Raise Your Hand Texas testifies on Texas Teacher Workforce Crisis

September 20, 2022  

AUSTIN, TX (September 20, 2022) – Raise Your Hand Texas was invited to provide testimony on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, before the Joint House Higher Education and Public Education Committees on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the teacher workforce, and current practices to improve recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators. 

JoLisa Hoover, Raise Your Hand’s teacher specialist, is a former educator with 26 years in the classroom as well as policy experience in the U.S. Department of Education as a U.S. Teaching Ambassador and Texas Teach Plus Fellow. She spoke on behalf of the organization and the profession for which she passionately advocates. Hoover elevated the voice of Texas educators providing the joint committees with comments Raise Your Hand Texas received directly from teachers regarding the seriousness of the crisis, and what would keep them in Texas classrooms.

Raise Your Hand Texas is appreciative of the opportunity to speak before our legislators and shed light on the issues facing our teachers that also impact our public schools every day. We welcome and look forward to similar opportunities in the future to provide perspectives on issues facing public education. We will continue to fight for our teachers and students to make sure our public schools can provide the quality education Texas children deserve. Please watch JoLisa Hoover’s testimony below.

Full Transcript of Joint Hearing Panel 2 Invited Testimony:

Chairman Harold Dutton: Here, we’ll call the next panel JoLisa Hoover. And Dr. Michael Marder And we’re still on the panel that talked about this being a national issue of teacher shortage. Miss Hoover. 

JoLisa Hoover: Good morning. Thank you. I’m Jolisa Hoover from Raise Your Hand Texas and thank you, Chairmen Dutton and Murphy, for the invitation to talk today. 

Michael Marder: And I’m Michael Marder, professor of physics and co-director and co-founder of UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin. Thank you, Chairman Dutton for the chance to speak today. 

Chairman Dutton: Thank you for being here.

Hoover: Again, my name is Joe Lisa Hoover. I’m from Raise Your Hand Texas, and I appreciate the invitation to speak today. A little bit about my background is that 30 years ago this fall I was a first-year teacher in Bryan, Texas, and I remained a Texas teacher for 26 years. And along the way I became a fellow for the U.S. Department of Education working for them part-time as a fourth grade teacher and then eventually full-time for a year moving to D.C. When I returned back after working with three secretaries of education, I worked with Teach Plus while teaching fourth grade. In over my two years of teaching I decided to pursue a new career with Raise Your Hand Texas and joined them as a regional advocacy director for Central Texas in 2019, and I’m now in a newly created role of teacher specialist that was created because of the urgent need to retain and invest in our teacher workforce. So, in my three years at Raise Your Hand Texas, I’ve had the honor of talking with teachers from across the state, and as a fellow for the U.S. Department of Education I’ve had a chance to talk with teachers across the nation. And as you’ve said here this morning and as you know these past few years, it has not been easy to listen to the teachers’ stories. In fact, one teacher telling me they have a hard time even maintaining friendships with people who aren’t pandemic teachers because the challenges of the workplace have been so unique. So while this is not just a Texas issue, we do need to listen to our Texas teachers now more than ever to learn about what solutions will work best in Texas.

And as I’m sure you’ve seen in the headlines, the Charles Butt Foundation Texas Teacher Survey says that 77% of our Texas Public School teachers have considered leaving the profession. So over the summer our regional advocacy team talked with about 700 teachers from across the state, and I hope to represent some of what we heard. 

So what are our Texas teachers saying? When our regional advocacy team talked with teachers and listened and asked what would keep them in the classroom, we heard teachers saying they need respect, a realistic workload, a positive safe work environment, and higher pay. And that regardless of how many people we are able to recruit into the classroom solving our challenges rest in how the state approaches incentivizing effective teachers to stay in the classroom in a way that helps all school districts. Quite simply we can’t recruit our way out of this crisis. 

When teachers talk about solutions, pay and workloads are major factors in keeping them in the profession after talking about their students. But recently the word teachers are using to talk about their work life is unsustainable. They talk about unsustainable working conditions with unrealistic expectations, and unsustainable salary that’s not kept pace with inflation, or the responsibility they’ve shouldered.

When we talk to these teachers, we heard teachers who spoke passionately about the stress of high-stakes testing on their students, the emotional toll of being underpaid while still providing your own supplies for your classroom, or meeting the basic needs of your students such as food and clothing.

