Envisioning a better way to pay teachers

Teaching is the only profession that has a single salary schedule for what is hoped to be a lifelong career; where salary growth is based solely on career longevity without regard for distinctions in knowledge, skills, or roles and responsibilities.
There are better ways to pay our teachers—with or without pay for performance—by paying more for what matters most. Conversations about teacher pay reform often tout the need to pay for performance, while traditionalists argue that all we need is to raise teacher salaries across the board. Neither of these ideas will be enough to address the fundamental imbalance between what we need for the future versus how we continue to pay our teachers.

The need is urgent

While we continue to wait for plentiful funding for our public schools and the perfect evaluation model, our teachers are walking away from the game. The Texas student population has grown by nearly 10 percent over five years and the number of new teachers becoming certified dropped by 25 percent during the same period. Add the declining teacher production to the estimated 40 to 50 percent of new teachers that drop out within five years and the need for change becomes urgent. Who will teach our children? What will we have to offer to make teaching a viable career choice for college-bound students?

Texas Initial Teaching Certificates, All Sources, 
2007 to 2013

Source: Texas Education Agency

The answers to those questions must include a different pay strategy that values what we need in our teaching workforce and accepts the realities of market supply and demand. And that strategy, by definition, means giving up the antiquated salary schedule tied to years of service. Young people today look at a traditional teacher salary schedule and see a system that will offer them nothing but a long-winded schedule of one or two percent pay raises for 30 or 40 years and no opportunity to advance their career as a teacher.

Envisioning a better way

There are at least five pay strategies that we can and should use to improve the way we pay our teachers. These strategies could develop teaching as a career opportunity while improving teacher talent.     
1. Advance teacher pay sooner. Most of the research on teacher development and experience concludes that a significant portion of a teacher’s development occurs early on, in the first five years; or, at most, 10 years. After that, the differences in teaching talent correlate most strongly with intangible personal factors like passion, compassion, content knowledge, and effort. And yet we persist in dragging out the time it takes for new teachers to earn a decent salary. Salary step schedules widen the pay gap for teachers by experience far beyond any rational correlation.
Other professionals reach their peak earning potential at a younger age than teachers. After that point, salaries advance more slowly, generally related to cost-of-living or individual performance. Why don’t we intentionally advance teacher salaries to the market average teacher salary by the time they are fully developed and effective?
The study Smart Money by the National Center for Teacher Quality showed that doctors and lawyers typically reach their peak earning potential by age 42 and then level off. Teachers do not reach their peak earnings until age 55. A similar study by The New Teacher Project compared the salary growth trajectory between biologists and biology teachers in Chicago. Results showed that the sharpest growth in income for the biologists occurred between two and six years of experience, while teachers had no period of accelerated salary growth. Teacher pay merely plods along a fixed step schedule for each year of service.
Other base pay systems are designed to move most employees to a salary level that equates to the average pay in the external job market; i.e. the “market rate” for the job. A model that would advance teacher pay to market value in the time it takes to develop a fully effective teacher is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Advancing Pay to Market in Five Years

Beginning salary $40,000
Year 1 $42,000
Year 2 $44,000
Year 3 $46,000
Year 4 $48,000
Year 5 $50,000

Considering the fact that half of all new teachers drop out of the profession within five years and teachers can be equally effective after five years, the argument to advance teacher pay sooner makes more sense.
2. Pay more for the job and less for longevity. A market pay strategy defines job value as the going rate that other employers pay for similar work. Some employees may be paid more or less than the market rate for experience, but only within a range of 10 to 15 percent. The concept of equal pay for equal work means all employees are paid a fair salary for what they do.
By contrast, the difference between a teacher salary schedule based on longevity and a market pay strategy is that salary schedules give more weight to an employee’s years of service than to the value of the work they are doing. A market pay strategy will compress the range of pay for a job while longevity schedules spread the pay range. More teachers would fare better with a market-based pay strategy.  

3. Create career pathways for teachers. There is plenty that needs to be done to coach, mentor, and evaluate teachers better than most schools do today. Principals cannot do this work alone. Career pathways would provide greater earning opportunity for talented teachers who choose to take on greater responsibilities and teaching challenges, while continuing to work directly with students and teachers.
Developing teacher leaders with new roles and higher pay ranges could also help address the growing principal attrition rate, which is alarming. About one quarter of all principals leave their school at the end of the year and 50 percent of new principals leave the profession by their third year. The growth in the job demands of principals is unlikely to ease up, so districts need to find other capable leaders to assist.  
Figure 3 shows an illustration of how a teacher career pathway could be designed to combine teaching talent with leadership and higher salary opportunity. We must create new opportunity for leadership growth and development to make teaching a more viable lifelong career for talented teachers.

