipeline to a time when schools are already struggling with staffing shortages. .
The State Board for Educator Certification voted earlier this year to recommend that the edTPA replace the existing teacher licensing exam in Texas. Had the SBOE approved the certification board’s decision, the edTPA would have been in place and required for all prospective teachers in 2023-24.
Although the SBOE vetoed the proposal, big changes could still occur in the landscape of teacher preparation. Board chairman Keven Ellis said he wanted to bring groups together as early as Monday to chart the way forward. He said he cannot envision a future where the status quo remains.
“Don’t view a vote to veto this rule as a wooden stake in the heart of the edTPA,” the Lufkin Republican said. “For me, it’s not the end of the road.”
Although the SBOE disagreed with the decision to replace the test, agency members and officials acknowledged that the current assessment has flaws. At a meeting on Tuesday, Education Commissioner Mike Morath described the current 100-question multiple-choice exam as “garbage” and in need of change.
Proponents of the edTPA argue that the exam, which requires candidates to prepare a portfolio of their work, would raise the standard for new educators. But critics have pointed out that the edTPA’s high test fees could create a financial barrier for applicants. Five states, including New York, have already dropped the test.
Aicha Davis, D-Dallas, requested that before the council takes steps to reconsider the test, Texas leaders should speak with officials in those other states to understand what went wrong.
Ahead of voting on Friday, several board members said the feedback they had received was overwhelmingly negative. They noted that they did not feel comfortable moving forward without more support, especially given the burnout of the educator workforce amid the coronavirus pandemic in Classes.
“If there’s a fire and people are coming towards the fire with buckets, you don’t stop and say, ‘Wait, are you a certified firefighter? Did you pass this test and this, this and the other? Said Rebecca Bell-Metereau, D-San Marcos.
A number of public education advocacy groups have opposed the change, saying the edTPA, used as a final certification exam, will not help teacher candidates develop. The groups also criticized “the wide gap in edTPA pass rates between black and white applicants,” according to a recent letter they sent to the SBOE.
State board members and letter-writing groups suggested that components of the edTPA or a similar portfolio model could be incorporated into educator preparation instead of being required as a test.
Agency staff countered that Texas law would allow this requirement but would not allow the state to regulate the quality of portfolio submissions.
A lawyer for TEA described SBEC’s oversight of educator readiness programs as a “hollow donut of authority.” in much of the inner workings of the preparation.
Texas has a deregulated network of more than 120 prep programs that includes everything from four-year college programs to for-profit alternative certification programs that deliver the majority of their training online.
A five-member school initiatives subcommittee — made up of members from both parties — voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend the board veto the change, foreshadowing the failure of the edTPA.
“It appears that SBEC has outsourced or abdicated…its role in the development of this [exam]said R-Friendswood member Matt Robinson. “They brought something from outside of Texas and changed it.”
TEA staff clarified that it is not the role of the education agency or the state’s educator certification board to develop exams. An agency staff member gave the example of STAAR tests for students, which are developed by a test provider and administered by the state.
Davis explained to TEA staff why they hadn’t looked into ongoing issues with the current educator certification exam, which has issues with performance gaps between black and white candidates.
“We couldn’t find anything to improve anything,” Davis said. “We’re just letting go of one problem to create another.”
The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation about pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation, and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.