We talked to teachers who work a second job and can’t afford to live in the communities where they teach, or in some cases accepting a job, but then returning the contract when you realize you can’t afford to live there.

We heard about the stress of trying to keep up with the changing circumstances around COVID, losing planning time to cover classes where they’re just weren’t any substitutes, and excessive documentation and lack of time to complete the required professional development.

We also heard teachers talk about their concern that their own students aren’t interested in becoming teachers because of what they’re observing. And more heartbreaking, they wouldn’t – teachers – wouldn’t advise their own children to become teachers. Teachers describe to us the whiplash of being considered a hero at the beginning of the pandemic when they were credited with keeping us all connected and even keeping students fed to more recent events where they feel pretty disrespected.

But through it all we heard teachers talking about is what their students need and their joy of working with these students. Our teachers have risen to the challenge of pivoting to virtual, teaching through a pandemic, and being tasked with overcoming interruptions to learning. But this is coming at a cost, and our teachers’ working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. 

So in listening to Texas teachers, we listen to classroom experts and their ideas about how to improve their profession because the solutions that work in Brownsville and Burleson may not work in Bartlett and Bangs.

Texas could lead the way in making the teaching profession an attractive career choice, and you have our Raise Your Hand Texas recommendations in front of you. They are:

  • Supporting teacher retention through increased compensations and benefits packages;
  • Adequate administrative support and sustainable work environments; 
  • We recommend investing in teacher recruitment strategies including scholarships for aspiring teachers; and, 
  • Strengthening teacher development by raising the standards for all education preparation programs and providing professional development opportunities.

Then, finally, I’d like to talk a little bit about that number of 77% and what that represents. Because as a teacher, I had the chance to interview people who wanted to work on my campus and what I heard from them was a sincere desire to serve their community, to connect with students to make a difference – that teacher in your life that made a difference. And so when I look at that number of 77% what it represents to me is also a tally of broken dreams. People who really wanted to serve their community, but are now exiting this profession. 

That’s why we have the opportunity to make teaching a sustainable dream for Texans who want to become teachers. Our teachers are experts in what they do, and I encourage you to keep listening to all those conversations you’re having with teachers. I hope you’ll ask them about their dreams of why they became a teacher and ask what will keep them in the profession, because our teachers are experts, and we show them that respect they ask for when we listen to them. And I’m happy to answer any questions. 

Chairman Dutton: All right. Thank you. We’ll reserve questions until after Dr. Marden gives his testimony. 

Marder: Greetings everyone and thanks for inviting me to speak today. I’m Michael Marder professor of physics and co-founder and executive director at UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin for the last 25 years my colleagues and I worked every day to ensure that your kids and grandkids can have great Math and Science teachers with the recent additions of UT Permian Basin and Prairie View A&M. We have 13 UTeach universities in Texas currently producing around 300 STEM teachers a year, which is about half the Texas STEM teachers coming from university programs.

I’m honored to be with you today to discuss reducing the teacher shortage and building a talent strong Texas. This matters to the nation because Texas prepares far more teachers than any other state right now and we need to be leading the way out of the vacancy crisis. Texas truly is unique. There is no other state with an alternative certification sector like Texas and this has created also some advantages for the state that you probably won’t hear from other people. I’m a physics professor. I even have a book here as backup and Dr. Pruitt mentioned physics. Did you know that Texas for a long time has been able to offer physics to more if its high school students and any other state by far?

So let’s not take Texas to be a place where there are only disadvantages and problems. There are innovations that we can build on. Back before the pandemic Charles Martinez, Dean of the UT Austin College of Education with John Fitzpatrick of Educate Texas commissioned the research summarized in the Teacher Tipping Point handout you have before you because they wanted to better understand the connection between how we prepare Educators and the outcomes. We are seeing both for students and teachers. I headed up the study of student outcomes while Pedro Reyes until next Alexander also at UT Austin headed up a study of teacher retention.

We used longitudinal student level data from the Texas Education Research Center, arguably the country’s best educational data system. And we looked at student performance sampling between 6,000 and 30,000 teachers per grade level and subject area with all the data available starting in 2012.

We wanted to understand which types of teachers led students to learn the most and we found that students taught by university certified teachers those prepared in a Texas University educator preparation program either as undergrads or post degree learned more than those prepared by alternatively certified teachers about one to two months of learning across the academic year.

