If you want to get in front of the classroom as soon as possible, it’s important to know when you should take your Texas teacher certification exams.
Not having an accurate picture of what your timeline should look like can put you on the wrong path and delay certification.
Below we’ll give you an idea of what your timeline should look like when pursuing a Texas teacher certification so that you know when you need to take your exams.
TExES (Texas Examination of Educator Standards) content exams qualify teachers for certification in more than 60 specialties and are designed to measure teaching readiness and skills. A TExES test is divided by grade levels or special certification areas such as computer science, health, English language arts, core subjects, mathematics and physical science.
You must take and pass one content exam to earn your intern or probationary certificate, although you can take more than one in a different subject area. Taking an TExES test in more than one content area is an excellent way to open up more job possibilities for you and expand your content knowledge.
When should you take your TExES exam? You must enroll with an alternative teacher certification program BEFORE you take your TExES tests. Once you apply and have been accepted into an educator preparation program (EPP) like ECAP, you must create an account with the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
The TEA is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. To become certified, you must set up a TEA Login (TEAL) registration account that gives you access to your profile located in the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). (Make sure you use your legal first name and last name when setting up an account.)
After completing this step, Texas law requires that you must complete all background checks before you begin your training. As part of a national criminal background check, you will need to complete a fingerprinting process. Applicants must submit fingerprints electronically by using an approved vendor.
Once this is completed, the next step is to begin your training. In Texas, to earn a teaching certificate, you must complete:
A minimum of 300 hours of training to receive a standard teaching certificate.
Of these 300 hours, 30 must be dedicated to observation of a certified teacher in a classroom environment.
ECAP requires that you must first complete 40 hours of training before taking a practice content exam. We tell our interns to aim for a passing score of 270 on the practice tests and concentrate on areas your practice exam results indicate you need further training in so that you are more likely to perform better on the content test.
Once score reporting shows you have achieved a minimum score of 270 on your practice exam, ECAP will give you permission to make your TExES test appointments at the testing center location and take your content exams. Because of this prior approval requirement, dates vary on when you should take your TExES test, but in general, this is the order of events that must occur at ECAP.
You can read more specific information about these steps in our article, 7 Steps To Get Your STEM Teacher Certification.
The Science of Teaching Reading (STR) exam is a newer teacher certification exam that the Texas Education Agency requires. People only have to take this new licensing test if they are seeking certification in the following 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 state of Texas requires that individuals pursuing an intern, probationary or standard certification in one of these areas above to take this teaching reading exam in an effort to improve reading and writing instruction in Texas schools and improve the overall student and teaching experience.
Important note for license renewal: Teachers who are currently standard certified in these fields will NOT have to pass the STR exam for their certificates to be renewed.
According to the preparation manual for this exam, this test focuses on standards that address the practice of teaching early reading. This includes areas that help develop good teachers, like proper teaching techniques, strategies, theories of learning, understanding students and their needs, and incorporating the backgrounds and interests of students into teaching methods.
When should you take the STR? Individuals will take the STR after their TExES test, but before their PPR exams. Individuals will first obtain their intern certificate and begin their internship, and then take the STR before applying for a standard certification. You can read more about this timeline in this TEA document that outlines STR exam timelines and requirements.
The TExES PPR, or Texas Examinations of Educator Standards Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, is one of the most important tests you will take to qualify you to teach in the state of Texas.
The PPR, “is designed to assess whether a test taker has the requisite knowledge and skills that an entry-level educator in this field in Texas public schools must possess,” according to the Texas Education Agency. To obtain your standard certification, you must pass the PPR.
When should you take the PPR? Because the content of this test revolves around the knowledge and skills you will learn through your alternative teacher certification program, you will take the PPR after your training but before applying for your intern certificate. You must also get approval from your educator preparation program (EPP) prior to registering for the exam.
While your intern certificate allows you to complete your required internship in a classroom environment, the state board says you MUST pass the PPR to earn you standard educator certification to teach. This test is held at a test center and focuses on whether you know how to:
Design instruction that promotes student learning
Create a positive, productive classroom environment
Implement effective, responsive instruction and assessment
Fulfill professional roles and responsibilities
When choosing an alternative teacher certification program, consider one that offers preparation for the PPR as part of its curriculum and not as an add-on. The best programs will not only offer preparation materials or preparation manuals, but practice exams with real-time results.
Not everyone who wants to become certified to teach in Texas must take the Tx PACT exams. These tests are only to be used for program admission in the event a candidate does not meet program admission requirements.
According to Texas Administrative Code, those who have a degree but do not meet the requirements below have to take and pass a Tx PACT exam prior to being admitted into a teaching program:
In other words, applicants whose college transcripts do not meet the minimum GPA requirement or do not contain sufficient coursework as outlined above will need to take the Tx PACT in order to qualify for a program. Those who do meet the standards above can be accepted without the Tx PACT exam.
No matter how hard we all prepare and get our ducks in a row, the unexpected can happen. Life happens and timelines can change. Navigating when you should take what exams to earn your certification can be tricky, especially if your timeline suddenly changes.
It’s best to work with a teacher preparation program that has your best interest in mind so that you can make sure you stay on the right track and create a timeline that outlines what exams you should take and when. This process requires a lot of planning in advance, and the right program will work with you to amend your plan should circumstances change.
It’s also important to remember that being prepared for your tests is more than just about a timeline. The right certification program will prepare you for ALL aspects of taking your teacher certification exams, from familiarizing you with the style of exam questions to learning important strategies when studying.
The best alternative teaching certification program will offer exam reviews as part of the curriculum so that you will never miss out on important opportunities to prepare yourself for these required exams to the best of your ability.
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.