Educator certification/continuing professional education | TCTA
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Educator certification/continuing professional education

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The State Board for Educator Certification was created in 1995 by the Texas Legislature to regulate and oversee certification, continuing education and standards of conduct of public school educators. The SBEC comprises 15 members, 11 of whom are voting members appointed by the governor; of the four nonvoting members, one represents the Texas Education Agency, one represents the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, one is a college of education dean, and one is a person who has experience with an alternative certification program not affiliated with an institution of higher education. Among the 11 voting members are four public members and seven practitioners: four teachers, two administrators and one counselor.

Science of teaching reading certification exam

Candidates issued certification to teach prekindergarten through grade six after Jan. 1, 2021, must demonstrate proficiency on the science of teaching reading certification exam.

Certificate renewal periods/CPE requirements

Teacher certificates issued after Aug. 31, 1999, are subject to a five-year certificate renewal period, with a 150-hour continuing professional education requirement that must be met through an SBEC-approved provider. (TCTA offers more than 60 hours of free CPE videos for members.)

Counselor, librarian, educational diagnostician and master teacher certificates issued after Aug. 31, 1999, have a 200-hour CPE requirement for every renewal cycle.

Educators who add another class of certificate during a renewal cycle can prorate the additional CPE hours required by the new certificate for the remainder of the renewal cycle.

Certificates issued before Sept. 1, 1999, are exempt from these rules. Educators adding new certificate areas should be aware that while their current certificates retain the “lifetime” designation, any certificates added after Aug. 31, 1999, are renewable and subject to the continuing education requirements.

Education aides are required to be certified but are not subject to the continuing education requirements.

Note: Non-certified personnel are exempt from CPE requirements and are not subject to certificate sanctions.

Certification by exam

TCTA-initiated legislation allows certified teachers to become certified in another area or level simply by passing the applicable certification exam, without having to complete an educator preparation program or obtain additional college credit hours. Certification by exam is not available for teachers of students with visual impairments; for the EC-3 certificate; or for certificates other than the classroom teacher category of certificate (e.g., school counselor, learning resources/school librarian, educational diagnostician). Teachers adding certificates via exam can register with the testing company for the applicable certification exam by indicating that they are obtaining certification by examination and will not have to receive a bar code for the exam from an educator preparation program.

Certification exam retakes

Retakes of certification exams are limited to four times per exam unless SBEC waives the limitation for good cause. The retake limitation does not apply to candidates seeking a standard Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate.

Applicants for good-cause waivers must pay a $164 fee and demonstrate successful completion of a specified number of educational activities hours directly related to the relevant certification exam competencies that the candidate failed to pass in the certification exam. The number of required educational activities hours increases the further away a candidate’s score is from meeting the passing standard.

Candidates are required to wait progressively longer periods of time before applying for a good-cause waiver with each successive unsuccessful exam attempt, up to the limit of five attempts. Good-cause determinations are administratively handled with appeals available to SBEC. Waiver applications are available on the TEA website.

TExES administration

Most TExES tests are administered via computer at specially equipped test centers, most on a continuous basis. For more information on test dates and registration, visit the Pearson website or the Texas Educators link on the TEA website.

Science of teaching reading certification exam

Candidates issued certification to teach prekindergarten through grade six after Jan. 1, 2021, must demonstrate proficiency on the science of teaching reading certification exam.

Districts of Innovation

Most districts of innovation have exempted themselves from teacher certification requirements, so many of the following requirements will not apply unless provided in the terms of the innovation plan or local policies.

Disciplinary alternative education program teachers

DAEP teachers are required to be fully certified.

Applied STEM teachers

Persons seeking certification to teach applied STEM courses must pass the certification test administered by the recognized group that created the curriculum on which the STEM course is based.

Out-of-field assignments

SBEC rules require that a certified teacher assigned out of field must consent to the activation of an emergency permit and be advised of the conditions of the emergency permit.