Now you might ask. So what’s the big deal about one to two months of extra learning per year? Well learning gaps accumulate over time and this is particularly worrisome for low-income students who represent 60% of our students in Texas and are learning less on average than they’re not low-income peers. It’s harder and harder for them to catch up.

We also wanted to understand teacher retention and mobility. How long do teachers stay in the field? And where did they move? And followed a cohort of around 15,000 teachers over a nine-year period The data showed that University certified teachers stayed longer in the field to a tune of about 14% higher retention rate over those nine years.

Now when we slice the data another way, we saw that teachers certified via nonprofit alt-cert pathways in many instances performed more similarly to university certified teachers than to for-profit counterparts.

That’s because within broad headings like standard and alt-cert and even within those headings there are big variations in how much time aspiring teachers spend preparing and how much personalized help they get.

Given that university certified teachers stay in teaching longer and their students learn more, I think we should be very concerned that fewer teachers are prepared through Texas universities. Indeed, for the last 10 years, this is a long-term trend, the number of teachers from high-quality pathways where they prepare has been dropping and the number from pathways where they can enter with little and sometimes no preparation at all has been increasing. This led to three primary recommendations supported by diverse stakeholders behind the Tipping Point Report and soon echoed by a coalition of Education preparation leaders from across the whole state. 

  1. creates more accessible and affordable university-based Pathways to teacher certification 
  2. provide more support for teachers in their first three years of teaching and 
  3. three obtain better transparency accountability around practices and outcomes of educator preparation programs.

So what’s the connection between the vacancy crisis and the Tipping Point findings? By my estimate, that they can see crisis is a shortage of at least 10,000 teachers for our state. It’s concentrated in special education, bilingual, Math, and Science and concentrated in some schools and districts more than others. The vacancy crisis laid bare a serious problem that’s been building for at least a decade. Texas has reached a teacher tipping point because the number of new teachers from high-quality pathways has been dropping for a decade while more than half now come from roots where they prepare little if at all. If that they can see crisis makes us tip the wrong way, universities and other high-quality programs risk becoming boutique providers

Our recommendation is let no one off the hook. Universities must hold the line on time and cost for standard undergraduate certification programs and lower the cost in time of programs for degree holders. The states can help by reducing the financial insecurity of aspiring teachers who want to choose strong preparation and providing university incentives to increase production of teachers and additional support, particularly in the first three years of those already teaching. 

If we work to innovate our way out of the teacher vacancy crisis, Texas education will come back stronger than ever. If I have any great hope for these hearings today is that it will mark the beginning of partnerships to make this possible. Thank you.

Chairman Dutton: What’s the… do you have any reason as to why certified teachers or responding differently than non-certified teachers? 

Marder: Well, all the teachers are certified, but perhaps you mean why are the ones coming through the lengthier preparation programs for the university preparation programs declining while the enrollment in the other programs are increasing? 

Chairman Dutton: Right. 

Marder: So, I run one of the preparation programs where I get to talk to students, and I also am allied with colleagues across the state. There are several factors, but the basic one is that it is becoming harder and harder for students in our standard preparation programs to finish on time with all the certification requirements completed alongside their major. I should emphasize that the chiefest, fastest, and best way to become a teacher in this, and I believe in every state, is to get that certification right alongside your first degree. Because if you can do that, you pay nothing extra. You’ve got your degree and you can teach, and you didn’t have to do anything more. But over time there have been many additional requirements that keep getting put in.

So it’s very tempting to keep trying to make us better with new and additional laws in every single one of them has been incredibly well-intentioned. But as those have accumulated over time, and as tuition has risen, and as we’ve done a better job of getting students, and this is definitely true at UT Austin, a great job of getting students, diverse students from all across the state who do not however necessarily come in with a huge amount of preparation through AP courses that make it a slam dunk to finish in four years. You want to combine that with teacher preparation, and all of the new rules that have come along, and the financial challenges, and it’s just been hard.

Now I do have good news from right now, which is that we have the largest incoming class we’ve seen in a decade. That, I think, is really good news, and I hope that we can be spreading those recruitment practices. But unless we work together to make sure that people want to become teachers can finish a good strong program in four years, and that we create stronger, faster, cheaper programs for degree holders through universities as well, then I think it will be very logical for us to see more and more students continuing to say, “I couldn’t quite make it to finish it at the university. Let me go with one of the alt-cert programs.” So, that’s I’m not sure if that’s too long or Too Short an answer sir. But that’s a start. 

