If you haven’t taken the exams required for an intern certificate yet, you may be missing out on an opportunity to get into a classroom sooner than you may think.
School districts are expecting another year of teacher shortages, thanks to increased demand and new laws that require educators to pass the appropriate exams before they can apply for an internship.
Enrollment in Texas public schools increased nearly 9% between the 2010-11 and 2020-21 school years. According to the Texas Education Agency, enrollments of certain groups grew as well. The percentage of students who identify as English learners grew from nearly 17% to 21% during that same time period. The percentage of students served in special education programs also grew from 10.7% in 2019-20 to 11.3% in 2020-21.
However, before candidates can apply for teaching internships, they must take and pass at least one content exam in the area or grade level that they wish to teach. You may also have to pass the Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam as well, depending on which area you are seeking certification.
If you’re enrolled in an educator preparation program, it’s important to put yourself in a position where you can take advantage of any opportunities that come your way. That includes taking your required exams when you are eligible so that you can get to the front of the classroom as soon as possible. Here are a few things to know to help ensure you’re ready.
What Content and STR Exams Measure
TExES content exams qualify teachers for certification in more than 60 specialties. Content exams are divided by grade levels or special certification areas such as special education.
While you must take and pass one content exam to earn your intern or probationary certificate, you can take more than one. This allows you to choose different tests that complement your skill sets and may make you more marketable to potential employers. These tests measure teaching readiness and skills, as well as the expertise in the area you wish to teach.
Another testing requirement you must meet before you earn your intern certificate is the Texas teaching reading exam, known as the Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam. Passage of this exam became a requirement beginning Jan. 1, 2021, and is mandated IF you are seeking certification in one of these areas:
Early Childhood: EC - Grade 3
Core Subjects with Science of Teaching Reading: Early Childhood - Grade 6
Core Subjects with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4-8
English Language Arts and Reading with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4-8
English Language Arts and Reading/Social Studies with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4-8
The STR is designed to help improve the instruction of reading and writing. It stems from House Bill 3, which requires that any candidate who wishes to teach Pre-K through grade 6 “must demonstrate proficiency in the science of teaching reading on a new, standalone certification examination.”
Where These Exams Fall In Your Timeline
To take your content exams or the STR, you must be enrolled in an approved teacher training program. At ECAP, here is what a typical timeline looks like:
Apply and be accepted into ECAP.
Establish an account with the TEA, which is the agency through which you will apply for any certificates and complete all required background checks.
Complete 40 hours of training and take a practice content exam. Aim for a score of 270 and concentrate on areas your practice exam results indicate you need further training in.
Take your content exams. Once you score a 270 on your practice exam, ECAP will give you permission to take your content exams.
Take the STR after your content test.
Receive a statement of eligibility from ECAP and apply for an intern certificate.
After you receive a statement of eligibility from ECAP, you can begin the hunt for an internship and take full advantage of job fairs and other opportunities that come your way.
Why An Internship Is An Important Part Of Training
Teaching internships provide invaluable experience in the classroom. They provide the work experience needed to see your training in action while serving as an opportunity to develop leadership skills. The more experience you have, the more of a competitive advantage you’ll have as you pursue your career as well.
Your teaching experience as an intern is also an important component to a full circle approach to learning. To earn certification in Texas, an individual must complete 300 hours of training, all appropriate testing and student teaching experience.
All three are essential for success. A teacher preparation program that allows you to work on these components simultaneously can offer you a more efficient learning experience.
Think of it this way … an intern’s journey includes three teaching rings: training, testing and teaching. As an individual moves closer to completing each ring’s requirements, the ring will close. However, these rings do not need to close one at a time, or consecutively. They instead close simultaneously as one aspect of training will help another.
Taking advantage of your student teaching opportunities sooner will help you take this comprehensive approach to learning … providing a greater understanding of how everything you learn impacts all aspects of teaching.
Your Program Can Help
It can be challenging to know when to take what exam to make sure your timeline stays on track. The best alternative teacher certification programs will work with you to not only develop an individualized timeline, but also provide you with the resources you need to be successful.
These resources include help with staying on your timeline, test preparation for your teacher certification exams and access to training advisers who will work with you to ensure you are an effective and dynamic teacher for your students.
It’s also important to remember that you are your biggest advocate. Just like Napoleon Hill said, “Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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