Leave use at the start of the year

by April Mabry

Q: Can an employee use state leave at the beginning of the school year?

A: State personal leave must be made available for use at the beginning of the school year. Employees cannot be required to earn state leave or work a specific number of days before they can use it. This means that state leave should be available beginning on the first day the employee is required to work for the school year even if the start date is before the first day of the fiscal year.

In Jaworski v. South San Antonio the commissioner held that eligibility for state leave is based solely on status as a district employee, even if an employee is on unpaid leave and that South San Antonio ISD’s practice of requiring an employee to show up to work in order to accrue state leave violated state law. Rather, employees are entitled to five days of state leave if they are employed by the district for the entire school year (Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Decision No. 019-R10-1209 (July 2, 2012)).

However, if the individual is employed after the year begins or leaves the district before it ends, his or her state leave is prorated based on the number of days worked.

A detailed discussion of Jaworski v. South San Antonio is available in the Texas School Law eSource.

Local leave

Districts may choose whether to advance local leave in the same manner as state leave or allow it to be used only as it’s earned. The rate at which employees earn local leave is an administrative issue that should be addressed in procedures or regulations and aligned with local pay practices. Local leave accrual can be based on the payroll schedule, a monthly basis (e.g., one day or set number of hours per month), or on the number of days worked (e.g., one-half day for each 18 days worked). Some districts further clarify in policy that local leave is only earned while in paid status.

Additional information on leave accrual, recording, and use is available in the HR Library and The Administrator’s Guide to Managing Leaves and Absence (available in the TASB Store). Please contact HR Services if you have any questions.


Recruiting and retaining top tech talent

by Tracy Morris

There likely is not a more difficult area to staff in public schools than technology.

Not only is there a need for smooth day-to-day operations, but ultimately the goal is to create learning environments that foster the effective use of technology. Finding employees with the necessary skills isn’t usually the problem—paying them what they’re worth is where the real difficulty lies.

While this may seem like a daunting task, there are some things a school district can do to attract and retain quality tech talent.

Promote the perks

School districts can offer many things not available elsewhere. The 2016–2017 Dice Tech Salary Survey found 40 percent of tech pros anticipated changing employers in 2017. Better working conditions and more responsibility are in the top-three reasons. These are both advantages you can offer. In addition, you can market your ability to provide work-life balance, which is difficult to find when working as a tech professional in the private sector. Be sure to leverage these benefits to applicants and interviewees.

Move quickly and make your best offer

Work to streamline HR processes to offer the best candidate quickly. Top candidates get multiple offers, and you don’t want to lose out on a candidate because your process is too cumbersome and lengthy. Also, be sure you’re making the best offer you can within the district’s pay structure.

Separate pay structure

The market for technology jobs can be more volatile than the market for other jobs. Often, jobs in IT are placed on a clerical or paraprofessional pay plan. This could be limiting your ability to pay higher wages. In large districts, it’s common to see IT jobs paid on their own structure. Having a separate pay structure for technology allows you to respond to the market by making adjustments without inflating the structure for jobs whose market value doesn’t change as significantly from one year to the next.

Pay differently

If you need someone with a specific skill set or certification, pay for it. But, be careful. Make sure the certification is valuable, relevant to the position, and above minimum requirements. Also, be sure you aren’t paying a stipend for something you’d require every candidate to have.

Adjust pay

As the market dictates, adjust the structure and pay for your employees. This is not a “set it and forget it” recipe. It’s important to evaluate your market comparison every year to determine if adjustments are needed to retain and attract the best candidates.

Create career pathways

It’s important to identify and create career pathways. Very few people come into a position saying “this is the job I want forever.” Be sure you’re coaching employees regarding skill sets and specific experience required for advancement. Define what differentiates job levels. Levels should not be used to differentiate based on tenure alone. 

T-TESS—A year in review

by Karen Dooley
The first year of Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) is behind us.

Common questions at the conclusion of the first year include:

  • How did the first year of implementation go?
  • What questions have been posed the most?
  • What changes are occurring for 2017–2018?
Staff at TASB HR Services conducted a roundtable discussion at the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) summer conference that included several districts from around the state. We also had an in-depth conversation with Linda Johnson, who coordinates T-TESS implementation at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), to debrief.

Q: How did the first year of statewide implementation go?

A: Overall, this year has been relatively quiet. This can be attributed in part to many districts participating in the pilot year in 2014–2015 and refinement year in 2015–2016. Another contributing factor was the training provided to staff responsible for conducting the appraisals. For the most part, the process worked as presented in the trainings, so there were no surprises. Staff knew from the beginning the similarities and differences between Professional Development Appraisal System and T-TESS and the increased time T-TESS would take, if implemented with fidelity.

Q: PDAS provided a Teacher in Need of Assistance (TINA) intervention plan for teachers struggling in the classroom. What does an administrator do for the struggling teacher with T-TESS?

A: One of the striking differences in PDAS and T-TESS is the approach to appraising a teacher. The focus of T-TESS is on growth and development. Goals are initially set but are meant to be adjusted based on an individual teacher’s needs. Opportunities for improvement are to be given with evidence provided throughout the appraisal cycle to indicate whether growth is occurring or not. If it is not occurring, a communication trail should be maintained that documents the support provided to the teacher and the expectations that have been communicated. A coaching log is a good example of a tool that may be used to accomplish this.

