ESSA and highly qualified standards

by April Mabry

Q: Does the Every Student Succeeds Act require newly hired paraprofessionals to be highly qualified?

A: The term “highly qualified” was repealed with the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. In its place, ESSA requires teachers and paraprofessionals to be certified and licensed according to each state’s standards. However, within the text of ESSA is a list of various assurances the state educational agency (SEA)—the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in our case—must make in its state plan when the agency submits it to the federal department of education. Submission and ultimate approval of the state plan determines eligibility for the receipt of federal education funds.

One of the assurances affects how school districts can hire certain paraprofessionals. Each state plan must include an assurance that the state has professional standards for paraprofessionals working in a Title I, Part A program, including qualifications that were in place the day before December 10, 2015. According to Tim Regal, TEA’s Director of Instructional Leadership, this means the previous highly qualified standards for paraprofessionals working in Title I, Part A programs will remain in place.

Regal provided us with the following guidance:

“Although the term ‘highly qualified’ was repealed with ESSA, the state must ensure paraprofessionals who are working in any type of Title I, Part A program and who are providing instructional support meet the previous No Child Left Behind standards of one of the following:

1) Completion of two years of higher education, generally defined as 48 semester credit hours;

2) An associate’s (or higher) degree; or

3) Knowledge and ability to assist in instruction of reading or reading readiness, writing or writing readiness, and math or math readiness, as demonstrated through a formal state or local assessment. In terms of the assessment, many Education Service Centers (ESCs) throughout the state provide opportunities for individuals to take an assessment that can be used for this purpose. A local assessment could be designed, but it should be valid, reliable, and a record of the individual’s performance must be documented in some capacity.”

Questions regarding paraprofessionals and highly qualified requirements should be directed to the TEA Division of Educator Initiatives (

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.

Impact of DACA repeal on district staffing

by April Mabry
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) workers currently holding valid work permits may not be eligible for continued employment when the permit expires.
On September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a six-month phase out of the DACA program. Districts have asked if repeal of the program will have an immediate impact on their workforce, which could include teachers and other employees who received work permits through the program.
The repeal does not mean that DACA benefits will be immediately revoked. Employees will be authorized to work as long as their employment authorization documents (EADs) or work permit are valid.
Employees with an EAD or work permit were eligible for various reasons. Those authorized through DACA will be indistinguishable from other employees. From an employer’s perspective, any employee with an expiring document should be treated the same and will be subject to reauthorization of the Form I-9.

Reauthorization process

Employees with work eligibility documentation that expires must renew the documents and present the new documents to the district. This requirement does not apply to an expired U.S. passport or passport card, Permanent Resident Card, or a List B document that has expired. The district must review the new documents and complete the updating and reverification section of Form I-9 (Section 3). If the revision date on the original Form I-9 has expired, the district should complete Section 3 of a current form and attach it to the original.
Reverification and updating of information must occur before the EAD expiration date. Therefore, employers should have a system in place to track the expiration date of employees’ documents. It is recommended that employees be provided advance notice to allow them time to renew the authorization before the expiration date to avoid a lapse in employment. If an individual fails to present valid documentation, they will no longer be able to be employed. 

Going forward

DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, under specific parameters. Only DACA renewal requests received by October 5, 2017, from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 will be adjudicated. Additional information on the process is available on the DHS website.

HR Services also has additional information available in the HR Library topic Immigration Law

HR Extras

Proposed changes to Local Schedule SD

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is working on an update to Local Schedule SD: Records of Public School Districts based on changes in law or questions and suggested revisions TSLAC received from local governments since the last schedule update in 2011.

TSLAC will present a draft to its Commission at a meeting later in the year to initiate the Local Schedule approval process, but is seeking feedback before the official update process begins. TSLAC would like initial comments submitted by September 22 to Sarah Jacobson, Manager, Records Management Assistance, Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711; by fax to 512-936-2306; or by email to However, TSLAC said a second comment period will be provided later this year. 

A draft of updates to Local Schedule SD is available on the TSLAC website

Texas Education Human Resources Day is right around the corner

Governor Greg Abbott has declared Tuesday, October 10, 2017, Texas Education Human Resources Day (TEHRD). This is the eighth year school district leaders and the public have been encouraged to acknowledge the hard work of all human resources department staff.

TASB HR Services has emailed customizable certificates of appreciation and a sample board resolution to superintendents, superintendent secretaries, and district public relations staff in an effort to help district leaders honor their HR departments. We’ve also posted the certificate and board resolution online, along with the Governor’s proclamation.

The Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) spearheaded the effort to set aside one day each year to recognize the contributions of school HR departments.