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TEA places UNT educator preparation program on probation for second year in row

A University of North Texas alumni pin and a College of Education button are worn by a new graduate. The college, which prepares many teachers for nearby school districts, has been placed on probation by the Texas Education Agency for the second consecutive year.
Smiley N. Pool
/
Dallas Morning News file photo
A University of North Texas alumni pin and a College of Education button are worn by a new graduate. The college, which prepares many teachers for nearby school districts, has been placed on probation by the Texas Education Agency for the second consecutive year.

The Texas Education Agency has placed the University of North Texas’ educator preparation program on probation for the second consecutive year.

According to the TEA’s accountability system for teaching certification, a program can be put on probation “if the [program] accumulates less that 80% of the possible points in the Accountability System for Educator Preparation Index system” — that is, if too many students fail their exams. A program can also earn probation status by violating state certification rules or the Texas Education Code’s certification statutes.

Ruthanne Thompson, the interim dean of the UNT College of Education, said the probation came as a result of candidate performance.

“At this time, college and university officials are working with the TEA to resolve the matter,” Thompson said in a statement to the Denton Record-Chronicle. “The accreditation process is meant to improve the state’s education programs. They informed us of areas of needed improvement and have provided input on our plans and we are using this opportunity to improve teacher preparedness in support of the growing workforce needs of our region and state. We do expect to be back in compliance after this year’s review.”

The TEA accreditation dashboard didn’t indicate if UNT was deficient in content areas, such as math or language arts, or if it had violated state education certification board rules or the Texas Education Code. Thompson and university communications officials didn’t reply to a question regarding what deficiencies caused the probation, or other questions regarding the number of candidates who graduated with certifications during the 2023-24 school year.

Thompson also said the college focused resources on the probation, as well as meeting with students.

“We are committed to supporting our students’ success and have taken several steps to bolster and align their educational experience,” she said. “Furthermore, we are committed to providing administrative resources such as an accreditation officer for the college who was hired this spring. In addition, during the spring, I held open meetings with students where we discussed what they believe they need in addition to their coursework. They asked for additional support in certification preparation and we have held several study groups to meet the needs of this request. Our future is positive, and I am committed to growing the college and the teacher education program.”

The TEA can place a university’s credentials on probation for a number of reasons. When TEA finds deficiencies in educator preparation programs, it can change the program’s status to “accredited-warned,” and then “accredited-probation.” If a program is on probation for three years in a row, TEA can revoke its accreditation. TEA can revoke credentials after a year if the State Board for Educator Certification determines that a revocation is necessary.

UNT’s probation could be a looming problem for the region’s rapidly growing school districts. The top five districts that hire fresh Mean Green teachers are close by: Frisco ISD, Lewisville ISD, Denton ISD, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and Plano ISD.

If TEA revokes a program’s accreditation, it can’t admit new students, but students who enrolled and began their studies before revocation can complete their training and get certified by the program. A program that loses its accreditation can’t apply for approval as a new educator preparation program for two years. TEA and other accredited programs can help candidates complete their training, according to the Texas Administrative Code.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Lucinda Breeding-Gonzales | Denton Record-Chronicle