Teacher Career Pathway

Teacher Coach/Evaluator Works with teachers to observe and evaluate $65,000 to $75,000
Master Teacher Highly effective; model teacher; additional leadership roles $60,000 to $70,000
Consulting Teacher Content expert; additional leadership roles $55,000 to $60,000
Professional Teacher Fully effective; competitive market pay range $50,000 to $55,000
Developing Teacher Three to five years $45,000 to $50,000

4. Pay STEM teachers more. Does an elementary PE teacher really have the same market value as a high school algebra teacher? We may feel emotionally that all teachers have the same value, but their knowledge base certainly does not have the same value in the job market.
College graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math are worth a whole lot more in the job market than we give credit to in the way we pay teachers. That has led to the critical and growing shortage of qualified STEM teachers in our public schools. In Texas, we had 2,200 fewer teachers earning STEM certificates in 2013 than we had in 2008, all while student growth demands more teachers. More districts have begun to pay stipends for STEM teachers, but the average stipend is still only $2,500, about five percent of the average teacher’s salary. It is not enough.
The following chart shows the real difference in earnings for STEM majors who choose occupations other than teaching.

A sampling of six different STEM career fields compared to Texas teachers showed average starting pay 43 percent higher and mid-career (15 years of experience) salaries more than 200 percent higher than teaching. Granted, teachers are not in it for the money. But with income opportunities this disparate and our growing shortage of STEM teachers, it makes sense to recognize the difference in market value of a STEM degree and pay those teachers on a higher pay range. Perhaps if people could see the higher pay opportunity in a STEM teaching career, we could attract more teachers or other career professionals to pursue STEM teaching certificates.
5. Reward our most talented teachers more. Of all the ideas put forth to reform the way we pay teachers, pay for performance is certainly the most controversial. But no discussion is complete without considering pay for performance because all teachers are not equally dedicated or talented. The added value of a highly effective teacher cannot be overstated. Research has shown that teachers in the top 20 percent of performance generate five to six more months of student learning each year than low-performing teachers. Our best teachers should earn greater rewards.
While we debate the best methods to evaluate teaching, we continue to make progress toward a better way to gauge teacher effectiveness. What is irrefutable is the fact that better evaluation of teachers will require more time spent with teachers, more and better trained evaluators, and more rigorous standards, including consideration of student growth measures. And teacher evaluation discussions bring us back around to the need for career pathways for teacher leaders.  
The time is coming soon when we will have better tools to identify our most effective teachers. When that time comes, will we continue to give “across-the-board” pay raises to all? Or will we use our pay raise budgets to advance the salaries of our best teachers faster? Most performance pay systems for teachers today use bonuses because most are still funded by grants. But the ultimate goal to reward and retain excellent teachers calls for a sustainable model that will accelerate salary growth for the most talented.

The next generation 

What will the next generation of teachers be like? Will we have enough? Will they have the knowledge and skills they need to prepare the next generation of students? Will public schools be able to compete with more nonpublic schools for the best teachers? The world is changing and the answers lie in our ability to change and adapt accordingly. The way that we pay our young teachers today and future teachers tomorrow will impact who joins and who stays in teaching for public schools.
Our teacher compensation strategies need to be part of that adaptation. By advancing pay for developing teachers sooner; by employing market pay strategies that value work over longevity; by recognizing the higher market value of STEM teachers; by creating more career pathways for talented teacher leaders; and by accelerating salary growth for our best teachers, perhaps we can turn the tide and attract a new generation of the teachers we need.

Implementation of revised FML definition of spouse delayed

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) final regulations that define “spouse” according to the state where the marriage took place became effective on the national level on March 27, 2015. This “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights regardless of whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes the marriage. 
On March 26, the federal court granted the Texas Attorney General’s office request for preliminary injunction against enforcement of the regulations in Texas. This means that for now, the new definition does not apply to school district employees.
The new regulations follow the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for purposes of federal law. In 2013, DOL announced an interpretation of the definition of spouse to include same-sex marriages for FML purposes, but only if the employee resided in a state that recognized same-sex marriage. Because of the injunction, this continues to be the standard for Texas school districts. As a result, only the few districts with employees that reside in New Mexico and Oklahoma and commute to Texas are currently required to provide FML for same-sex spouses.
The new FML regulations, effective March 27, 2015, for states other than Texas, allow eligible employees to:
  • Take FML to care for their lawfully married same-sex spouse with a serious health condition
  • Take qualifying exigency leave due to their same-sex spouse’s covered military service
  • Take military caregiver leave for their same-sex spouse
  • Take FML to care for the child of their same-sex spouse (i.e., stepchild) regardless of whether the employee meets the in loco parentis requirement of providing day-to-day care or financial support
  • Take FML to care for a stepparent who is a same-sex spouse of the employee’s parent, regardless of whether the stepparent ever stood in loco parentis to the employee
Information on same-sex marriage and other employment issues is available in the TASB School Law eSource paper, “Same Sex Marriage and School District Employees.” Additional information including the text of the final FMLA rules is available on the DOL Website. Changes to Policy DECA (LEGAL) will be made in Update 103, which is expected to be sent to districts in August and September.

