AUSTIN (Nexstar) — New teachers in Texas will not be required to take a new certification exam that would have been more expensive and more rigorous. 

All 13 members of the State Board of Education voted down a proposal to adopt the edTPA statewide test last week, a national test established by Stanford University that’s meant to better evaluate how a teacher will perform in their first year.

Ultimately, board members said they believe the state needs to look at alternative options outside of just the edTPA and the existing test, the PPR. 

“Because I feel that there are some stones that have been left unturned, I am not ready to make that choice,” SBOE Chairman Kevin Ellis said Friday. 

“I do not consider a vote to veto this rule as a wooden stake through the heart of the edTPA. For me, this is not the end of the road,” Ellis continued. 

After the board voted it down Friday, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath issued a statement, saying in part, “We look forward to continuing our work with SBOE, SBEC, and other stakeholders to determine if there are better approaches that can be taken to improve how we support individuals training to become teachers.”

Last week, Morath said the existing test needs to be replaced. 

“As I’ve stated before, PPR is trash. So shame on us for 20 years ago rolling this thing out,” Morath told the board Wednesday. 

He said the edTPA would better gauge how new teachers would perform in their first year. In part, it would require new teacher candidates to submit videos of themselves teaching.

“It’s one thing to grade multiple-choice tests, like a computer can do that. It’s another thing to grade like lesson plans, video, sample of classroom and then a reflection of exams,” Morath said. 

Critics, though, say edTPA’s price tag could stand as a barrier, making new teachers think twice about applying for certification. It’s $165 more than the existing PPR. 

Board members said any extra barriers would only fuel the current teacher shortage. 

“Our current situation of having so many teachers dropping out of teaching or not going into teaching, as a result of COVID, a variety of other factors. If there’s a fire and people are going toward the fire with buckets, you don’t stop and say, ‘Wait, are you a certified, fireman?’ San Marcos board member Rebecca Bell-Metereau said Friday.

Lampasas Independent School District’s superintendent said it’s feeling the effects of that shortage. 

“We’re probably having three times as many uncertified people that we’re going to have to put into classrooms, we have to send letters out to parents, that we do have uncertified. But we simply take the absolute best we can and help them become better teachers is what we’re trying to do,” LISD Superintendent Chane Rascoe told KXAN Monday. 

He said he has mixed feelings on the board voting down the new requirements. 

“Was it the best option, in my opinion? No. But what other options do we have right now? We need help in that,” Rascoe said. He said the existing PPR isn’t cutting it.

“On the surface, it looks like yes, [the edTPA] would have made it harder. But when you look at the research and the pilots that have been done on it, you’re going to be surprised that it actually shows that it does improve teacher performance, which is what we all need. And we all need retention as well,” he explained. 

Rascoe hopes the state continues to look at how to address the teacher retention problem, and said they could consider bringing back retired teachers to mentor new teachers until they come to a set resolution. 

Going forward, the state will continue to weigh new alternatives to the PPR. The board said that includes continued research on edTPA, looking into another national test, and looking at developing the state’s own certification test. 

Morath said developing a new, custom test in Texas would take years, though. 

“It does take a while to do that, passing peer review. That’s a multi-year process of building and getting validity and reliability information established,” he said.

Morath also said the TEA has researched how it could help cover the difference in cost between the edTPA and PPR, and can pull some funds from its Title II spending. 

“We are prepared to shift $2 million per year. We’ve done some math on it, this basically wipes out the $165 Delta for a huge number of candidates,” Morath said last week.