Chairman Dutton: Yeah, I appreciate that. I guess I was wondering too also, I thought you said that teachers who had a certification were leaving at a slower rate from the districts than teachers who did not have that. Is that right? 

Marder: Let me clarify that just a little bit. So the teachers who prepared at university programs, which is a lengthier period of preparation typically involving student teaching, they leave at a lower rate than the ones who came through alternative certification programs. Now, those are also certified, so let’s not say that alternative certification isn’t certification. But the teachers who came through those alternative programs have not been staying as long. 

Chairman Dutton: I wonder if you have any comment why?

Marder: Most of the difference occurs within the first three years. So if you look at when the where’s the difference in when the new teachers leave, there’s a period in the first three years with the ones who came through alternative alternative certification are leaving at up to double the rate; and after that after they’ve gotten their bearings in the schools, and they’ve been there four or five years the differential rate of leaving goes down. So my interpretation is that when teachers have more extensive preparation and more support when they come in because university programs offer both preparation and continued support afterwards that helps the new teachers navigate the difficulties of the first few years, and I think everyone who has taught and all of the speakers you have heard and will hear, will talk about the special challenges of making it through the first few years of teaching.

Chairman Dutton: Well that certainly focuses a different light on this teacher shortage problem Let me ask, I think Representative Bell has a question. 

Rep. Keith Bell: Well, I got a couple of questions here. One on your hand out, it talks about students from low-income households more likely to get assigned alternative certified teachers. Do you find that in… do you have the data for where did you get that data, number one? And then number two, do you have that separated between rural and urban schools? Is that a urban problem, a rural problem, or is that globally across state, Texas? 

Marder: So the data that came here are a mixture of data from public Texas Education Agency sources and the Educational Research Center, which is data available to researchers all of the data came from the Texas Education Agency. Just a shout out to them for assembling just a terrific collection of data resources. Alternative certification is most likely within the urban areas, but difficulties of attaining teachers are serious and statewide, and if I were to single out a particular class of schools that has the greatest difficulty in offering great education to the students, I think I would single out our rural schools, which are I think greatly challenged. 

Rep. Bell: But in the urban districts you’re seeing more likely to have alternative certified teachers assigned to these lower grades?

Marder: Alternatively certified teachers in general are much more likely in the urban districts, larger urban districts, than in any other district. 

Rep. Bell: And to go along with Chairman Dutton’s comment, I think it’s really interesting on the first, the back page here, that this alternative certification really took off at the end of the Great Recession. And so people off their jobs, so they decided okay, we’ll go into teaching profession, and two or three years into that process they found out that’s a harder job than what they anticipated it to be. And then you saw, we’ve seen the retention. I think the chairman just pointed out the problems with that, and so it’s interesting to see your prediction in 2026. So I’m assuming that’s another economic downturn on the horizon that that may replicate itself. And so that’s that’s concerning that we get people in the business, get them in a classroom, they determine that’s not for them. And I think it goes back to your point. Students that decide to go into your program as a freshman in college, they’ve made a decision and chosen that career. So they better prepared to know what that’s going to look like before they walk into a classroom out of some other kind of profession, and then like I said determined this is to be an educator as a calling and it’s just not shouldn’t just be a job, and It doesn’t work out for folks that don’t have that, I believe. So, I appreciate you pointing that data out. 

Marder: Thank you. The prediction that you’re looking at is one that we see a long-term trend of the teachers coming from university programs declining. We’re very much hoping that we will turn that around, and we will retain a healthy balance between the university programs and the alternative certification programs. Each of which I think fulfills a crucial niche in the state’s education system. 

Rep. Bell: So one other question, Mr. Chairman. So would it be your recommendation that the alt-certs need to be a little more difficult to try to push some of these that aren’t really that serious about doing this. Would that be that make a difference here, in your opinion? 

Marder: I am mainly focused on trying to make the conditions for the university programs better. I think that when we can do that, we will fulfill our appropriate function, we will prepare a great number of students. I I don’t want to comment on detailed proposals for how to treat the alternative certification programs. I think they are doing their level best repair the best teachers they can and are able to respond very quickly to things such as shortages and that serves a function, but I would I would really like to focus on the policies that bring back bring back the universities in strength and make things great for our instructors and our students.

