TCTA testifies on best practices for professional development,… | TCTA
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TCTA testifies on best practices for professional development, virtual support for teachers

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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:

  • There must be a quality and easy to use virtual education curriculum, and platform with formative assessment tools and performance tracking.
  • There needs to be dedicated school district technology staff to support virtual instruction.
  • There should be dedicated instructional staff solely for virtual instruction, with no requirement for teachers to teach in-person and virtually at the same time.
  • The decision to provide virtual instruction should be an entirely voluntary choice for teachers.
  • Class sizes for virtual instruction must be manageable.
  • There must be sufficient time allotted for teacher planning/preparation and one-on-one check-ins with students, as well as for the virtual teachers and the on-site teacher or instructional aide (if this is the format) to provide feedback, engage in training and work with each other. Additionally, the on-site instructional aide or personalized learning teacher must be high-level with the appropriate knowledge and skills to perform their role.

Finally, TCTA highlighted several best practices in professional development and support in the virtual environment including:

  • Given the inherent difficulties in tracking and verifying student attendance in the virtual environment, reducing that administrative burden on teachers by providing a system that automatically tracks and verifies student attendance;
  • Surveying teachers regarding their capacity/skills for virtual instruction and assigning them accordingly such that only those teachers who possess a certain level of capacity and skills and who are willing to teach virtually are assigned to that role; and
  • Developing easily accessible professional development opportunities to help teachers build capacity for instruction in the virtual environment based on teachers’ self-identified capacity and skill level, along with rewarding and recognizing teachers who participate in these opportunities.

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.