As Always, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) endeavors to identify areas of teacher training preparedness that could benefit from strengthening. In 2019, Texas Legislature motioned for a school finance bill that overwhelmingly passed and was promptly signed by Governor Greg Abbott. House Bill 3 (HB 3) includes increased teacher compensation, reduced local property taxes, and plans of strategic implementation to support educators. To gain an in-depth overview of the HB 3, the TEA has released a series of short videos to provide further clarity; find them here.
As mandated in the HB 3, educators must focus on improving reading and writing instruction. To support this objective, candidates pursuing certification must take and pass the Science of Teaching Reading (STR) Exam.
Who is required to take the STR exam?
This new requirement applies to any candidate who has not completed the program prior to December 30, 2020. As of January 1, 2021, you will be required to take the Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam, if you are seeking certification in one or multiple of the following subject areas:
- Core subjects EC-6
- Core subjects 4-8
- English Language Arts and Reading 4-8
- English Language Arts and Reading/Social Studies 4-8
If you are on track to earn your Standard Certificate prior to January 1, 2021, you are not required to take the STR exam.
What does the STR exam entail?
The purpose of the STR exam is to help address four major areas which lend room to improvement:
- Support for Literacy
- Science Behind Teaching Reading
- Science of Teaching Reading Exam
- Reading Standards for K-3
Why is the STR exam important?
The four outlined areas have been identified based on various state findings.
Support for literacy is needed because only 4 in 10 students meet the state’s 3rd grade reading standard1. Additionally, in 2017, Texas was ranked 46th in the country in 4th-grade reading proficiency, released in a report card from the National Assessment of Education Progress.
To improve these statistics and rankings, it is fundamental to understand the science behind teaching reading. The following model, created by study findings from Gough & Tunmer (1986) and Scarborough (2001) illustrates how reading comprehension is achieved.
The second box, language comprehension, includes word recognition. This is important to note because 80% of all students who read below grade level exhibit difficulty reading words and decoding the phonological sound components which make up the word2.
To improve upon these skills, educators must discern the science of teaching reading exam, which is the objective of implementing the STR exam and in adherence to Texas code, section 21.048. The STR exam is comprised of four main domains, shown below, which encompass a total of 13 different competencies.
Finally, to address the final issue of improving reading standards for K-3, all teachers and principals are required to attend Reading Academies by the 2021-2022 school year. To support this sanction, the HB 3 includes additional funding to help achieve 3rd-grade reading proficiency – included in which is K-3 reading standard. Candidates, please be aware that you will not be responsible for assuming the cost of attending Reading Academies. While this is a requirement, districts are responsible for arranging staff attendance.
1. Who is required to take the new STR exam?
Anyone candidate who does not already have their Standard Certificate in EC-3, EC-6 core subjects, 4-8 core subjects, 4-8 ELAR, or 4-8 ELAR/SS must take the STR. This includes candidates who have finished all program requirements but have not received a recommendation to earn their Standard Certificate by December 30, 2020, due to insufficient time taught.
2. I have finished all program requirements and have already applied or will soon apply for my Standard Certificate. Do I still have to take the exam?
Potentially. If your Standard Certificate is not successfully processed before December 30, 2020, you will still be required to take the exam, regardless of when you initially applied for your Standard Certificate. If you do not physically have your Standard Certificate before December 30, 2020, you must take the STR.
3. Who is exempt from taking the new STR exam?
Only those who already possess their Standard Certificate do not need to take the exam.
4. I will earn my Standard Certificate by or before December 30, 2020. Do I still need to take the STR?
No, this requirement does not extend to those who will earn it prior to January 1, 2021. NOTE: If you apply for your Standard Certificate and do NOT receive it before the deadline, you will still be required to take the exam.
5. I am pursuing a certification in Special Education. Am I required to take the STR exam?
No, not currently. This may change.
6. What is a Reading Academy?
Reading Academies are defined as “Teacher literacy achievement academies”. All Reading Academies must be approved and authorized by TEA to provide accepted professional development credit for educators. They will help to provide in-person and/or online training sessions and job-embedded coaching.
7. What are my options when completing this required training?
Ultimately, the decision is made by your district. There are two TEA approved modules which meet the requirements:
8. Will I receive compensation for attending?
This decision is ultimately up to your district. It is not required, but some districts may provide a stipend if they choose.
9. I participated in the 2018-2019 READ grant. Does this count toward my reading academy participation?
Yes! Teachers who participated in the 2018-2019 READ grant may count their participation toward credit because the objectives covered are aligned with the new competencies.
Please remember that attending Reading Academies by all affected teachers (K-3) and principals is required by the 2021-2022 school year. To aid your efforts, please keep in mind the following:
- Look at additional funding sources, implemented for this purpose. Budgets for the following have increased: Early Education Allotment, Dyslexic Allotment, Bilingual Education Allotment, Compensatory Education Allotment, and a basic allotment increase of $1,020 per full-time student.
- Please remember that all K-3 staff and principals must attend.
- You are responsible for covering the cost of attendance; it is a good idea to review your 2020-2021 professional development budget.
- Make sure you review your 2020-2021 calendar and build it into your professional development instruction calendar.
- If you haven’t already, find your Reading Academy Provider. Districts have the annual option to apply as an Authorized Provider or to use an external Authorized Provider. Read more information regarding providers here.
- There are two options from which to choose, the Comprehensive Module which costs between $3,000-$6,000 or the Blended Model which costs between $300 – $500. While the cost may influence your decision, the deciding factor should be based on how much support your educators need.
Provided by the TEA
- Information for Reading Academies
- Content Overview for Educators
- Blended vs. Comprehensive Models
- Science of Teaching Reading Exam FAQ
- HB 3 Video Series
1 & 2 All statistics and information cited in this post may be found here.