Chairman Dutton: Thank you. Appreciate your comments. I think, Representative Turner, did you have a question? 

Rep. John Turner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Marder, as I was looking at your one-pager here, one thing that just really jumped out at me is this chart showing that in 2002 we were producing 12,000 university certified middle school and high school teachers for a year. I assume that’s per year? 

Marder: Yeah. 

Rep. Turner: And now we’re down to about 2,000. Is that is that accurate? 

Marder: Let me take a look here. So this is middle and high school teachers, and I’m just checking whether the one-pager has the correct stuff on it. That number sounds too low. Okay, I don’t believe, I’m looking at this here with your critical eye. I think in the graphics something may have gone astray. The current number of middle and high school secondary STEM teachers right now is about 2,000. The numbers have dropped by about a half since… oh, wait. Wait just a second. Let me let me back off, since 2012 they have dropped about half and that’s about right, so I will verify, but I think that the graphic it may have dipped a little low at the end, but it’s basically right. 

Rep. Turner: Okay. Well if it is, if it is correct, it really seemed astonishing to me that in the space of about 20 years. We’ve gone from 12,000 to 2,000 per year university certified middle school and high school teachers, and and the projection looks like it’s for 2026, I don’t know if this will happen. Hopefully it won’t, but it’s going down to a thousand or below a thousand. 

Marder: We’re not going to keep dropping, but there has been a radical change, which is an alternative certification which began around 1987 and then took off in a couple different phases. For-profit providers became legal around 2002, and then there’s something called the late-hire provision in 2011 created the possibility of entering teaching with very minimal preparation. So in phases alternative certification has greatly grown and the university production has been declining in response. So we now have a good deal more than half of the new teachers in the state coming through alternative certification pathways. This is just one of the things that makes Texas unique, so I will be glad to check for you the very precise numbers. The graph is made pretty with straight lines. I think it is essentially accurate, but I will double check and make sure of that for you. 

Rep. Turner: And I think from your previous answers, our discussion here that one: you think this is not a good trend. This is something we should try to reverse. We should try to increase the number of university certified teachers. And I also, I believe I understood from your comments earlier, that you do believe we can do this. There are things we can do that will increase these numbers. I wanted to see if you could elaborate just a little bit or perhaps be a little bit more concrete about anything you think we can do in the Legislature that might help reverse that trend, and I gathered you said it needs to become easier in some ways financially or otherwise in terms of time committed for a student at a university to become certified through the university program. Can you elaborate and be any more specific about what you think we ought to do in the Legislature to enable this number to start going up again?

Marder: Thank you for that question. We’re, I believe at a tipping point as the report said, which means it may take relatively small actions right now to make a difference that’s large for the future. The phenomenon that I see is that students very frequently face a very hard choice just to say are coming up to the end of the university program, or if they’re midway through undergraduate career whether or not to embark on trying to become a teacher right there. And things such as the length of the student teaching experience can be really really critical. So here I will say something that may be different from any of the other people you hear from today, but it’s such an important matter and I think I have the agreement of just about all the people preparing secondary teachers that I know in the state not all but most which is that if if residency is an option, it’s great. We can use residencies, which are extended student teaching experiences, to make good programs. If they become mandatory, then the extra cost and time of that change will be very detrimental particularly to low-income students, students of limited means, trying to make their way through college to become teachers. So one request, which is really just a request to keep the status quo, is please be very very careful about mandating residencies as opposed to making them a great option. Some of the other key issues have already come up. We face an enormous number of bureaucratic requirements, which have accumulated over time. Just to give you one example of the things that they’re known within educator preparation programs, not too long ago we had to start recording in-out signatures. Sometimes multiple sets of in-out signatures and every form every time a student goes off to a student teaching experience. Previously we were basically trusted that the experience happened. Now, we need paperwork to document everything. There have been additional curricular requirements.  Every single one of them good in and of itself, but they force us to make hard choices.

