“Texas Tribune Tries To Build the Case To Get Rid of Reading Academies”
By Donna Garner


***COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER: Please notice that in the list of sponsors for the Texas Tribune (at the bottom of the page), the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) has donated $77,500. When ATPE was founded in 1980 as an alternative to the left-leaning national teachers’ unions, my husband and I joined ATPE largely to get the litigation insurance offered. Teachers definitely need litigation insurance because of the precarious conditions that arise in the classroom.

Since ATPE’s inception, I cannot remember one time that ATPT has ever done anything substantive to help the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) to write curriculum standards which are the basis laid out in the Texas Education Code for classroom instruction.

Nor do I remember ATPE doing anything to help put our Texas students on the road to reading proficiency (by teaching them phonemic awareness/phonics) which forms the basis for students’ success in other subject areas, all of which require proficient reading skills.

ATPE is basically a self-serving labor union that only involves itself in educator labor issues with little-to-no thought about students’ academic proficiency and their classroom behavior.

Years ago my husband and I dropped ATPE and found another organization through which to purchase educator litigation insurance. If Texas teachers really care about the well-being and education of their students, I would encourage them to do the same.

That $77,500 (which ATPE educators have worked hard to pay out of their own pockets) has helped to finance the Texas Tribune’s misleading articles such as the one below. I have carefully deleted the journalist’s statements in which he tries to mislead the public into thinking that the excellent reading academies should be “ditched.”

To find out for yourself about the latest on the Texas Reading Academies instead of trusting what the Texas Tribune says, please go to the following links:

Year Three – Reading Academies
-- https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/reading-academies-year-3-updates.pdf

Reading Practices
-- https://tea.texas.gov/academics/early-childhood-education/reading-practices

6.10.19 -- “Truly Exciting News – Tex. HB 3 Requires K-3 Teachers To Utilize Systematic, Direct Instruction of Phonics” -- by Donna Garner – To read this article, please go to DonnaGarner.org and click on the Education Legislation Category Box.


4.1.22 – Texas Tribune

“Texas teachers say they’re pushed to the brink by law requiring them to spend dozens of hours unpaid in training”
K-3 teachers in Texas have until 2023 to complete a 60-hour Reading Academies course to keep the job. It’s taking some 120 hours on their own time to finish.
By Brian Lopez

Excerpts from this article:

Click Here

…as [Texas] teachers attempt to restore all the learning lost by their students during the pandemic, the Texas Legislature has insisted those who teach grades K-3 need to jump another hurdle: they need to complete a 60-to-120 hour course on reading, known as Reading Academies, if they want to keep their jobs in 2023.

…In 2019, the Legislature wanted to improve student reading scores and came up with a requirement that teachers complete this reading skills course. Every teacher working in early elementary grades — kindergarten through third — along with principals, had until the end of the 2022-23 school year to complete it.

But then the pandemic hit, and now many teachers are deciding whether to complete it or call it quits.

…This course takes at least 60 hours to finish, but in some cases teachers are taking up to 120 hours to complete it. Most teachers aren’t compensated for their time. Some districts are offering stipends, if there's room in their budget.

Exactly how many teachers who still need to take the course is unknown. According to a Texas Education Agency update, nearly 90,000 educators have either started or completed the course as of March 9…

Teachers agree that improving reading outcomes is important as Texas struggles to meet reading proficiency assessments. In the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” less than one-third of fourth graders performed at or above proficient level and only one-quarter of eight graders performed at or above proficient level.

…As unforgiving as the deadline sounds, there have been a few curious exceptions.

The state has allowed districts to exempt art, health education, music, physical education, speech communication and theater arts or theater teachers if they have what is known as an all-level certification, which allows them to teach early childhood education all the way to 12th grade.

An Association of Texas Professional Educators survey of 975 K-3 teachers and administrators conducted last December, only 11 said they hold an all-level certification in one of the subjects that could be exempt.

In that notice to educators this month, the Texas Education Agency seemed to suggest agency officials will consider ways to keep the Reading Academies course down to 60 hours. Districts may also allow teachers to test out of the course.

And the TEA also informed K-6 teachers who have passed the The Science of Teaching Reading Exam that they do not have to take the Reading Academies course.

Andrea Chevalier, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said the Reading Academies course is well-intentioned. They found that about 65% of teachers surveyed found the content to be valuable.

…In the same survey by Chevalier’s group, nearly half of the educators reported that the course took more than 120 hours to complete. Only 18% said it took between 60 and 80 hours and 95% said they worked after hours or weekends to finish it.

More time for some, but still departures
Jessica Jolliffe, assistant director of humanities at Austin Independent School District, said most teachers in the district are working on the course on their own time, whether it be after school, weekends or winter break. The district did give teachers time on Jan. 4 to just work on the course.

While teachers would rather not do this on their own time, Jolliffe believes the course content has value and can help students with their reading skills.

Disclosure: Association of Texas Professional Educators and University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.