Ultimately, the appraiser has the option to add and refine goals as needed. The goals for the teacher should be aligned to the teacher’s areas needing improvement which ideally should be developed through a collaborative process, but can be developed through a more directive driven process if the situation warrants.

Q: T-TESS requires far more time to conduct than did PDAS. Are there any changes planned by TEA that will help reduce the amount of time required?

A: Unfortunately, no relief is in sight for the amount of time required to administer T-TESS. This same concern was frequently discussed during the pilot year and the refinement year. Most pilot districts reported the second year was remarkably better. For the most part, this is due to better organizational tactics being used by the appraisers and better understanding of what to expect in year two. Realizing the importance of setting ample time for tasks is key.

Q: Is student growth a requirement for the 2017–2018 school year?

A: Yes, student growth is required for the 2017–2018 school year but may be piloted if a district submits a waiver to TEA. Commissioner Mike Morath sent out a “To the Administrator Addressed” memo on May 10, 2017, on this topic. In the memo, he stated “…all components of T-TESS and the minimum requirements for locally adopted systems currently captured in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 150 remain in place. A student growth measure at the individual teacher level is still a necessary component for both T-TESS and locally adopted systems.”

Originally, four types of growth measures were presented. The commissioner has since clarified that a district may pursue any valid student growth measure they choose. A district may elect a variety of methods to inform the impact of instruction. According to the commissioner, “different districts can choose different approaches, and an individual district can use different methods for different types of teachers or classes.”

If a district chooses to provide a summative rating, student growth must account for 20 percent of the score. If ratings are disaggregated, student growth does not technically have a weight and instead is treated as the 17th dimension.

If chosen as the student growth measure, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) should fit with practices already in place at campuses. Teachers are accustomed to measuring student success and making instructional adjustments when needed. Teachers experience diffculties in varying areas, while others don't struggle at all. TEA is developing a fillable PDF tool that can be used to help administrators schedule time for observations and discussions with staff regarding SLOs. This tool is scheduled to be available mid-August. A variety of resources are currently available through ESCs to help administrators strengthen coaching capacity and build confidence when supporting instruction across content areas. TEA is also working on expanding the resources available for developing and supporting instructional leadership.

Q: Are any adjustments being made to Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS)?

A: Refinement of T-PESS is currently in progress. Revising and improving existing forms to provide more support to principals, as is evident in T-TESS for teachers, is the main focus. Conversations between TEA and district administrators occurred throughout this past school year to determine if the appraisal instrument was working as it was intended. These conversations are being reviewed in this refinement process.

As a reminder, student growth is a required component of the principal evaluation starting with the 2017–2018 school year. The waiver being used for T-TESS does not apply to T-PESS. A half-day or full-day refresher training is being provided by ESCs for navigating student growth. The full-day is recommended for districts who did not fully implement T-PESS during the 2016–2017 school year and the half-day is for those who did.

Scoring of student growth on T-PESS is similar to T-TESS with minor differences. If a district reports the ratings at the indicator level, student growth serves as an additional indicator. If the district reports a single summative rating, student growth must count for a percentage of the overall rating, and that percentage will change over the first few years of the principal’s experience at the campus.

Tying it all together

T-TESS was intended to engage teachers in a cycle of continuous improvement. Collaborative and coaching conversations should take place at the campus level resulting in the ability of a teacher to reflect, self-assess, and adjust instructional practices. The addition of student growth provides another opportunity for feedback to teachers as they impact student learning.

T-PESS provides a structure for principals to identify their professional growth and development needs. The principal’s appraiser is able to provide constructive feedback while nurturing improvement and supporting the principal by identifying performance strengths and gaps. 


HR Extras

Majority of new science educators teach courses outside expertise

A recent survey conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia found nearly two-thirds of new science educators taught at least one course outside their subject area expertise in their first five years in the classroom.
Roughly 40 percent of those teachers taught mostly or entirely outside their field during that period. Additionally, the researchers found out-of-field teaching was more common in rural and urban schools, as well as schools with high numbers of students learning the English language.
The survey was completed by 137 teachers who taught in secondary schools in the Southwest and the Midwest regions of the country. The researchers followed the teachers for the first five years of their careers and tracked the courses they taught, among other details. To view the full survey, visit ResearchGate.net.

Texas ESSA plan public commentary period ends soon

The public commentary period for the draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) consolidated state plan expires next Tuesday, August 29.

According to a press release from the TEA, some of the highlights of the plan include:
  • Alignment of state and federal policies – specifically in the areas of accountability and school improvement.
  • Maximizing flexibility afforded Texas school districts to provide services needed for students.
  • Strengthening the state’s commitment and support for our most vulnerable populations (including migrant, foster care, homeless, and economically disadvantaged students).
  • Reinforcing the state’s commitment to the 60x30 plan (developed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) by aligning long-term academic goals to having 60 percent of students prepared to earn a certificate or degree by the year 2030.
To download the plan and submit ideas and feedback, visit the TEA website. TEA will submit the state’s final plan to the U.S. Department of Education in September.