Human capital symposium participants share lessons learned

The time, effort, and communication challenges involved in implementing a human capital management (HCM) system are huge and should not be underestimated. Also, the results are worth the effort. That is the message that symposium attendees heard from six districts that have implemented new human capital systems to support effective teachers.  
HCM is essentially a talent management system that involves ongoing professional development, performance evaluation focused on student learning, and performance-based compensation.

District models

Representatives from Anderson-Shiro CISD, Austin ISD, Lytle ISD, Dallas ISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA), and Houston ISD shared details of their plans and lessons learned at a recent symposium sponsored by the Texas Center for Educator Effectiveness (TxCEE), TASB, and TASPA in late October. Three of the districts (Anderson-Shiro, Lytle, and PSJA) have been working with TxCEE under a federal grant and all are using a similar model. Their systems include collaborative learning leaders and facilitators at every campus, the McRel teacher evaluation model with student learning objectives (SLOs) and value-added growth measures, and the opportunity to earn performance bonuses.
Dallas ISD is in the third year of transitioning to its new system called the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). Houston ISD is in the ninth year of implementing its ASPIRE awards program to reward campuses and educators. Austin ISD plans to replace its former model (REACH) with a system called Professional Pathways for Teachers (PPfT). Austin’s goal is to blend appraisal, professional development, and leadership pathways into a sustainable compensation system for teachers.

Building effective teachers  

In a human capital system, ongoing professional development and performance evaluation go hand in hand. All of the participating districts have implemented a rigorous teacher evaluation model that incorporates student growth measures, similar to the new state model that will be launched statewide later this year. All evaluation models utilize a research-based rubric to record observations of classroom teaching. Where systems differ the most is in the student growth measures selected and the weight given to each.

Performance-based compensation

All of the districts have implemented performance-based compensation but in different ways. Houston and others are paying annual bonuses based on performance while Dallas has completely replaced the traditional, longevity-based salary schedule with a salary plan tied to performance.
The Dallas model has nine salary levels that teachers can progress through based on their performance. Highly effective teachers can improve their salary much faster than under the old salary schedule. Teachers who seek to advance beyond the average market salary level (dubbed Proficient I) must undergo a Distinguished Teacher Review Process (DTR) which is conducted by a district-level team of appraisers including content specialists. Officials stated that the DTR process is an important control strategy to avoid overinflated appraisals and control costs. Dallas is in the first year of a three-year transition to the new compensation plan. Teachers are assured that their salaries will never fall below their base salary in 2014–15 but their future advancement will no longer be based on longevity.  
Anderson-Shiro, Lytle, and PSJA are all using a performance-based compensation system that provides bonuses of up to $2,000 based on evaluation results. Each district’s stakeholders decided how to weigh classroom evaluation and academic growth (classroom and schoolwide) on the overall Teacher Effectiveness Index that determines bonus awards.
Austin is developing new model would advance teacher base salaries by points earned for experience, appraisal results, and professional development. Leadership pathways will allow teachers to pursue areas of interest and earn credentials to become campus and district leaders.

Early results

Officials from all districts, large and small, stressed the importance of planning, piloting, and communicating the move to a new human capital management system because of the challenges inherent in asking educators to make an enormous cultural shift. While making a change of this magnitude requires a lot of work, participants believe it is worth the effort.
Anderson-Shiro Superintendent Sara Goolsby told participants that the support systems for new teachers have helped them to compete with neighboring districts for new teachers. The new focus on student learning objectives and job-embedded coaching and support has resulted in dramatic improvement in student achievement: scores have improved by 50 percent in reading and 20 percent in math as a result of the collaborative learning teams’ focus on student data.
Lytle ISD Superintendent Michelle Smith mentioned that the extra support for developing teachers under the collaborative team model has boosted the district’s reputation and helped administrators with recruiting and retention in the highly competitive San Antonio-area job market.
Austin ISD has been using student learning objectives to measure growth for eight years. As a result, they have built a large database of validated assessments that all teachers can use for pre- and post-assessments of focused learning objectives.
PSJA has locally funded the same model for all 30 of its campuses that were not grant-funded and plans to sustain and improve performance-based compensation districtwide.
Dallas officials have been able to correlate teacher effectiveness data with pay and longevity and the results are impressive after only one year. Officials were surprised to learn that under the old salary schedule, teachers who had the least impact on student learning had been paid the highest average salaries. After only one year of performance-based compensation, that correlation has reversed and the most effective teachers are now paid the highest average salaries.