State officials are looking for ways to retain teachers and make education a more lucrative career choice.
In March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the formation of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, made up of teachers and school administrators, to make recommendations on how to make the profession better.
The task force has met twice so far, Oeser said. Members of the task force have been split up into groups to tackle concerns such as educator preparation, pay, staffing and improving the teacher experience.
The task force will meet again in August with a more defined plan and will have a final report in February, Oeser said.
Before then, the State Board for Educator Certification, which sets the standards for teacher certifications, will continue to hold talks about the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, know as edTPA, a more rigorous teacher certification exam developed by Stanford University.
Teachers now take a multiple-choice certification test called the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam. Critics say the test is easy and not a true measure of what a teacher can do in the classroom.
On the other hand, the edTPA requires prospective teachers to film themselves teaching, submit lesson plans and reflect on how they help their students grow academically. The edTPA exam has been on a pilot run for the last three years in about 40 educator preparation programs across the state.
The State Board of Education, a partisan elected board that sets curriculum standards for the state, initially rejected the exam after concerns were brought up. Teacher groups had been against the test, and it was scrapped in some states where it had been adopted.
But the SBOE did not want to forgo the test altogether and instead sent it back to SBEC to see if that group can iron out the kinks or if there are other test options on the table. SBEC had a workshop on edTPA on Thursday and will return with options and feedback for its September meeting.
For the TEA, SBEC and some educators, edTPA is a way to better support and retain new teachers because it allows teacher preparation programs and hiring school officials to see where teachers are lacking and how school administrators can better support them.
School districts are also looking for ways to get and keep teachers in the classroom.
Bigger districts like the Houston ISD are able to provide raises and monetary incentives to its employees. Houston, the largest district in the state, has raised the starting salary for teachers to $61,500 for this school year, up from $56,869 in the 2021-22 school year.
As of July 5, there were approximately 854 openings for certified teachers in the district. The number isn’t significantly different from previous years, but it speaks to the hiring gaps that the state is seeing.
“We’ve attracted hundreds more candidates for teaching positions this year than last year. At the same time, HISD is not immune to the national impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on teachers and other educators,” the district said in a statement.
Smaller districts that can’t compete with bigger districts’ salary increases have instead tried to lure teachers with four-day school weeks. Some rural districts have been losing teachers to other schools that are switching to the shorter week model.
“Anybody that had eyes or ears knew that this impending teacher shortage was coming, and our view was it was only going to get worse for the foreseeable future,” said Chico ISD Superintendent Randy Brawner. “You can’t just go out and throw money at your problems. You have to think outside the box and think creatively.”
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