Texas Gets a ‘B’ in USA Today’s Teacher Misconduct Tracking Probe

TEA testing
Image: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price

Texas scored a grade of “B” in USA Today’s year-long investigation exposing how states fared in tracking teacher misconduct. The states were graded on conducting teacher background checks, maintaining discipline tracking systems, and sharing information to prevent problematic educators from returning to classrooms if they crossed state lines.

The Lone Star State got high marks for strong state-level teacher background checks, and for its mandatory reporting of educator misconduct. However, Texas scored lower on transparency of online information, and in sharing that information with other states, according to the report. The report also found 1,400 cases nationally where teachers permanently lost their licenses, of which at least 200 were for sexual misconduct or physical abuse. Yet, these cases were not listed in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Clearinghouse database.

NASDTEC is a  subscription-based clearinghouse participated in voluntarily by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), according to spokewoman Debbie Ratcliffe. She told Breitbart Texas NASDTEC is a helpful tool as a “back-up system.” She said the TEA uses it to check the backgrounds of teachers or administrators who move to Texas after certification in another state. Other states can also look up Texas educators in it.

Inappropriate educator conduct is a serious and growing concern nationwide. In Texas, the number of reported misconduct cases investigated by the TEA increased for the seventh year in a row in 2015. It is so pervasive a problem that the Texas Senate Education Committee recently held a hearing to assess the role of social media in fostering improper teacher-student relationships to come up with policy solutions to present to the 85th Legislature in 2017.

USA Today noted hundreds of Texas educators faced serious disciplinary actions but their names never ended up on NASDTEC’s list. Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas by email, those names were not shared by researchers with TEA for further investigation. Instead, Ratcliffe said the agency netted about two dozen educators not entered into the NASDTEC system by working with USA Today affiliated media partners San Antonio’s KENS 5 and Dallas’ WFAA 8.

“It is true that through the USA Today investigation, we found about two dozen educators who had not been entered into the system as they should have been. That has been corrected,” she stated.

A handful that did not make it into the NASDTEC system came out of San Antonio’s Northside ISD between 2009-13. According to KENS 5, these teachers still work for the district. Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas these accounted for six educators, three of whom she said were previously reported in a timely manner into NASDTEC and three which had not been reported. Once brought to their attention, TEA updated its records.

Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas that TEA improved their procedures even prior to the USA Today probe. “Now one employee enters the sanction information into NASDTEC and another employee follows behind and double checks the work for accuracy and completeness.” She said TEA’s goal is to enter every publicly sanctioned Texas educator in that database but expressed the challenge that “some other states only enter educators who have committed certain types of crimes or don’t enter any information into the system.”

One case Ratcliffe called “perplexing” in the news outlet’s investigation was that of former Texas middle school math teacher Stanley Kendall. In 2008, he was fired and lost his teaching license after being caught allegedly trying to meet an underaged boy on the NBC reality series To Catch A Predator. Later, he resurfaced as a substitute teacher in Indiana.

“We entered his revocation into NASDTEC in early June 2008. The revocation also shows up on our Certificate Lookup (virtual certificate) system. In 2014, Indiana revoked his license after he worked as a substitute teacher up there. We don’t know how they missed the Texas revocation,” she told Breitbart Texas.

Ratcliffe also explained when someone seeks a Texas educator’s certification, they undergo a criminal history background check. Those results are entered into a Department of Public Safety (DPS) database tied to an FBI database. She said, “When a district is considering hiring someone, they can access this DPS database. “If they employ the person, the district and we get a report if this person is ever charged with anything.”

While USA Today focused on the NASDTEC system, sanctioned Texas teacher data is listed on a virtual certificate on the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) website. It is available to the public 24 hours a day. The TEA posts a roster on their site.

USA Today pointed out that problematic teachers account for less than 1 percent of the 3 million-plus teachers nationwide. Similarly, TEA previously told Breitbart Texas the state’s more than 334,000 public school teachers comprise the overwhelming majority of teachers who behave in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Besides Texas, Arizona, California, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Washington state got B grades. Only seven states received an A, 13 got a C, and more than 20 states received a D or F grade.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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