So I would emphasize the following things. Number one, remember that time is money to students. We have to keep the time down. Number two, if they can finish within the four-year period, that is very favorable. Number three, student teaching is demanding no matter what, even if just a single semester the student may have to give up work to make it through that semester. Any form of financial support or assistance to the students during the student teaching semester, including rule changes that simply let them access school funds that may already be available these will be very, very favorable. And finally although in some ways it’s more minor, incentives to the universities in various forms, and I would encourage you to talk to people who are more expert than me in matters of the sort, just incentive student universities to keep the teacher preparation up. Right now. I’m a physics professor so now I know I know what the incentives on me are. The incentives on me are to bring in grant funds to do my physics work. That’s what the incentive system pushes me to do every day, but I wake up every day trying to increase the number of teachers because it’s a calling. But the provision of teachers to the state of Texas shouldn’t have to rely on finding people for whom it’s a calling. It should be built into an incentive structure too. So that said that’s a brief account and I hope it’s a good starting point. 

Chairman Murphy: Thank you, Dr. Marder. Members do we have any questions for the panel? Representative Talarico. 

Rep. James Talarico: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the comparison between teachers that are prepared in university setting versus alt-certification, and and it’s probably intuitive that more preparation is always better for any job. But I also don’t want to get caught in the trap that traditional teacher preparation programs at the university level were adequate to begin with, right? Because we know even when this chart as representative turn it out was pumping out the vast majority of teachers. We still had enormous achievement gaps in the state in this country. So in addition to making sure we have more preparation, more intensive preparation for students. What should we be doing to bring all preparation programs, but also the university programs to up a little bit to ensure that we’re preparing teachers for the job they’re actually going to face when they into the classroom? And so I’m curious from both your perspectives, and I know UT Austin has one of the best colleges of education in the country, but I know that practitioners often feel that they weren’t prepared in certain key ways, including those who went through university programs. It’s very academic focused, which makes sense. It’s probably you know, how our schools of education started being very academic focused and not a lot of support or training or help on how to deal with the vast issues you face outside of academics in a classroom, especially a classroom in an under-resourced school or high-poverty community. 

Marder: You want to take that?

Hoover: Well, I actually want to talk about what happens after you graduate, and that’s really intentional piece where school districts support those teachers. And so in our recommendations, you’ll see that mentoring can make an enormous amount of difference and the policy school districts have to support the induction and mentoring so regardless of which program you come through that you’re well supported with a high-quality mentor that has a rigorous curriculum where you reflecting on your practices. It’s not only just a supportive mentor patting you on the back, but it’s someone who’s making sure that you understand your craft. And so I think while I will leave it up to you to talk about the undergraduate piece, I think there is an investment that can be made in the way we support our first-year teachers and even our second-year teachers that can make a difference in that retention.

Marder: So every program can be improved and my own program people are working as we speak to try to make it better. I think there’s pretty broad agreement on the types of things that we can all be working on to make all of our programs better, and you’ve already alluded to some of them. There has to be a great balance between theoretical and practical considerations. And one of the things that we and many other programs have done is to hire award-winning former teachers and make them key instructors who are mentoring the students as they have early field experiences. So that I think the type of thing that leads to a great experience is to introduce ideas about how students learn because if you don’t have a theoretical framework actually much of teaching becomes really, really difficult to comprehend and you can’t understand why certain actions make any sense, but then you also need to work with someone who has the practical experience of doing it, and to let you lead you into the experiences and then reflect on what you did and then revise it and go do it again, and that cycle, and also they contrast between the theoretical findings research findings and the practical experience I think are what make great programs great. And there are many of them across the state. I happen to run one, but there are many others that I think are also extremely well done , operate by very similar principles. Just to indicate that I’m willing to go to great lengths to emphasize that point, I want to highlight Texas A&M as having a particularly good program. We may fight in all sorts of ways, but actually when it comes to teacher preparation, we see things pretty much eye to eye. 

