Teaching & Learning

TSTA offering Continuing Professional Education online this summer

TSTA is offering three members-only CPE sessions that will be held virtually and led by Carrie Griffith, our learning and teaching specialist and a former fifth grade teacher, literacy specialist and instructional coach in Austin ISD. Read more


Knowles Teacher Fellows Program

Teaching is a critically important and complex endeavor, and learning to do it well takes time, effort, and ongoing support and development. The Knowles Teacher Initiative – a nonprofit organization that supports a national network of math and science teachers and teacher leaders – can assist TSTA members in that support and development. The fellowship program will engage new high school math and science teachers to sustained professional development opportunities over the course of five years, and it will grow the capacity of teachers to lead from their classrooms.

If you will be entering your first or second year as a high school math or science teacher of record during the 2021-2022 and are interested, learn more here.


TSTA urges SBEC to honor legacy master teacher certificates

TSTA offered the following comments to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) regarding agenda item #16: Discussion of Certificate Options for Legacy Master Teachers:

The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) urges SBEC to exercise its authority to make Legacy Master Teacher (LMT) certificates valid with no expiration date, provided the educator renew their underlying certificate by continuing professional education as prescribed by 19 TAC Chapter 232.

House Bill 3 of the 86th Texas Legislature (2019) stipulated that SBEC can no longer issue or renew master teacher certificates, specifying that master teacher certificates will be designated as “legacy” and only recognized for assignment purposes until they expire. However, at the February 21, 2020 SBEC meeting, Chairman Dan Huberty affirmed in a letter to SBEC that the legislative intent was solely to avoid a confusing duplication of statutory terms and was not in any way intended to prevent educators who hold a master teacher certificate from continuing in their placement.

Chairman Huberty also highlighted the fact that HB3 gives significant attention to increasing literacy. Maintaining the certificates and assignments of LMTs is very much aligned with this legislative priority. Of the nearly 5000 LMT certificate holders, 82% are master reading teachers with a unique passion and skill for increasing reading and literacy outcomes. Approximately 75% also have advanced degrees in education. This group of educators has gone above and beyond, investing significant amounts of time and money to pursue these specialized certificates and to advance themselves in their profession. They are natural campus leaders that stay abreast of the most current research, mentor and coach colleagues and provide professional development for faculty.

TSTA appreciates the efforts by the Texas Education Agency to solicit stakeholder feedback and draft options to present to SBEC related to LMT certificates, and there was nearly unanimous support for honoring LMT with lifetime certificates.


SBEC seeks options on new law eliminating master teacher certificates

As you may already know, House Bill 3, the new school finance law enacted last year, eliminated the master teacher certificate. Existing master teacher certificates will expire five years after the date of their last renewal and will not be renewed. Although the expired certificates will have a “legacy” designation, some teachers will be unable to keep their current teaching assignments.

Apparently responding to some teacher concerns, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty sent a letter to members of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) before its meeting last Friday (Feb. 21), seeking to clarify the legislative intent behind the new law.

“Our intent was never to abandon expertise of these highly trained educators,” Huberty wrote. “Holders of legacy master teacher certificates should be entitled to maintain their existing assignments without interruption, additional cost, or the need to seek additional certification.”

Huberty’s letter prompted the board, meeting for the first time this year, to ask the Texas Education Agency to present them with options for addressing the issue at the May SBEC meeting.

TSTA testified for the second time on SBEC’s contract abandonment rule, urging that the rule be amended to explicitly state that teachers can rely on the written acceptance of resignations by “a person acting with actual or apparent authority.” After several witnesses from both the teacher and administrator perspective discussed the proposed language, the board declined to change the rule.

The board also discussed the newly proposed commendation framework for educator preparation programs, which will give SBEC the opportunity to recognize high performing programs. Recognition will be based on several categories, including success in recruiting educators of color and candidates’ first test pass rates and retention in the profession. The board voted to establish a committee to recommend high-performing educator preparation programs to the full board.

SBEC also discussed the upcoming revision to certificate standards of special education and bilingual teachers. Disability Rights TX provided comments reminding the board that Texas was found to be noncompliant with special education law in many areas and asked that the board take this into consideration during this revision process.

This was the first SBEC meeting under its new chairman, Dr. Arturo Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen ISD.


What should you do if confronted with a potential student suicide?

One in six high school students say they have seriously considered suicide, and the numbers are higher among girls and LGBTQ students. As the NEA Today article below makes clear, “At this rate, every high school teacher — and many educators of younger students — knows a student considering suicide.”

It’s increasingly important for educators to know when to pull up a chair and ask, “Are you thinking of suicide?” It’s also important for educators to make real connections with these students and to know where to take them for help, experts say.

Read the full NEA Today article here. Scroll to the bottom for more resources and “What do you do?” advice.

