Building teacher career pathways in Texas schools

by Cindy Clegg

Teaching may be the only professional career in our country without a career pathway. Other professionals generally have opportunities to advance to higher-level positions while continuing to practice their chosen profession—without necessarily changing to a management role. Career pathways provide opportunities for professionals with advanced skills and abilities to do more—and earn more—by taking on more complex work assignments or developing skills in others.

Our public schools are stuck in an egalitarian culture that views all teachers as having the same job value and compensating them according to years of service. To advance their careers in a sustainable way, teachers must generally leave the classroom to become school administrators. And, to the detriment of students, it is often the most talented teachers who are recruited to leave the classroom and move into these administrative roles.

Currently, there is momentum building across the country to develop new career pathways for teachers that will maintain their commitment to the classroom and leverage their talent to train other teachers. In Texas, the need for coaching and developing young teachers is great, with nearly 35 percent of all teachers having five years of experience or fewer[1].

Equally important is the value accrued from bringing recognition and prestige to our best teachers and to the professional image of teaching as a career. The simplistic notion of annual pay for performance schemes based on student test scores will not strategically change teaching, but sustainable career pathways with collaboration and advancement opportunity just might.

Developing teacher leaders

Principals have been asking talented teachers to perform leadership tasks for a long time. But these roles are often short-lived and not compensated. Building a formal career pathway in teaching requires more structure, definition, stability, and compensation. To be genuine and sustainable, teachers should be promoted to a new job description—one that involves enlarged and sustained job responsibilities with defined skills and abilities for which they must qualify.

A national consortium formed in 2011 to explore teacher leadership developed the following model standards to distinguish teacher leadership from administrative leadership[2]:
  • Domain I: Fostering a collaborative culture to support educator development and student learning
  • Domain II: Accessing and using research to improve practice and student learning
  • Domain III: Promoting professional learning for continuous improvement
  • Domain IV: Facilitating improvements in instruction and student learning
  • Domain V: Promoting the use of assessments and data for school and district improvement
  • Domain VI: Improving outreach and collaboration with families and community
  • Domain VII:  Advocating for student learning and the profession

Professional learning communities 

The practice of professional learning communities (PLCs) has opened up a greater need and opportunity for teacher leaders, coaches, and mentors as more teachers work in collaborative teams. A PLC is a group of educators that meet regularly, share expertise, and work collaboratively to improve their practice and their student’s learning.

One such example is the System for Effective Educator Development model (SEED)  being used in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD and Lytle ISD. SEED was developed by the Region 18 ESC[3] Texas Center for Educator Effectiveness (TxCEE).  TxCEE provided the teacher leadership training, collaboration protocols, and other technical assistance to those districts. The SEED model has job descriptions for collaborative learning leaders (CLLs) and collaborative learning facilitators (CLFs). CLLs can lead a campus or a team of teachers to analyze data for development of student learning goals, plan for targeted professional development, observe and evaluate teachers in the classroom, and provide ongoing coaching to teachers. CLFs work under the direction of a CLL to prepare and facilitate materials for weekly team collaboration meetings and provide coaching and modeling in the classroom for other teachers.

Expanding the reach of great teachers

Another popular approach is known as Opportunity Culture (OC), a trademark initiative created by the North Carolina nonprofit group, Public Impact. Their emphasis is to expand the reach of excellent teachers to more students by redesigning job roles for teachers and paraprofessionals. Opportunity Culture models are in various stages of implementation in Big Spring ISD, Dallas ISD, and Harlandale ISD, with technical support provided through the Region 20 Education Service Center. Great teachers are used along with trained paraprofessionals to reach more students through expanded teaching roles such as multi-classroom leaders, elementary specialization teachers, time-technology swap teachers, and remotely located teachers.

The most popular model chosen by Texas schools has been the multi-classroom leader (MCL). The leader teaches while also leading a team of teachers. Through release time and paraprofessional support, the leader plans, coaches, and co-teaches with others and is accountable for the results of all students. Results in North Carolina have shown dramatic growth in student learning in the schools using the OC model compared to schools that have not. [4]

This story is part one of a two-part series. Check out our next issue of the HR Exchange to read the second part. 

[3] Copyright@TxCEE;
[4] Public Impact News Release September 14, 2016.

How to overcome recruiting challenges in rural districts

By Zach DiSchiano

Recruiting quality teachers is a challenge every district faces on an ongoing basis, but the difficulty in doing so is amplified for districts in rural areas of the state.

Rural districts face issues that in many cases scarcely cross the minds of administrators in urban districts. On top of lower-than-average teacher salaries, rural districts face other factors not conducive to their recruiting efforts, including small community size, distance from population concentrations, high teacher turnover, and an economic reliance on volatile agricultural and oil and gas industries.

Teachers leave these areas for several reasons, but feeling isolated springs to the top of the list. Many new teachers arriving at rural districts come into contact with existing faculty social networks that have been in place for decades, leaving new teachers feeling socially and professionally left out.

These roadblocks can seem, at times, impermeable, but there are advantages rural districts can leverage in the courting of quality educators. While the social networks may feel unwelcoming to new hires, many teachers in rural districts report a high level of satisfaction with their work environment, and there are a number of possibilities as to why that is, including:

  • Small class size
  • More individualized instruction
  • Greater autonomy
  • Fewer disciplinary problems
  • Greater teacher influence on decision-making
  • More student and parent participation
  • Higher chance for leadership
  • Less red tape
In addition to selling the many unique benefits of teaching in a rural district, recruiters should target teachers with rural backgrounds, which would eliminate any cultural shock a teacher from a more populous area might experience and increase the chances of retaining that teacher.