Melva Cárdenas retires after more than five years at TASPA

Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) Executive Director Melva Cárdenas has announced her 

retirement effective June 30, 2015. Her career includes time worked as a teacher, principal, and HR director in Midland ISD and Round Rock ISD. She retired from public schools in 2008. She then went to work as the director of educator certification at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) until 2010. She’s been TASPA’s executive director since leaving TEA.
Cárdenas is especially proud of the work done to improve communication with members during her tenure. The association sends weekly e-mails to keep members informed about news that affects them, posts news on its Website, and serves as a resource when members call with questions.
She is also proud that the association has been able to attract new members. There were about 650 TASPA members when she joined the organization. Member numbers peaked in 2014 at 965.
Other accomplishments during her tenure include advocacy and communication with members during legislative sessions. TASPA doesn’t lobby legislators but does track and respond to bills that would have an impact on school HR administrators and their ability to do their jobs. TASPA also informs members when new TEA rules and requirements are enacted and has bolstered the association’s relationship with TEA to ensure that HR administrators are represented on various stakeholder committees.
The association has been able to offer more professional development opportunities for school HR administrators, increasing both the training topics and expanding the number of locations.
TASB HR Services Director Cindy Clegg notes that TASPA has benefitted across the board from Cárdenas’ leadership. “I have worked with Melva for more than 30 years and have tremendous respect for her wisdom, professionalism, and inclusive style. She will be a huge loss to the HR family. The partnership between TASB and TASPA has grown stronger because of her and we will work to continue that with her successor,” Clegg said.

Keeping up with HR, Cárdenas

Cárdenas noted that in her time in education, the job of HR administrator has evolved from a focus on recruiting, hiring, and retention to much more than that. “We wear many different hats. Depending on the size of the district, an HR administrator is involved with benefits, compensation, No Child Left Behind, and sometimes wellness or risk management. There are just more things to be aware of,” Cárdenas said.
The biggest challenge school HR administrators face in the coming years is school finance. “That’s going to be a huge issue because it will have an overriding effect on staffing. We went through a lot of staffing cuts a few years ago when [the Legislature] cut the budget,” Cárdenas noted, adding that those cuts may be making it harder to find teachers now, particularly in shortage areas. “More and more people seem to be going into other professions, and that’s not good for education,” Cárdenas said.
Cárdenas said the TASPA board will begin interviewing executive director candidates in April with the intent of hiring someone early enough to provide some overlap time.
So what does Cárdenas have planned for retirement? “Nothing specific. That’s kind of a good thing and kind of a scary thing. But I am hoping to continue contributing to education in some way on a part-time basis,” Cárdenas said.

Survey: sick leave banks and pools in Texas school districts

When implementing a sick leave bank or sick leave pool, organizations establish procedures outlining donation arrangements, eligibility, and limits of the leave. Our latest survey looks at the practices of Texas school districts.

For the purposes of our survey, we define the terms as follows:

  • Sick leave bank—a sick leave bank is a collection of leave days available to employees who donate to it. Eligible employees must apply to use donated days after their own leave is exhausted.
  • Sick leave pool—a sick leave pool is a collection of leave days donated for a particular employee who has exhausted his or her own leave. Pools are created as needed for an employee who requires extended leave.
Across the state, 37 percent of district respondents have a policy for a sick leave pool, while 32 percent provide a sick leave bank. More than a quarter of responding districts (27 percent) have neither. The remaining districts (4 percent) have both.

Sick leave pools

In districts that have sick leave pools, most (75 percent) provide days to employees for absences due to their own illness or to care for an immediate family member. In about half (49 percent), employees may donate local leave only, while 38 percent of districts allow the donation of both local and state leave.
In terms of donating days to sick leave pools, nearly all districts (91 percent) place limits on the number of days employees can donate: two days (38 percent), three days (23 percent), or five days (21 percent).
We also asked respondents to report the maximum number of days an employee is allowed to draw from the pool in a school year. Thirty days was the median. Employees are eligible for the sick leave pool even if they are receiving income replacement, such as disability insurance payments and workers’ compensation Temporary Income Benefits (TIBs), according to 77 percent of respondents. 

