Teaching & Learning

New pre-kindergarten learning materials from SBOE

The State Board of Education (SBOE) has adopted new English and Spanish instructional materials for prekindergarten, which is the result of a rigorous review and adoption process. Local districts set their own policies for selecting instructional materials for their students, but these must include the requirement that materials are selected in an open meeting. Districts are limited to materials that have been approved and adopted through the SBOE process.

The newly adopted prekindergarten instructional materials.

The result of the quality review for each of the adopted products.


TSTA launches new micro-credential portal

Lifelong professional learning is essential in education, and in an effort to make it easier for all educators to access these opportunities the National Education Association has developed NEA Micro-credentials, and TSTA has launched its own Texas-branded portal.

A micro-credential is a short, competency-based digital recognition that allows an educator to demonstrate mastery in a particular area, such as classroom management or trauma-informed pedagogy. NEA micro-credentials are grounded in research and best practice and are designed to be personalized and flexible. At 150 and growing, NEA has the largest library of micro-credentials designed by and for educators.

Micro-credentials through the TSTA portal are available to all educators, members and non-members alike. However, TSTA members will have access to NEA’s full catalogue at no cost and will be able to earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits.

NEA recognizes that meeting many of the face-to-face requirements of micro-credentials during the COVID-19 crisis is difficult and so has created several stacks that are relevant to and support distance learning.

The average micro-credential process is self-paced but will take about 10 hours over the course of 2-3 weeks to complete. NEA recommends that members complete them alongside others in a professional learning community (PLC) or study group. Each course will include several components and will require teacher submissions such as written, video or audio response.

Upon completion, members will be asked to email their Micro-credential badge to Carrie Griffith at carrieg@tsta.org in order to be issued a TSTA CPE certificate.

Link to TSTA portal

NEA micro-credential explanation video


The demerits of merit pay

It’s worth taking a moment to step back and remember why teacher merit pay and bonus systems are just a bad idea. (Hint: classrooms aren’t corporations.)

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Building a world-class CTE program

We find ourselves at a moment in which learners must develop knowledge, skills, and competencies to succeed in an uncertain future and adapt to a dynamically changing world. While the pace of change is accelerating at an exponential rate, the needs of learners are also becoming more complex, and their interests increasingly more diverse.

That’s why it’s important to completely rethink what career and technical education looks like in our country. To many people, CTE, once called vocational education, conjures up memories of making muffins in a home economics class, or shop and auto-body-repair classes. In the worst ways it was instruction for kids perceived not to be “college material.”

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Student turnover slows academic growth

Meticulous reports flow in on enrollment, attendance, test scores, dropout rates and college-entrance exam results. You can track students by race and income at every school and pull up each teacher’s salary and experience. But no one is widely tracking a key group of students whose actions, experts say, may be thwarting efforts to improve education: Kids who move around a lot.

Texas is alone in its definition of mobility: Students in a school for less than 83 percent of the school year. That’s closer to the definition of chronic absenteeism, a related but different issue. Texas officials say that’s purposeful: They want to capture students who are moving as well as those who are chronically missing.

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How dress codes criminalize males and sexualize females of color

When students are disciplined because of how they are dressed, they lose class time — for a five-minute hallway lecture, 20 minutes to search through a bin of “appropriate” clothes to wear, an hour-long trip home, or even a full-day suspension. Perhaps even worse than losing out on instructional time, they also receive the message — whether explicit or implicit — that there is something wrong with their clothing choices or their bodies.

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Teaching civility and public discourse in the classroom

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what constitutes civility. Much of this debate illustrates why it’s so important to discuss this concept in the classroom—and why it’s critical we frame the conversation about civility with historical context. When we build these connections for students, it’s easier for them to understand current political discourse and to decide how to engage each other.

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NEPC offers monthly education podcast

The National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, is a resource for peer-reviewed education policy information. Each month from September through May the organization releases an NEPC Education Interview of the Month.

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More K-12 schools are providing additional services for homeless students

In the 2017-18 school year, the number of homeless students in Texas had increased to 231,305 and there were more than 1.5 million homeless students enrolled in public schools across the nation, according to the National Center for Homeless Education, and that is just the number of students who were identified as homeless. Homeless students are notoriously hard to identify because families or unaccompanied teens are often fearful or ashamed to make their status known. Teachers may be the first to notice signs of homelessness: fatigue, wearing the same clothes, carrying their belongings with them, or hoarding food.

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The National Center for Homeless Education


Trauma and learning in America’s classrooms

Whether working in a rural, urban or suburban district, all teachers should expect to confront issues with children who have experienced trauma — more than half of the students enrolled in public schools have faced traumatic or adverse experiences and one in six struggles with complex trauma (Felitti & Anda, 2009) — and all teachers should understand how trauma affects students’ social, emotional, and academic growth.

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Research-tested benefits of brain breaks

Regular breaks throughout the school day — from short brain breaks in the classroom to the longer break of recess — are not simply downtime for students. Such breaks increase their productivity and provide them with opportunities to develop creativity and social skills.

Read more about brain breaks.


When students assault teachers

It’s no secret that violence seems to be on the rise in schools, especially at the elementary level. Teachers report more aggressive behavior than ever before, aimed at both other students and teachers themselves. This uptick in student violence has teachers on edge, worried for their own safety as well as their students’. Many feel helpless in the face of it and question their choice of career.

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Parents stressed by rigor of Kindergarten

Kindergarten, where children were once encouraged to play and adjust to the rhythms of the school day, has long been evolving. But many parents new to modern-day elementary schooling say they have been shocked to find their children in a pressure cooker of rigorous academics, standardized tests, homework and what seem like outrageous expectations.

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Recruiting and retaining diverse educators

American public schools reflect diversity only in their student populations, but not necessarily in their teaching force. Additionally, there are more than 460 languages are represented in U.S. classrooms. At present, students of color out-number non-Hispanic white students in K-12 classrooms, and it is estimated that one in four students is an immigrant or an English language learner.

Despite efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color, the teaching workforce remains predominantly white.

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Resources on the Holocaust and Genocide

The Holocaust has challenged the cognitive and communicative faculties of even those who were firsthand witnesses to its atrocities. Survivors refer to an inability to believe their own eyes in the moment, which affects their ability to record their experiences.

As educators who live in a time and place far removed from those events, we, too, are confronted with the difficulty of finding appropriate words, images, and mental models to make comprehensible the unimaginable. Yet it is our responsibility to do so. With regard to historical accuracy, sensitivity to student needs and to the subject matter, and appropriate levels of engagement, how may we most effectively reach students? What are the best practices in the classroom?

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) offers the following helpful guidelines on teaching about the Holocaust.

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Bully Free: It Starts with Me

There is no place for bullying in our schools. Educators know that this isn’t about politics, but simply that every student deserves a safe, welcoming, affirming learning environment. In fact, research shows that learning is stunted when the most basic need to feel safe and respected is not met.

So, what can you do to protect your students from bullies?  One of the most important things you can do as an educator is to educate yourself about bullying in our schools.

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