Grow-your-own programs are another resourceful way to attract teachers with a greater likelihood of remaining in your district. Not only will homegrown teachers be familiar with your area, but they’ll also have some familiarity with district culture and practices, and will have ties to the community.

Many states are placing an emphasis on grow-your-own strategies in rural areas. One promising tactic involves working with paraprofessional aides already employed by the district to develop their skill set as teachers and eventually transition them into that role.

Rural districts can adopt some of the practices used in successful urban grow-your-own programs to open students’ eyes to the idea of becoming an educator and returning home to teach. We wrote about some of the successful practices districts are using to foster grow-your-own programs in the November 2015 edition of the HR Exchange. These tips are universally applicable, regardless of district size and location.

It is important for rural districts to be active on social media, too. There are those who may doubt the technological savvy of staff in rural districts, but establishing a presence on social media can help to discredit those notions. We have written about the benefits districts get from using digital media platforms in the March 2016 edition of the HR Exchange, and that advice strongly applies to districts in rural communities.

The unique challenges facing rural districts are troublesome but not insurmountable. Starting by targeting teachers with rural backgrounds is the most reliable way to ensure higher retention. But leveraging the numerous benefits of rural schools, like small class size and greater teacher autonomy, can be attractive to prospective educators from all backgrounds, and growing a social media presence will only help your district look more appealing.

Teacher salaries rising, but pay increases flat for 2016‒17

by Troy Bryant

The median Texas teacher average salary rose to $47,283, an increase of 2 percent over last year’s median of $46,450, according to the 2016‒17 TASB Salary Survey. Median teacher salaries have been rising steadily since 2012. In 2011, salaries had dipped because of education funding shortfalls.

The median salary for new Texas teachers is $40,017—43 percent above the starting 2016‒17 state minimum teacher salary. It marks the first time the statewide teacher starting salary has risen above $40,000. Fifty-four percent of responding districts (300) have an entry-level salary of $40,000 or greater, up from 45 percent of districts last year. Fourteen percent of districts have an entry-level salary of $50,000 or more.

For the 2016‒17 school year, average teacher pay increases in Texas dropped slightly from last year, according to results from the annual TASB salary survey of teacher compensation in public schools. In districts that gave raises (including experience-based step increases), the average pay increase for returning teachers was 2.5 percent.


Looking at pay increases by district community type as classified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), districts in independent towns and other central city suburban communities gave teachers the largest average increase (2.7 percent). Rural districts—the largest group in the state—gave a 2.4 percent pay raise on average, while major urban districts provided their teachers with a 2.1 percent raise on average.

Of the teacher shortage stipends surveyed, districts pay math (311 districts) and science (293 districts) stipends most frequently. The highest median stipend amount is in the area of bilingual education ($3,000). In addition, a special education stipend for a self-contained classroom ($2,000) pays $500 more than a general special education stipend ($1,500).

HR Services members can access the full 2016‒17 teacher salary survey data in DataCentral. Use the data to create your own custom comparison reports with the most up-to-date teacher salaries, hiring schedules, teaching shortage stipends and incentives, and more.

For 2016‒17, 560 Texas school districts, representing nearly 90 percent of the estimated total population of teachers in Texas public schools, are reported in the survey data. A summary report (PDF) of the teacher survey results will be available on our website on January 17.


Inside HR Services

Take our latest Health Insurance Premiums survey

Participate in our latest Health Insurance Premiums HR survey covering premiums, contribution amounts, and cost-sharing arrangements. More than 300 districts have already participated. Your district must participate to get the results. Visit DataCentral and go to the HR Data page to take the survey. 

Superintendent total compensation data available; extra-duty stipend data coming soon

It’s the time of year when you may need to review superintendent compensation market data. Remember to visit DataCentral to research the most current data on total compensation including common allowances and benefits in Texas public schools. You can also find the 2016–17 Superintendent Salary Survey report (PDF) in myTASB. Our annual report is the most comprehensive look at current statewide metrics regarding Superintendent compensation and benefits in Texas districts.

New 2016–17 Extra-Duty Stipend Survey data will be available in DataCentral for all HR Services member districts on January 24, 2017. Access the data to create your own custom market reports on more than 70 athletic, academic, and performing arts stipends.

HR Extras

Test your school HR knowledge!

The question below is often a challenge for HR Academy attendees, so we thought we’d pose it to our readers. View the question and choose the correct answer (The answer is at the bottom of HR Extras. No peeking!).

Q. Which employee is NOT eligible for TRS membership?

  1. Bus driver assigned to a twice daily one-hour route
  2. A tutor who works 15 hours a week for 5 months
  3. Full-time nurse
  4. None of the above

New I-9 forms released, districts must comply by January 22

On November 14, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Some of the notable changes include:
  • Section 1 asks for “other last names used” as opposed to “other names used”
  • The addition of prompts to make sure information is correctly entered
  • The capability to enter multiple translators and preparers
  • A specified area for including more information rather than having to add it in the margins
  • A supplemental page for the translator/preparer
Other enhancements to the electronic form were made, including drop-down lists and a calendar for filling in dates, easier access to the full instructions, and the ability to clear the form and start from the beginning. Overall, the form is much easier to complete on a computer.

Districts must begin using the new version of the form by January 22, 2017. Until then, they can continue to use the March 8, 2013 version or use the new version. Updated forms are available on the USCIS Website.

ANSWER: A. If you said “1” you are officially an HR nerd. According to TRS membership requirements (34 TAC §25.1 (e)(1)), if there is no equivalent full-time position of a given position, the minimum number of hours required per week that will qualify the position for TRS membership is 15. In this case, the bus driver only works 10 hours a week, and does not meet the threshold.