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Education Board Members Question Teacher Prep Requirements

State Board of Education members said Thursday that they hoped to persuade regulators overseeing the teaching profession to reconsider a decision made against raising the minimum GPA for educator certification programs.

Science educator Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands speaks to the Senate Nominations Committee about her nomination as chair of the State Board of Education on Feb. 11, 2013.

Texas education officials took an initial step Thursday toward asking the state to reconsider raising the minimum college GPA needed for prospective educators to enter certification programs. 

"A little nod ... saying 'we know you can do it, and we support you in this' would be a positive thing," said State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, who added that the change would help restore "pride and value" to teaching.

Cargill made her remarks at a Thursday morning hearing of the SBOE's Committee on School Initiatives, which recommended in a 3-2 vote to reject rules recently passed by State Board of Educator Certification, which oversees the teaching profession in the state. 

The three SBOE members, all Republicans, who backed the veto said they hoped it would persuade the board of educator certification to reconsider an August decision against raising the required GPA — from 2.5 to 2.75 —for admission to educator preparation programs. The full SBOE will take up the recommendation Friday. 

A 2013 law required the state to review standards for teacher preparation, including the minimum GPA requirement, which primarily affects alternative certification programs intended to provide a route into the classroom for people who decide to become educators after they've pursued other careers. Such programs, which can allow for a faster way into the classroom than college and university degree programs, now outpace traditional training in producing certified teachers in the state. For-profit providers in particular dominate the market — last year, they graduated almost one out of every four new Texas teachers. 

Various education groups have pushed for stronger regulation of teacher preparation programs in state, saying that would help improve the quality of educators. But alternative certification advocates, along with some school administrators, have argued that a higher GPA requirement would hurt school districts' ability to fill teacher shortages. 

Both Democrats on the committee — Mavis Knight of Dallas and Ruben Cortez of Brownsville — opposed the recommendation, saying they were not convinced that raising the GPA requirement for would mean better teachers.

"I don’t think any of us will disagree that we want the best-trained person in the classroom with our kids … but I don’t think this is one step that’s going to get us there," Cortez said. "All we are going to do, we are going to create more roadblocks for people who are looking for that alternative career path." 

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