If you are enrolled in an educator preparation program (EPP) or thinking of earning your teaching certificate in the state of Texas, the new year has brought new testing requirements that you need to know about now.
In an effort to improve reading and writing instruction, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is requiring interns pursuing a teaching certification to take and pass a Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam.
Here’s what you need to know about this new exam and what it means for your path toward a career in the classroom.
The Push Behind This New Test
In 2019, Texas passed House Bill 3 that included several favorable components for teachers, including a salary boost that went into effect for the 2019-20 school year. The bill also emphasized improving the instruction of reading and writing.
To accomplish this, HB3 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.”
In response, the TEA has implemented an additional exam that teaching interns must take before earning a teaching certificate that focuses on fulfilling these requirements.
Who Must Take The STR
This new testing requirement went into effect Jan. 1, 2021 for anyone who has NOT yet become certified and is seeking certification in one or more than one of the following subject 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
According to the TEA, this exam is required in order to be issued an intern, probationary and standard certification for any of the above certification fields. However, teachers who are currently standard certified in these fields will NOT have to pass the STR exam for their certificates to be renewed.
What The STR Exam Will Cover
According to the preparation manualfor the 293 STR TExES, this test focuses on standards that address the practice of teaching early reading. This includes areas like proper teaching techniques, strategies, theories of learning, understanding students and their needs, and incorporating backgrounds and interests of students into teaching methods.
The exam also covers knowledge of Reading Development Components, including:
Oral language development
Print awareness and alphabet knowledge
Phonological and phonemic awareness
Phonics (decoding and encoding)
Syllabication and morphemic analysis
Comprehension of literary text
Comprehension of informational text
Beginning strategies and reading comprehension skills
A Reading Pedagogy component will focus on having test takers demonstrate an understanding of the principles of reading instruction and assessment. Questions will focus on topics such as measuring student progress in early reading development, creating developmentally appropriate instruction and using background information to create more engagement among students.
How The STR Will Be Scored
To support the transition to this required examination, any intern who takes the STR now through August will receive either a “Pass” or “Fail” score. In other words, individuals taking the exam will only need to meet a minimum cut score to earn a passing grade.
However, beginning Sept. 6, the TEA will establish a scaled score. A scaled score tends to take into account the difficulty of a question when generating a score. Results from the exam will include a “Pass/Fail notation” as well as the scaled score, according to the TEA. More information is expected to be released about what the scale scored score will entail.
A Changing Timeline
It can be challenging to navigate what you must accomplish when working toward a teacher certificate … and when you must accomplish it. It is important to work with your alternative teacher certification program when applying and throughout your training to ensure you are on the right track.
A high-quality program like ECAP should have your best interest in mind and should work to secure your future as a teacher by helping you establish an individual timeline. Ensuring you have all the resources you need to be successful is essential to navigating this changing field.
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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