Rules on contract abandonment, virtual observations, and CPE take stage at SBEC meeting last week

Contract abandonment rules

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) last week gave initial approval to rules related to contract abandonment and the circumstances under which teachers may resign from an employment contract without penalty. Specifically, the rules implement HB 2519, authored by Rep. Drew Darby, to allow for reduced sanctions for educators resigning between 30 and 45 days prior to the first day of instruction. Patty Quinzi, Texas AFT legislative counsel, testified in support of the rules, which allow the SBEC to consider mitigating factors unique to every case.

Virtual observations
After the start of the pandemic, SBEC implemented temporary rules allowing for virtual observations of educator preparation program (EPP) candidates doing their fieldwork. However, a law pushed by for-profit EPP providers now permanently allows for virtual observations in place of an in-person observation if the virtual observation is “equivalent in rigor” to an in-person observation. SBEC’s proposed rules for the law make no technical requirements to conduct virtual observations and ensure equivalence.

Patty Quinzi, Texas AFT legislative counsel, testified that the rules should be strengthened to require that virtual observations include the entire classroom in the frame of vision for the observer. This is critically important to observe a teacher’s control of a classroom and interaction with students. Student interaction with the teacher is particularly important to observe for those studying to be certified in special education or bilingual education. Virtual observations should include the requirement for observers to view the interaction with students during their fieldwork.

Virtual observations will not allow teacher candidates to receive valuable, live, in-person feedback from the observer in the same room. Unless there are substantial requirements that require virtual observations to truly be “equivalent in rigor” to an in-person observation, an EPP should not be allowed to use it.

Continuing Professional Education requirements
Texas AFT also submitted testimony regarding proposed revisions to CPE requirements for teachers. We, along with members of other education advocacy groups, served on a panel put together by the lieutenant governor’s office to review and reduce the amount of CPE requirements for educators. The compression of coursework is critical given the new requirements on teachers like reading academies, which have proved to be considerably more time-consuming than promised. After hearing from stakeholders, SBEC will return in December to revise these rules.

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