Sick leave banks

In districts that provide sick leave banks, a majority (69 percent) provide days to employees for absences due to their own illness or to care for an immediate family member. In most districts (76 percent), employees can donate only local leave, while 18 percent allow the donation of both local and state leave.
To join a sick leave bank, employees in more than half of districts (58 percent) must donate at least one day; in 27 percent of districts they must donate at least two days. Employee requests to access days are typically approved by employee committees, according to the survey.
Nearly all districts (89 percent) place a limit on the number of days employees can draw from the bank. Similar to sick leave pools, employees can draw a maximum of 30 days (median) from a bank on an annual basis; 75 days (median) is the maximum allowed over a lifetime.
For more information regarding sick leave banks and pools, see our Q&A feature in the April 2014 issue of HR Exchange.
TASB HR Services surveyed 942 public school member districts in February 2015. For our summary findings, 314 districts (or 33 percent of our members) across all TEA-defined enrollment groupings responded to the survey. HR Services member districts can still take part in the survey by visiting HR Surveys in DataCentral. Results are available for download immediately upon completion of the survey.

For the most part, Millennials want the same things as other employees

Employers have some mostly fictitious beliefs about younger workers (age 21 to 34) that a new IBM study has recently debunked.
For example, you’ve probably read that Millennials are more likely to quit a job that doesn’t fulfill their passions, or that they have different career goals and expectations than older workers, or that they want constant acclaim for their work.
The study concludes that most of those assertions are false. For the most part, millennials have the same attitudes about their careers, employee engagement, leadership styles, and recognition as their Generation X (age 35 to 49) and Baby Boomer (age 50 to 60) counterparts. The one distinction between Millennials and others is their digital proficiency.
IBM did the study because Millennials will make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020. “Our clients are interested in what they need to do to attract and retain Millennials, and since there was so much buzz about what Millennials want or don’t want in the workplace, we decided it was time to do our own primary research,” said Carolyn Baird, the IBM Institute’s global research leader.
The study busted five common myths:

  • Millennials’ career goals and expectations aren’t significantly different than older workers’. They desire financial security and seniority as much as older workers.
  • Millennials do not want constant acclaim or a boss who solicits their views. They want a manager who is ethical, fair, and values transparency and dependability. Gen Xers are just as likely to want a pat on the back, and Baby Boomers are more likely to want a boss who solicits their views.
  • Millennials are not digital addicts who want to do and share everything online, with no sense of boundaries. The report notes that Millennials are adept at online interaction but do set limits on what they will share. They prefer training that involves personal interaction.
  • Millennials aren’t indecisive. They are no more likely than their older counterparts to solicit advice at work, but more than half say they make better decisions when a variety of people weigh in.
  • Millennials tend to change jobs for the same reasons Gen Xers and Baby Boomers do: to move up in their careers or to follow their aspirations. Millennials care as much as older workers about getting ahead.
The study recommends that employers that want to hire and retain Millennials and older workers focus on their employees as individuals and foster a collaborative culture to encourage the contribution of new ideas.
IBM conducted the survey of nearly 1,800 employees of various generations from organizations of all sizes across 12 countries and compared the preferences of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers.

HR Extras

TEA to distribute principal surveys to collect data on Texas teacher prep programs

In early March, TEA announced that it will soon distribute its annual survey for campus principals to gather information on the performance of first-year teachers and how well prepared they were for the classroom.
Campus principals who have first-year teachers on their campuses are required to complete the survey. TEA will post training modules for superintendents, human resources staff, and principals on its Website to ensure that principals know how to complete and submit the surveys.
The surveys will be available in the Educator Certification Online System. Principals can earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits for completing them. Survey collection begins on April 7, 2015, with a final deadline of June 15, 2015.

Houston ISD teachers, staff earn nearly $22 million in ASPIRE awards 

In February, Houston ISD paid nearly $22 million in performance bonuses to teachers, principals, and other staff for student academic gains in 2013‒14. The bonuses are part of the district’s Accelerating Student Progress, Increasing Results and Expectations (ASPIRE) Program. More than half of the eligible staff (5,771 people) received a bonus.
Teachers of core subjects were eligible to receive bonuses ranging from $500 to $13,000 and the mean average bonus paid was $4,924. Teachers of noncore subjects were eligible to receive bonuses ranging from $250 to $3,000 and the mean average bonus paid was $1,785. Principals were eligible for bonuses ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 and the mean average bonus paid was $8,250. Teaching assistants, instructional support staff, and operational staff are also eligible for bonuses.
ASPIRE uses a proprietary value-added methodology to determine the amount of bonuses each eligible participant receives.

