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Teacher-Training Bill Backed in Texas

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Texas lawmakers, adopting the recommendations of several national study groups on teaching, have approved legislation that would significantly alter the way that prospective teachers are trained in the state.

The legislature, however, failed to reach a consensus on a state budget for the fiscal 1988-89 biennium, the most pressing issue before it in the session that ended on June 1. Gov. William P. Clements Jr. has announced that he will call lawmakers back into a special session on June 22.

Under the teacher-education bill, beginning in 1991 all applicants for teaching credentials would be required to have obtained a bachelor's degree in the arts, sciences, or humanities.

Currently, prospective teachers are required to complete a minimum of 24 credit-hours in education courses to obtain initial certification; the bill would change the requirement to a maximum of 18 credit-hours in such courses.

Prospective elementary-school teachers would be allowed to major in reading or in an interdisciplinary course of study if they choose not to major in one of the traditional liberal arts. In addition, the 18-credit-hour limit in education courses could be waived for students hoping to become specialists in special-, bilingual-, or early-childhood education.

Also under the measure, which Governor Clements is expected to sign, an internship program for first-year teachers would be created. Under the bill, such teachers would be supervised by an experienced teacher, an administrator, and a faculty member from a college or university.

If the teacher's performance is satisfactory, he or she would be recommended for placement on the first level of the state's career-ladder program.

Annette Cootes, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, said the union hoped that the bill would have struck a better "balance'' between education and academic courses. She said the teachers' association also doubted that the new requirements would attract more people to the teaching profession, a primary concern of the bill's sponsors.

The House and Senate both approved spending plans for the upcoming biennium, but could not resolve their differences between themselves and with the Governor.

In February, Mr. Clements proposed a two-year, $36.9-billion budget that would provide $11.7 billion for precollegiate education, $200-million less than the current spending level. The Senate approved $40-billion in total state spending, and the House authorized $39 billion. Both chambers' bills would earmark approximately $11.9 billion for aid to schools.

Also during its regular session, the legislature:

  • Failed to adopt Mr. Clements's proposals to fine-tune the state's 1985 school-reform law.
  • The Governor had called for an extensive overhaul of the career-ladder system, raising the limitation on class sizes, and shortening the penalty period imposed under the state's "no pass, no play'' rule. (See Education Week, Feb. 18, 1987.)
  • Agreed to repeal a provision of the reform law that would have required current teachers to take a subject-matters skills test this year. (See Education Week, May 6, 1987.)
  • Voted to allow colleges and universities to use their own funds to establish residential academies for gifted high-school students.
  • Voted to decrease the state's contribution to the state teachers' pension plan for two years.
  • Passed legislation requiring school districts to appoint a coordinator for 'at risk' children in an effort to lower Texas' dropout rate;
  • Approved a bill requiring colleges and universities to report their students' first-year grades to the students' former junior colleges or high schools.

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