TCTA | TCTA works to reduce required teacher training through SB 1267
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TCTA works to reduce required teacher training through SB 1267

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Reducing mandatory CPE for teachers

This article appeared in the Winter 2021-22 issue of The Classroom Teacher.

Teachers don’t have enough time.

That’s one of the consistent messages we’ve heard from our members over the years, and they point to teacher training requirements as a major contributor to the problem. The 80-hour reading academies for all K-3 teachers, for example, have proven extremely burdensome, especially in districts that require the training to take place outside of the regular school day.

The proliferation of training requirements for teachers is often the result of well-meaning legislators trying to address a real or perceived problem that has been brought to their attention. But more teacher training is not a silver bullet for all of society’s ills.

The growing list of required training has long been excessive and unwieldy, with too much overlap and/or repetition among separate requirements. This build-up of mandatory training requirements has also crowded out time for educators to self-select meaningful professional development opportunities that are relevant to their classrooms and instructional practice.

Every session, TCTA works with legislators who have filed teacher training bills to impress upon them the need to see the broader picture of teacher training demands, and we’ve succeeded in reducing or mitigating some training demands on teachers.

Between the 2019 and 2021 sessions, TCTA went a step further and pushed for an interim legislative charge aimed at reviewing the entire landscape of teacher training requirements with an eye toward reducing and eliminating any that are duplicative, outdated or unnecessary.

As a result, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office tasked the Senate Education Committee with reviewing existing teacher continuing education requirements, professional development and training for teachers as well as examining whether they are appropriate, should be reduced, eliminated or increased to improve student academic outcomes.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office also formed a Teacher Workforce Workgroup, which was tasked with reviewing existing teacher training and making recommendations to the legislature regarding reducing and/or eliminating any of these requirements. TCTA was a leading participant in the workgroup, serving as a subgroup lead and presenting testimony to the Senate Education Committee on the workgroup’s recommendations.

The workgroup met over the course of nine months to establish a slimmer, more meaningful set of teacher professional development requirements and published its report in November 2020.

The resulting recommendations became the basis for Senate Bill 1267, carried by Sen. Royce West and Rep. J.M. Lozano, which did much to restore meaning to teacher professional development and the recognition of teachers as the professionals that they are.

Creating a clearinghouse

One of the specific complaints we’ve heard from members has been repetitive training — the kind that must be done annually, even if the content hasn’t been updated. With this in mind, as part of the workgroup, TCTA helped identify instances in state statute or rule in which annual training was required, and recommended elimination of the requirement where possible.

Ultimately, the workgroup’s final recommendations and the resulting provisions in SB 1267:

For new employees: Removes the requirement for annual training in suicide prevention; establishing and maintaining positive relationships among students, including conflict resolution; and preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidents of bullying.

For STAAR: Requires annual training only for the employee who oversees STAAR administration on each campus; allows the district employee who oversees testing to determine how often other district employees involved in test administration repeat the training.

For school district employees: Requires only the district’s cybersecurity coordinator to complete cybersecurity training annually. Districts, in consultation with the cybersecurity coordinator, will determine the frequency at which other employees complete cybersecurity training.

For school personnel and school volunteers: Removes the requirement that anaphylaxis training and training on CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator be conducted annually.

For coaches, trainers, or sponsors of an extracurricular athletic activity: Removes the requirement that CPR and safety training be conducted annually.

In the broader context of workgroup discussions, TCTA pointed out that statutory training frequency requirements were often arbitrary, or the result of a particular interest group’s advocacy. Consequently, a subgroup was formed, in which TCTA participated, to come up with an alternative approach.

Recognizing that how often educators need a particular type of training is often unique to each district and educator, the subgroup recommended that, rather than have training frequency dictated in statute, best practices and industry recommendations regarding frequency should be housed in a clearinghouse published by the State Board for Educator Certification. Local school boards would annually consider the clearinghouse when adopting their local professional development policies to tailor the frequency of any required training to their own educators’ needs.