Connecting with students can save lives


TSTA comments on new rules for educating English Language Learners

The comments were on proposed revisions to the education commissioner’s rules concerning the state plan for teaching ELL students.

We supported a letter submitted by the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition expressing concern that there should be clarification that alternative language programs maintain a content-focused orientation. Research indicates that this method of instruction is more culturally competent, a better method of English acquisition and overall better for English learners.

TSTA also suggested that the required professional development training be aligned with the suggested clarification of the alternative language program definition, include cultural competency training and be content-focused. We believe that this is better for students and would better position teachers to earn ESL/bilingual certification.

Read TSTA’s comments that were submitted to the commissioner on proposed revisions to the rules concerning the state plan for educating English Learners.


CTE programs: failing to meet the challenge of vocational education?

Nearly a year after Congress reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, states are in the thick of developing the career technical education (CTE) plans the law requires, and by most accounts, the future looks bright. Indeed, high school CTE programs appear to have turned the corner on “vocational education’s” stubborn stigma from previous decades. So, can we conclude America’s current CTE offerings have solved the stubborn challenges of vocational education? Maybe not.

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The demerits of merit pay

Do you know the difference between merit pay and incentive pay? Too often those terms are used interchangeably even though they refer to different salary systems. Incentive pay represents salary enhancements that incite teachers to do something like accepting teaching positions in high-poverty schools or achieving National Board Certification. Merit pay, on the other hand, is a salary reward based on usually arbitrary benchmarks such as student performance on state assessment instruments or even the teacher evaluation system.

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TEA changes to English Language Learners code strengthen teacher requirements

Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 89, Subchapter BB was revised to align with Texas Education Code 29, Subchapter B, and to comply with new requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and was adopted on July 15, 2018. As a result, requirements for PK-12 teachers serving English learners through English as a Second Language (ESL) program models were strengthened.

To clear up some common misconceptions in the field, some clarifications/talking points regarding these changes are provided below:

  • The revised ESL certification requirements only apply to those teachers who are serving English learners through one of the state-approved ESL program models, not to all teachers.
  • LEAs have the option of electing to provide ESL services through either ESL pull-out (requiring ELAR instruction delivered by a teacher certified for that grade level in ELAR and ESL) or through ESL content-based (requiring English learners to receive all content instruction by teachers certified at that grade level/content area and in ESL). Each is allowable under statute.
  • LEAs may choose to implement a content-based ESL program model, which does require all content teachers of English learners to be ESL-certified, but this is just one of the two allowable options. Therefore, the blanket statement that the TEA is requiring all content teachers serving English learners to be ESL certified is not accurate.
  • If an LEA chooses to implement an ESL pull-out program model, there are multiple ways to do so, including options to coordinate services between an ESL-certified teacher and the ELAR teacher of English learners; therefore, the blanket statement that all ELAR teachers need to obtain ESL certification is not accurate.
  • Although sheltered instruction is no longer sufficient in fulfilling statutory requirements for serving English learners through ESL at the high school level, it continues to serve as a valuable component of effective ESL programming, not just at high school, but at all grade levels.
  • The English Learner Support Division has provided guidance documents to support districts in calculating potential staffing needs and associated certification requirements, which can be found here: http://elltx.org/assessment.html.

Regarding the waiving of ESL certification testing fees, the TEA does not have the authority to do so. However, the English Learner Support Division is working with TEA legal and fiscal monitoring staff to provide detailed guidance for the allowable use of bilingual education allotment funds for this and related purposes. This guidance shall be posted to the TEA Bilingual/ESL web page and will be accessible at the link below:

https://tea.texas.gov/Academics/Special_Student_Populations/Bilingual_%E2%80%93_ESL_Education/Bilingual_and_English_as_a_Second_Language_Education_Programs/.

Division of English Learner Support: EnglishLearnerSupport@tea.texas.gov


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.


A Year ago the Supreme Court raised the bar for Special Ed. What’s happened since?

A year after the US Supreme Court ruled that schools must offer students with disabilities an education reasonably calculated to enable them to “make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances,” what has changed? On the one hand, not much, if evaluating the dozens of special education cases that have cited Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which was decided March 22, 2017. Around 90 percent of those kinds of disputes between school districts and parents were decided in favor of districts; the notable exception was that of Endrew F. himself, the teenager with autism who was at the center of the Supreme Court case.


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. This month, the interview discusses teacher accountability with Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools and director of the Doctoral Program in Curriculum and Instruction at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College.


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

In the 2015-16 school year, the number of homeless students in Texas had increased by 3.5% to 115,676 and there were more than 1.3 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


Push for higher teacher pay has a new starting point: Facebook

The successful West Virginia teacher strike has lit the match for a spate of teacher uprisings across the country. The main place teachers are gathering to strategize? Facebook.