Rep. Talarico: Yeah, you know I I had a student teacher assigned to me my last year teaching and I remember her struggling. She’d gone… this was at the tail end of her preparation, which I don’t know if that’s how schools of education are typically set up still, but I know you know historically you were doing your kind of field work at the end of  that program. And you know, I remember her telling me that, one, she felt like she didn’t get nearly enough time actually in classrooms with kids as part of her program. A lot of it was sitting in a classroom herself learning about theory, learning about content, but not actually doing. And then two, it was this, you know this idea of you know, our education system broadly was not designed for all students, something we should remember, and was designed to filter out poor kids, not to help poor kids succeed. And it seems like our College of Education in too many instances are still tied to that model with the emphasis on academics meaning a teacher comes into the classroom, is teaching kids content, if they don’t get it, that’s on them. And if they do, they can succeed in school. I remember the most, I think, helpful preparation I had was a course on trauma and how students both bring trauma to school and how it shows externally in a classroom. That I feel like is something that not enough of our preparation programs are our focusing on, right? Teaching phonics is super important, but if you don’t understand all the stuff your kids are coming to school with, it’s not gonna be really helpful in a classroom. So I appreciate your your comments. The last question I’ll have is about the residency model, which I know you touched on earlier. But how does that illustrate some of the suggestions you’ve already mentioned of having teachers more time in the field having them interacting with students earlier… how could that if we as a legislature work to put emphasis on that keep it optional but put more resources behind that model?

Marder: So in the UTeach model and in many other programs even most of the ones I’ve interacted with field experience begins early. It doesn’t only happen in student teaching. That used to be the case, but many programs now going off to teach is one of the first things that students do, and that’s certainly true in our program. There are so many benefits you begin to see in classrooms right away. You learn if you enjoy working with children, and it’s also a fabulous recruitment device because for many people who never considered teaching that act of walking into the classroom and doing it is the spark the changes their life trajectory. So I I’m completely supportive of your comments about where things ought to go, and I would like to say that many, many programs and not just mine have already gone and that direction. Now, we have a lot of tough choices to make and every program has to make them and not all great levels are the same. So the decisions that you make as an elementary program are different from the considerations that you have to make if you’re preparing a physics or a math teacher Our finding has been that early field experience beginning at the beginning and sequenced and increasing throughout coupled with a full semester of student teaching allows us to prepare teachers who are ready to be great first-year teachers and happy and ready to grow in that role. And the research that I presented to you – the Tipping Point Research – is about the universities essentially as they are now showing that the teachers prepared in that way stay longer and the students learn more. I never, as I said, want to deny that we can improve. In fact the things we’re talking about improving, again, exactly along the lines you’ve discussed. You know, the schools have changed a lot in the last two years. Have our programs changed with them? Have we learned to prepare our teachers for the mixture of possibilities that online instruction brings? What about the new discipline problems that all in service teachers report? Are we ready for that? I think the frank answer is that we’ve really got to be cycling as fast as we can to improve and to be ready for it. But I think the universities are well placed to have that effort to to learn from what we’re hearing and from experience and to go forward. So I agree with all of your comments. All I’d like to say is we’re working our darn just to try to implement them every day. 

Rep. Talarico: For sure. And the only thing… you know, you said discipline, I would call it building culture in your classroom, building relationships, which to me is the most important step of being a good teacher before you even get to academic content. I’m just wondering are we really teaching that in a systemic way? I know bringing in veteran teachers is helpful. But you know, how do we teach future teachers explicitly how to build culture, build community, and build relationships with students? Because that feels like that’s the game changer if we can figure that out. 

Marder: I believe that is the first emphasis that every experienced teacher will bring in mentoring the new ones. Actually achieving it is a different matter. At the university, the courses that the students are getting frequently model something very different where a physics professor like me stands up at the board and talks for too long and everybody goes to sleep. Well, I try not to do that. I really have tried to learn actually from the UTteach teachers a new way even of doing my college classes. So there’s there’s so much to be learned and improved within the university of themselves, I believe, by having teacher preparation an honored part of what the university does, but you are simply stating some of the things that the everybody I know across the whole state, and I want to emphasize that we are talking about statewide networks of universities trying to work together to prepare teachers. You are articulating the things we talk about we wrestle with and we try to convey the next generation. 

Rep. Talarico: Now I’ll turn it back over because I’m taking too much time, but I just want to highlight one thing that you said, I think inadvertently which is so true and so important for a joint hearing from Pub Ed and Higher Ed, which is the problems with academia, the problems with our higher ed institutions, which I’m sure we were all familiar with the deep problems historical problems with the where institutions are set up and the way they they serve higher education students. Those are translated to how we prep teachers, which then become the problem in our K-12 structure. And so treating the two simultaneously, I think is key. Glad we’re all here. 

Marder: Yeah, that wasn’t an inadvertent man sure something that is very explicitly discussed and thought about at least within UT Austin and in fact in all the universities I know about. We are very very aware that the way we teach impacts students’ success within our institutions and very concerned about that.

