A little more than a week after gubernatorial hopeful and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, released part of her educational platform aimed toward increasing the number of teachers and counselors in Texas, graduate students weighed in on the potential impact.
The aim of Davis’ proposal, “Great School: Great Texas,” is to increase the supply of teachers and counselors in Texas schools through university admissions and financial incentives. If implemented, the top 20 percent of high school juniors — if they commit to pursuing a teaching career — would be guaranteed automatic admission to any Texas public university. The proposal would also establish a policy by which one year of loan debt would be forgiven per two years of teaching.
Several details about the plan are largely vague, and Drew Anderson, the Davis campaign’s regional press secretary, declined to answer specific questions about implementing the proposal despite several request for comment.
Kyle Williams, educational psychology graduate student, said she thinks personal characteristics like patience and creativity are more important considerations of what make an effective teacher.
“I think the 20-percent rule will attract smart people to the teaching profession, but that’s not always the key thing,” Williams said. “Most of the teachers I know do the job because teaching is their calling, not necessarily for the incentives, although those are very helpful.”
Under the top-10-percent rule, 76.6 percent of all enrolled freshmen from Texas high schools admitted to UT were admitted, according to a fall 2013 enrollment analysis conducted by the University.
Kay Randall, communications coordinator for the College of Education, said between 85 and 90 percent of students who complete the college’s teacher education programs become teachers. Ninety percent of this group find teaching positions immediately after graduation.
Williams said she thinks Davis’ proposal could increase the number of people looking for teaching positions in Texas but said the measure is different from educating and attracting quality teachers.
“I think that [financial and admission bonuses] would make a great incentive and would be effective in attracting teachers, but, again, part of the issue is attracting students who will make good teachers, not just students who are getting teacher certified as a ‘back up,’ as I often hear it,” Williams said.
Andrew Costigan, educational psychology graduate student, said he agrees with Davis’ idea to increase the number of school counselors. Costigan is a co-director for the Consortium for Research in Teachers Education, a student organization that aims to promote teacher-education research.
Costigan said Davis’ plan to raise teacher pay may increase the appeal and status of teachers in society.
“Teachers are notoriously underpaid and their job is extremely difficult and raising their pay will show that it’s an important job,” Costigan said.
Costigan said he thinks the proposal is a good idea in general, but is concerned that some students may take advantage of the relatively lenient admission policy into the College of Education.
“How do you account for people who try to take advantage of the loophole?” Costigan said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”