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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.


States Confront New Mandate on School-Spending Transparency

A tricky financial-transparency requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has cranked up tensions among state politicians, school district administrators, and civil rights activists over public understanding of how districts divvy up their money among schools. ESSA requires districts to break out school-level spending by December 2019—a first-time federal requirement. It’s a level of detail unknown even to most district superintendents. Read more


Schools missing in Trump infrastructure plan

President Donald Trump unveiled his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan Monday. And, probably unsurprisingly, there are no explicit resources for refurbishing, renovating or constructing schools. Read more


When students assault teachers

In the 2015-16 school year, 5.8 percent of the nation’s 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student. Almost 10 percent were threatened with injury, according to federal education data. Teacher victimization has been an understudied and under-publicized area. Read more


Charter schools prolonging segregation

A recent Associated Press analysis of national school enrollment data found that “as of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.”

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ESSA requirements will reveal spending disparities within districts

ESSA requires states to report per-pupil expenditures for every local education agency and school in the state on annual report cards. But in the vast majority of districts, spending is accounted for at the district level. Average teacher salaries, average per-pupil expenditures — they’re all calculated districtwide.

To read more:  http://www.educationdive.com/news/essa-reporting-requirements-will-reveal-spending-disparities-within-distric/429504/


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.

To read more:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/as-kindergarten-ratchets-up-academics-parents-feel-the-stress/2016/09/25/555fa584-7519-11e6-b786-19d0cb1ed06c_story.html


How do we stop the exodus of minority teachers?

Minority teachers are being driven out of schools by poor working conditions at rates higher than their non-minority colleagues, which only undermines years of recruitment efforts that have targeted minority teachers.

To read more:  http://hechingerreport.org/stop-exodus-minority-teachers/


Online Courses

The NEA Foundation courses are intended to develop collaborative skills and content knowledge. The courses promote union-district collaboration as a tool for systems change and were developed by field experts, using a rich selection of resources. Use the course content in whatever way best meets your needs – a whole course, a single session, or just an activity. New courses are in development and will be posted periodically.
To start today, simply register and login! http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/courses


Global Learning: Tools and Approaches

Curious how you can bring global competence to the classroom? This new course, designed for self-study or small groups, introduces participants to key ideas and methods for connecting their classrooms with the wider world. http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/courses


We Connect Now

We Connect Now is a website created in 2008 to connect and serve college students with disabilities. It has been linked to by colleges and universities and groups serving people with disabilities in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries and has been visited by people from 172 different countries. http://weconnectnow.wordpress.com (Also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/We-Connect-Now-National/136925609714725.)


Section 504 guide

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a major physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.  The U. S. Department offers a Disability Rights Reinforcement Guide, a compilation of guidance and data on key issues such as free appropriate public education, discipline, post-secondary, and technology.

Learn more about Section 504:  http://nichcy.org/laws/section504#info

Download the guide:  http://www2.ed.gov/documents/news/section-504.pdf


Resources on the Holocaust and Genocide

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission assists elementary/secondary schools and universities with Holocaust and genocide programs. Classroom resources include lesson plans, posters, and oral histories. They also offer a video contest — the deadline is in March — and grants of up to $1000 for civic/citizenship or social responsibility projects. http://thgc.texas.gov


Bully Free: It Starts with Me

“Bully Free: It Starts with Me” is a groundbreaking NEA initiative to identify caring adults in schools and communities who will pledge to help bullied students. The adults will agree to listen carefully to the student and take action to stop the bullying. NEA will provide adults the resources they need to provide solace and support, ask the right questions and take the appropriate actions.

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Apply for an NEA Foundation grant

The NEA Foundation has a video that provides a guided tour and detailed instruction of the online application for its popular Learning & Leadership Grants and Student Achievement Grants. The deadlines for these grants — which provide $2,000 for implementing proposals from individuals for Learning & Leadership Grants and $5,000 for team proposals for both — are Feb. 1, June 1, and Oct. 15. For more information, to apply online, or to watch the video, visit the NEA Foundation Grant website.

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NEA Academy

The NEA Academy website is devoted to supporting the professional development of teachers and education support professionals. The site features web-based lessons, classroom tips, and professional development courses, including the popular classroom management course “I Can Do It” as well as the NEA Teacher Toolkit and career information.

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Are you a first-year teacher?

Get a great start on your new career with our links and resources for first year teachers!

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Teachers in Transition

The Texas Workforce Commission and a statewide network of Workforce Solutions offices will assist all teachers in their efforts to find work. This site offers information to help you better navigate the workforce system including filing for unemployment insurance, registering to look for work, finding a new job and knowing where to go to get additional help if needed.

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