Talarico: Yeah, and it’s probably something we need to make explicit as policy makers, but thank you so much. Thank you, Chairman. 

Chairman Murphy: Dr. Gonzalez. 

Rep. Mary González: Thank you chairman. And I know that we have a lot going on but can either of you elaborate a little bit on late hiring and what that means for this conversation?

Marder: So, I believe the late-hire provision was inserted through SB8 of 2011, and the provision indicated that the state board for educator certification could choose a number of days and after that time period, which is currently 45 days, someone who’s hired does not have to complete educator preparation requirements prior to beginning their job. They have 90 days after beginning the job to complete the educator preparation requirements. In short, they can walk in, they are allowed to walk into teaching and begin to prepare afterwards. That is very tempting. That provision is very tempting. It’s clearly established as an emergency valve to handle extreme cases, but I fear we have created a situation where the emergency valve is going to take over and drive out other forms of production, both from alternative certification and from regular certification. So I mention this without fully knowing what to do about it. I can’t even find good data right now and exactly how many people are availing themselves of that option. So I know how many are going through programs where they could avail themselves of it, but I don’t know how many actually are going on in with very minimal preparation. But this is a phenomenon. I’ve talked to people who’ve said that they walked into teaching and on the first day in class they began to Google, “How can I teach?” This, I think, is not our prescription for generating the best teachers for the state. So, I think we should be aware of it. It is allowed under the Texas Education Code. It is a large-scale phenomenon now, and I think everyone should just know that it’s happening. I’m reluctant to tell you exactly what to do. It seems to be integrated into the fabric of the state right now, and it’d be presumptuous to say exactly how to address it immediately.

Hoover: And as you can imagine it puts an enormous stress on the campus to support this person that is not prepared. So, one of the things we heard from teachers is when they have co-workers that need additional support, that’s time taken away from the students they’re serving, and of course schools want to put their best face forward and they want to put their best efforts and teachers tend to support each other. But that is just time taken away from the students that they’re actually there to teach when they’re supporting teachers who do not feel prepared. And go back to my remarks. The people that come into this, they dreamed of being a teacher and so we kind of crush their dreams because we didn’t prepare them. And so now they’re stuck in a job that they don’t know how to do and leaning on people who are really busy and overworked to try to prop them up. 

González: I appreciate that. And I think… I hate the idea of crushing dreams, but also not having the data I think is not helpful to us. And here is something that’s the emergency valve but is now maybe more woven into common practice. We don’t… And I should know this but maybe you know this or someone knows this. In statute we allow for this to happen, but do the school districts have to report that they are are doing this to TEA?

Marder: To the best of my knowledge, and there are people from TEA in the room who may know better than me, but to the best of my knowledge they do not have to report it. It should be possible to determine by comparing the entry date into the educator preparation program with the hire date, but I’ve not neither I nor other people who have tried have so far succeeded in figuring out how many people are meaning that late-hire condition. So there may well be people in the room who have a better answer than me on this but I simply have to say I’ve been unable to figure out exactly how widespread the practice is. I don’t think the schools invoke this unless they have to. They are after all trying to get the best teachers for their kids, and I think probably that’s celebrated too little, too – how hard the schools work to hired the very best people they can. But if the only thing they can find for a subject that they really want to offer is someone who’s going to walk in without having prepared in the first day and that’s the only way they can offer the class they are going to do it. 

Chairman Dutton: Thank you so much. Chair recognizes Representative Bernal. 

Rep. Diego Bernal: Very quickly, just mostly for appropriations, we actually have a very high-quality teacher mentorship program in the state. It’s just we have to decide how much money we want to put into it and to see how expansive it is. But it’s based on best practices, and when deployed, it works really well. It’s something that we don’t have to sort of create. We have it. We just need to if we put more money into it. It might help with some of these. So we’re halfway there already. 

Chairman Dutton: Any further questions from the members? Well, thank you to this panel. Thank you for your comments particularly, Dr. Marden, thank you for your comments, and thank you to you as well.

Tags: teacher advocacy teacher mentorship teacher pay Teacher Workforce testimony

related content


subscribe & make
a difference

Subscribe to our e-newsletter for Texas education news, stories, policy insights, and ways to make a difference. We only use this information to send emails relevant to you and will never share this information with third parties.

Address (Required)(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.