TCTA urges SBEC to retain flexibility for how special… | TCTA
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TCTA urges SBEC to retain flexibility for how special education teachers demonstrate content competency

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TCTA testified during a discussion item at the Feb. 16 State Board for Educator Certification meeting about the need to provide ways other than having to obtain content certification for special education teachers to demonstrate content competency to meet federal requirements.

TCTA’s Quinn McCall pointed out to SBEC that TEA’s current proposal was to require elementary and middle school special education teachers to hold content certification, while providing flexibility for high school teachers. TEA’s rationale for the proposal was that, unlike at the high school level, there are generalist certificates at the elementary and middle school levels that would allow those teachers to teach a wide range of content. However, TCTA pointed out this would still require elementary and middle school teachers to have to add content certification if they don’t already hold it, which TCTA opposes. TCTA’s testimony focused on the significant burden this could place on both veteran teachers and those who are just starting their teaching careers, especially given the critical shortage of special education teachers.

TCTA emphasized that while TCTA supports flexibility for high school teachers, under current SBEC rules, all grade levels of special education teachers have the option of using a flexible method (HOUSSE) to demonstrate content competency and that a similar flexible approach should continue to be allowed for all special education teachers.

In particular, TCTA highlighted the fact that under current rule, a HOUSSE option applies to all elementary teachers and all secondary teachers (grades 6-12). This characterization of “secondary” instead of attempting to distinguish between high school and middle school recognizes the fluidity of teacher assignments between middle and high school as well as the various configurations across the state for what is considered middle vs high school as locally determined. In response, SBEC Chair Jean Streepey thanked TCTA for raising this issue, agreeing that movement in teacher assignments between middle and high school is a common practice that should be considered.

TEA staff emphasized that they would continue to work with stakeholders in order to arrive at a workable approach to bring back to SBEC at its April meeting.

The issue about how special education teachers would be able to meet federal requirements for content competency was first raised by TEA in October 2023 after it determined that a long-standing rule allowing special education teachers teaching content to demonstrate competency via HOUSSE was no longer allowed under federal law. The current rule provides that “if an individual is providing content instruction in a special education classroom setting, a valid certificate that matches the subject and grade level of the assignment is also required, or the individual must demonstrate competency through the state's 2010 and 2011 high objective uniform State standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) for elementary and secondary special education teachers.”

TCTA was among several groups invited by TEA to participate in stakeholder groups to try to develop a new way for special education teachers to demonstrate content competency. TCTA has consistently advocated during this process that any proposal must not require special education teachers to obtain additional certification, and that many of the components of HOUSSE should be included in any new proposal. Such components include allowing teachers to meet the standard by accumulating a set number of points in any combination of years of experience, college coursework in the subject taught or a related subject, and professional development.

TCTA will stay engaged and work to ensure that any new rules do not require special education teachers to obtain additional certification.

Click here for more coverage from SBEC's February 2024 meeting.