September 2017, Vol. 2

The state of staffing in school districts

by Zach Hobbs

For years, we have heard about the ongoing shortage of teachers in public schools.
 
Districts often struggle to find teachers for hard-to-fill positions such as secondary math and science, foreign language, and bilingual education. In some regions of the state, the pool of highly qualified applicants is extremely shallow.
 
Based on the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) data available through the Texas Education Agency (TEA), student enrollment in public schools has increased by approximately 5.6 percent during the past five years (2012–2013 to 2016–2017 school years). During this same time period, districts have increased teaching staff by 7.7 percent and all personnel by 9.8 percent. Despite the reports of teacher shortages, why have we seen a larger increase in personnel compared to student enrollment?
 
There are multiple changes taking place that may affect the state of staffing in public schools today. 

The student population is changing

The number of bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) students has increased by 19.6 percent during the past five years. Similarly, the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students has increased by 16.9 percent. Meeting the specific needs of these students requires staff with the skill set to provide appropriate instruction. These students also may require more teacher interaction, leading to a smaller student-to-teacher ratio, resulting in a need for additional staff.
 
The change in teaching staff within different departments as reported on the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) supports this, showing an increase in the number of bilingual and ESL teachers from the 2012–2013 to 2015–2016 school years of 18.5 percent.

Student needs are changing

Beginning with the 2014–2015 school year, the requirements of House Bill 5, passed in the 83rd Legislative Session, along with the demands for students with career and technical skills, have led to an increased focus in the area of career and technical education (CTE). To comply with Texas Education Code (TEC) §28.025, districts have increased the number of CTE teachers. There has been a 13.8 percent increase in CTE teachers from the 2012–2013 to 2015–2016 school years. In addition, the number of counselors has increased by 12 percent in response to the increased demands.
 
There were 36,000 more students receiving special education services in 2016-2017 than in 2012-2013. This equates to an 8.3 percent increase in a five-year period. This is slightly above the overall growth in student enrollment for the same time period, resulting in a larger percentage of the student population receiving special education services. The percentage of overall students receiving special education services has grown from 8.7 percent of the student population in 2012–2013 to 8.9 percent in 2016–2017.

There has been a significant increase in the number of students identified with autism and intellectual disability over the same time period. The number of students identified with a primary disability of autism has grown from approximately 41,200 students to almost 59,000—a 43 percent increase. In addition, the number of students identified with an intellectual disability has grown by 31 percent from 38,000 students to almost 50,000 students statewide.
 
The increase in the number of staff for special education services corresponds with the change in the student population. The number of Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, Occupational Therapist, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, and Speech-Language Pathologist positions have all increased by at least 20 percent during the past five years. 

Districts’ needs are changing

With the increased use of technology in the classroom, districts must provide the appropriate level of technology support. In addition, the increased demand for improving school and community relations has led districts to look at ways to support this initiative.
 
Staff reported in PEIMS as Other Campus Professional Personnel have increased by 30.5 percent from the 2012–2013 to 2015–2016 school year. These positions may include campus information technology staff, instructional support staff, parent liaisons, and volunteer coordinators. 

Teachers’ needs are changing

Retention of teachers is a growing concern. There has been a slight increase in teacher turnover rate from 15.3 percent in 2012–2013 to 16.5 percent in 2015–2016 based on the TAPR for each school year.
 
Personnel identified as teacher appraiser or teacher facilitator both increased by more than 50 percent. These positions assist with teacher evaluations and serve as academic coaches to classroom teachers. They also can assist with improving teacher retention and serve as mentors to new teachers. 

Other staff changes

Other significant changes in staff include an increase in the number of paraprofessional staff and administrative staff—approximately 10 percent during the five-year period.
 
Significant changes in the number of administrative staff from the 2012–2013 school year to the 2016–2017 school year include the following:
  • Assistant Principal has grown by 16.5 percent
  • Director of Human Resources has grown by 39.5 percent
  • Director of Instructional Program has grown by 20 percent
 
Despite an effort by districts to provide adequate staff to meet student needs, there is still a struggle to balance adequate teacher support and administrative staffing. Because of a rapidly changing educational environment, districts must examine the unique needs of their student population and determine how staffing supports the district’s mission and vision as well as the district’s strategic plan. When hiring new staff and considering proper utilization of current staff, districts should develop a process and framework for determining staffing implications and action plans to ensure qualified people are in the proper place at the right time to properly serve students.