A teacher who refuses may not be terminated or nonrenewed or otherwise retaliated against because of the teacher’s refusal to consent to the activation of the emergency permit. However, a teacher’s refusal does not impair a school district’s right to implement a necessary reduction in force or other personnel actions in accordance with local school district policy.

Maximum length of service without standard certification

Without obtaining initial, standard certification, an individual may not serve for more than three school years in the same assignment while holding an intern, probationary, emergency or one-year certificate.

Out-of-state/out-of-country certification

An out-of-state certified educator has at least one full year from final SBEC review of their credentials to complete all Texas certification requirements as long as all required documents have been submitted. The requirements include satisfactory performance on the applicable Texas certification exam(s), or an exam similar to and at least as rigorous as the applicable Texas certification exam administered by the home state/country.

State law allows the commissioner to adopt rules establishing exceptions to these certification exam requirements for out-of-state/out-of-country certified educators. The commissioner’s rules require that applicants requesting an exemption from most Texas educator certification exam requirements meet the following requirements:

A) obtain a bachelor’s degree from an institution of higher education that, at the time it conferred the degree, was accredited or otherwise approved by an accrediting organization recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board;

(B) complete a state-approved educator preparation program, including student teaching or a teaching practicum, in the state where the standard certificate was issued;

(C) pass the examinations required by the state department of education or country of licensure for issuance of the standard certificate;

(D) hold a standard certificate issued by the state department of education or country of licensure that is equivalent to a Texas standard classroom or professional class certificate;

(E) for an applicant certified as a classroom teacher, have at least one academic year of verifiable, full-time experience serving in the role and documented on a service record; and

(F) for an applicant certified in a professional class area only, have two academic years of verifiable, full-time experience serving in the role and documented on a service record.

Note: Additional requirements apply for those seeking exemption from the Science of Teaching Reading exam.

Failure to obtain/maintain certification/permit

Failure to obtain or maintain certification or a permit renders an employee’s contract void, unless the employee timely fulfills renewal requirements but suffers a bureaucratic delay causing the certificate/permit to lapse. Districts may terminate an employee’s contract that is void, unless the employee requests and takes necessary steps to receive an extension from SBEC to renew the certificate/permit within 10 days after the contract becomes void. Find more information about contracts here.

Extension of certification renewal deadlines

Certification renewal deadlines can be extended in hardship situations involving catastrophic illness or injury of an educator or immediate family member. Military service members receive two additional years to complete all renewal requirements.

Additionally, a local school district may apply for a hardship exemption on behalf of an educator who has an invalid certificate due to lack of earning the required continuing professional education (CPE) hours. The hardship exemption is valid for the academic year of the application and may be renewed up to one additional academic year, provided that the superintendent or designee of the local school district requests the extension.

Criminal background checks/fingerprinting

All applicants for certification who have not previously held a certificate issued by SBEC are required to undergo fingerprinting and a national criminal history background check prior to becoming certified. Additionally, any individual enrolled/planning to enroll in an educator preparation program for teacher certification or planning to take a certification exam, who has reason to believe that they may be ineligible for certification due to a conviction or deferred adjudication for a felony or misdemeanor offense, can ask TEA to issue a criminal history evaluation letter regarding the person’s eligibility for a teaching certificate. The fee for such a request is $50. Find more information on fingerprinting and the national criminal history background check here.

Virtual certificates online

Anyone holding a valid Texas public school educator certificate can view his/her certificate through the secure Certificate Lookup.

The virtual certificate is the official record of an educator’s certification status, eliminating the need for school districts and individuals to keep paper copies on file. The virtual certificate satisfies the requirement of the Texas Education Code to present a certificate prior to employment with a school district. Virtual certificates are posted immediately upon approval, and a printable version is available.

More information

If you have certification questions, call TEA’s credentialing division at 512-936-8400. More information on certification and how to become a teacher is available via the Texas Educators link on the TEA website.