A controversial new certification requirement for new Texas teachers is set for a vote by the State Board of Education this summer.
The potential "edTPA" exam requirement comes as school districts across the state are struggling with a teacher shortage, and some organizations believe it will only worsen it.
"Our educators here in Texas are drowning, and you're just adding water," said Texas State Teachers Association president, Ovidia Molina. "There is no reason to create more burdens."
The edTPA assessment requires future educators to submit a portfolio including lesson plans, student teaching videos, and reflection essays. Those materials are then given a score and state policies indicate a "passing" or "failing" score.
The Texas Education Agency told 25 News that the new exam requirement would replace the current multiple-choice certification exams, and would help to better prepare future educators.
"We don't believe that edTPA is actually going to prevent teachers from entering, and instead is actually going to make them better prepared and more likely to stay long-term," said Kelvey Oeser, deputy commissioner of educator support for the TEA.
Although the Texas State Teachers Association agrees that the current testing system is broken, it is asking the board to find another option.
"Nothing prepares you for your classroom like your classroom. No set of students are the same, even from class period to class period," Molina said.
Baylor School of Education associate professor and associate dean of undergraduate instruction, Suzanne Nesmith, said the materials submitted for the edTPA assessment are hard to grade against a rubric.
"When you're looking at very standardized criteria for a diverse set of circumstances, that could be very problematic," Nesmith said.
While Nesmith said she does not have concerns about Baylor education students passing the exam, she worries more about the process and the high stakes associated with the results.
The exam also costs $300, another concern for both Molina and Nesmith.
"TEA has worked with the testing vendor to offset the cost for candidates participating in the pilot," TEA said in response to those concerns. "Additionally, the agency is currently working with the vendor to identify strategies (e.g., programs purchasing test vouchers and embedding the fee into the program for financial aid to cover) to offset the cost to candidates."
The proposed language for the requirement was approved by the State Board of Education on Friday. It will face public comment before heading to a final vote in June.
If the requirement passes, it will be phased in over the next several years.