The largest teacher prep program in Texas is at risk of losing accreditation after failing to show improvements for what state officials said were problems with how the agency operated.
The Houston-based Texas Teachers of Tomorrow was found to have been falling short in key areas after audits in 2016 and 2021 and placed on a probation plan by the state. Now the company goes before the State Board for Educator Certification after a recent monitor showed there were still shortcomings in several areas.
Talia Richman, Education Lab reporter for the Dallas Morning News, joined Texas Standard to discuss the situation and what it could mean for ongoing issues with teacher shortages. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clairity:
Texas Standard: What exactly does Texas Teachers of Tomorrow do, and what are they – are they governmental or just approved by the government or what?
Talia Richman: No. So they’re actually a for-profit company that is the largest teacher prep program in the state. They train people, many of whom are looking for a second career as an educator, and they do so through mostly online coursework. So they’re a really big player in this teacher preparation space, but they are not affiliated with the Texas Education Agency. They’re a Houston-based company, and they actually have kind of branches all over the country.
But, of course, to prepare teachers, they have to have accreditation. And documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News apparently indicates the Texas Education Agency has been monitoring issues with Texas Teachers of Tomorrow. How so?
Yeah. So teacher prep programs in Texas have to go through a review cycle about every five years. So in both the previous audits – one in 2016, one in 2021 – Texas officials found that Texas Teachers of Tomorrow was falling short in some key areas that are important to ensuring high-quality programing. And so after this latest failed audit, the one in 2021, they put them on a probation plan and they appointed a monitor to oversee improvement and kind of work with them to get everything up to snuff. That monitor recently went through the evidence they provided, looked through their operations and found still there were some areas that were falling short of the agreement between the company and the state. So that’s how we find ourselves here today.
The State Board for Educator Certification is supposed to be hearing more about this case. Could they be deciding the fate of this program?
This is going to be a long, drawn-out process which will keep, I’m sure, a lot of educators on their toes as they work through this program. But basically, today the Texas Education Agency is presenting their recommendation that the accreditation be revoked. From there, they will go to a hearing, which could take months. And once that hearing is completed, the State Board for Educator Certification will once again be asked to vote on what happens to this program.
Let’s talk about the practical implications here. If this program loses accreditation – as you mentioned, it’s the biggest in Texas – what does that mean at a time when we’re hearing so much about teacher shortages across the state?
I think we would definitely have to brace for some real reverberations across the whole educator prep landscape. I think that officials are really aware of this tension. The idea that, while we don’t have enough teachers, while there are vacancies in front of the classroom, it should be imperative that there is as many pathways as possible. But, you know, some lawmakers that I spoke to who are looking forward to potentially holding hearings about alternative certification are saying, “We don’t want there to be this false choice between high quality and the high demand. We want to have both: enough educators and have them trained through high-quality programs.”
You’ve covered this area pretty closely. How does that ring to you? I mean, is it possible to have well-trained teachers without conventional or traditional accreditation programs?
So certainly there are great teachers who come through a lot of pathways. But what the research shows us is that teachers trained in traditional, rigorous programs tend to stay in the classroom longer. And when you cut down on churn, that also cuts down on the vacancy problem. You know, if we can retain teachers, recruitment will be less of a glaring problem.