SB 1267 requires the clearinghouse to be established by June 1, 2022. Local policy must note any differences adopted by the district/charter school from the recommendations in the clearinghouse and include a schedule of all training required for educators or other school. Local policies must be adopted no later than Aug. 1, 2022.

The bill eliminated provisions for TEA to adopt a schedule of staff development training on topics like suicide prevention, establishing positive relationships among students, and preventing and responding to bullying. It also prohibits the commissioner from adopting rules regarding a required frequency for training unless a frequency is provided by statute and the commissioner is granted explicit rulemaking authority related to that training.

Teachers train together

Requiring educator input

TCTA and other workgroup members felt strongly that educators and organizations representing educators needed to be the key advisors on identified best practices and frequency recommendations that will be included in SBEC’s clearinghouse. SB 1267 requires that SBEC establish a clearinghouse advisory group consisting of educators, including classroom teachers and representatives of organizations that represent educators, to review and provide input. No later than Dec. 1 of each even-numbered year, the clearinghouse advisory group must complete a review of the clearinghouse and submit a report to the Texas Legislature of the group’s recommendations to reduce, eliminate or consolidate requirements.

Eliminating training topics

As the workgroup identified training requirements in state statute or rule for educators, it became clear that many topics were duplicated. To streamline requirements, the workgroup identified where duplicated training should remain in statute and where it should be removed. SB 1267 eliminated the following topics from mandatory staff development training:

  • recognizing signs of mental health conditions and substance abuse; and
  • how mental health conditions, including grief trauma, affect student learning and behavior, and how evidence-based grief-informed and trauma informed strategies support the academic success of students affected by grief and trauma.

The bill also eliminated the following topics from mandatory continuing professional education topics for which educators must obtain a certain percentage of required CPE hours:

  • students who are eligible to participate in special education programs;
  • students who are eligible to receive education services required under Section 504;
  • students with mental health conditions or who engage in substance abuse;
  • students with intellectual or developmental disabilities;
  • students of limited English proficiency;
  • how mental health conditions, including grief trauma, affect student learning and behavior, and how evidence-based grief-informed and trauma-informed strategies support the academic success of students affected by grief and trauma.

Again, all of these topics were duplicative and still exist in another place in statute. SB 1267 also requires CPE for educators to include training regarding educating students with disabilities.

Capping CPE hours for mandatory topics

In an ongoing effort to limit the amount of mandatory required training and increase the opportunity for educators to self-select meaningful and relevant professional development activities, the workgroup recommended reinstating a cap of no more than 25% on the number of CPE hours required for certain mandatory topics. SB 1267 provides that educators must obtain no more than 25% of their total CPE hours in the remaining existing mandatory topics.

TELPAS training

Another consistent complaint TCTA has received from members is the burdensome training requirements for educators in administering the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment. In researching TELPAS training requirements, TCTA discovered that most requirements came from TEA, not from state statute or rule. Accordingly, TCTA advocated for the workgroup to adopt a recommendation to limit and reduce TELPAS training requirements. The resulting SB 1267 provisions prohibit the commissioner from requiring a school district employee to repeat TELPAS training or online calibration activities that the employee successfully completed, except if the administration of or assessment using TELPAS has changed significantly since the employee completed the training.

However, SB 1267 provides that the school district employee assigned to oversee TELPAS administration at a campus may require other district employees involved in administering TELPAS to complete training or online calibration activities.

Finally, SB 1267 prohibits employees from being required to complete TELPAS training or an online calibration activity in one sitting.

Reading academies

Given the concerns TCTA heard from members about the onerous requirements of completing the reading academies for K-3 teachers, TCTA advocated for a deadline extension. SB 1267 extended the deadline to the end of the 2022-23 school year, giving educators an extra year to complete training. In addition, SB 1267 provides that reading academies satisfy the requirement for teachers of dyslexic students to receive continuing professional education for certificate renewal in dyslexia training, as well as any SBOE requirement for training in the Dyslexia Handbook.

SB 1267 was a very comprehensive bill and included a number of other provisions not discussed in this article. For more information on SB 1267, click here.