TCTA was invited to testify before the Texas Commission on Virtual Education on the topics of educator preparation, professional development and support for teachers in the environment.
In her testimony, TCTA’s Holly Eaton focused on the need to ensure that any kind of professional development related to the virtual environment is not a mandate from the state, that it be completely voluntary on the part of the teacher to participate, and that teachers who do participate should receive a stipend for doing so.
TCTA warned that after the experience of the state-required Reading Academies for grades K-3 teachers, which involved 80-120 hours of uncompensated time on the part of many teachers, virtual commission members must take pains to ensure that any state-level program for online professional development is crafted based on lessons learned from that experience.
TCTA discussed options for incentivizing teachers to participate in professional development related to the virtual environment, including the award of some sort of official recognition to those participating, perhaps in the form of a microcredential, akin to a digital “badge” attesting that a participant had acquired a discreet skill or competency related to the virtual environment.
Although other witnesses expressed support for some sort of competency-based microcredential system, in which teachers would have to show evidence of competency in a given skill, TCTA again warned against structuring a cumbersome and expensive program which would involve any kind of burdensome requirement on teachers to produce evidence of competency.
TCTA also recommended that a powerful incentive for participating in such a program would be the award of additional compensation, in the form of increased salary or a bonus, for those teachers acquiring these microcredentials.
TCTA made several recommendations about needed supports for teachers in the virtual environment including:
Finally, TCTA highlighted several best practices in professional development and support in the virtual environment including:
TCTA will continue to seek opportunities to help shape the virtual commission’s recommendations to the Texas Legislature on educator preparation, professional development and support in the virtual environment as they arise.