New research refutes long-held belief that U.S. teachers spend more time teaching

A new study finds U.S. teachers spend more time leading classes than their peers in other countries, but not by nearly as much as previously thought. According to the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University Teachers College, research shows:
  • Primary teachers (grades K-6) spend 12 percent more time
  • Lower-secondary teachers (grades 7-9) spend 14 percent more time
  • Upper-secondary teachers (grades 10-12) spend 11 percent more time
It is a stark difference from the past notion that public school teachers in the U.S. spend 50 percent to 73 percent more time on instruction than their global counterparts.
Samuel Abrams, the author of the study, found that the erroneous data was due to how it was collected by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) and reported to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Abrams said that until the issues are corrected it can distort a comparative analysis of staffing practices between the U.S and other OECD nations. NCES and the OECD are seeking to address the problem. 

New federal contractor rule doesn’t require update of federal poster

We’ve received inquiries about a new rule prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, school administrators have inquired as to whether our federal worksite poster will be updated to reflect the change, with goes into effect in April 2015.
Because the requirement only applies to federal contractors—not school districts—our posters will not be updated to reflect this change. Our posters are typically updated when new required notices pertain to school districts.

Inside HR Services

Take part in our projected 2015‒16 pay raise poll and supplemental pay rates survey

Our popular annual survey of projected pay raises is coming your way soon. Be sure to participate to find out how much Texas school districts expect to increase pay in 2015‒16. Look for the online survey from HR Services in your e-mail inbox on April 8. All participants will receive the results following the conclusion of the survey. Highlights will be reported in the May issue of HR Exchange.
We’ll also be sending out invitations for our Supplemental Pay Rates survey in DataCentral. The survey covers supplemental teacher pay rates, summer school rates for campus-level professionals, and substitute pay rates for non-teachers (e.g., bus drivers). Invitations to the survey will be sent to our program contacts on April 21.

2015 Model Employee Handbook will be posted in May

The 2015 Model Employee Handbook will be released online in mid-May. This update will be completed before the close of the current legislative session. There may be bills that will require additional changes to the text of the MEH and your district employee handbook prior to the start of the 2015–16 school year. These changes will be incorporated into the online handbook by mid-July.
Notice of the release of updates will be posted to our home page and an e-mail will be sent to our program contacts.

Keeping up with bills that might affect HR operations

There are several ways for district staff to keep up with the bills filed, heard, and passed by the 84th Texas Legislature. TASB Governmental Relations provides information on important legislative issues in Legislative Update. During the session, Legislative Update is e-mailed to subscribers daily. Sign up for updates to be delivered to your in-box on the Governmental Relations Website.

Bills filed that are related to human resources and personnel functions are posted on the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) Website. Additional information is added as new bills are filed and as the Legislature takes action.

The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Billtracker is an online resource that allows users to look up bills by number or topic. Also available is a full list of bills being tracked by TASA with a detailed summary.

The final option is to go directly to the source—the Texas Legislature Online Bill Lookup page. This site allows users to view all the details of bills, including text and history.

HR Services will include information on legislation related to HR in Texas school in the June/July or August issue of the HR Exchange. Updates to publications and the HR Library will be made as soon as possible. 

Q&A: Learn how to deal with a National Medical Support Notice

Q: What is a National Medical Support Notice and how do we respond?
A: A National Medical Support Notice enforces a child support order for a noncustodial parent who is required to provide health care coverage through an employer group health plan. These notices are issued by the Texas Attorney General to districts to enforce a medical support obligation.
The district must confirm the employee’s eligibility for health insurance coverage and complete the notice. If the employee is eligible, the notice must be forwarded to the plan administrator within 20 business days of its receipt. If the employee is not eligible for insurance coverage, the district has 20 business days to complete and return the notice to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
Employees subject to medical support orders are required to enroll their child or children in the district’s health plan even if they claim that the child is covered under CHIP, Medicaid, or another health plan. If they fail to do so, the plan administrator is required to comply with the order and enroll the child or children in the plan. Should an employee refuse to sign the benefit election form, the district must send the forms to the OAG for authorization to enroll the child.
Once enrolled, the district is required to withhold the associated employee health insurance contributions up to any statutory limits set by state or federal law.
The district is also required to notify the OAG if the employee loses eligibility for the district’s health insurance (e.g., loses coverage for failure to pay premiums during an unpaid absence).
Detailed guidance on complying with medical support requirements is available in the form of frequently asked questions on the Texas Attorney General’s Website and from the U.S. Department of Labor.