High-Quality Prekindergarten Program Teacher Training and Qualifications

by Karen Dooley

During the past few years, Texas has increased its focus on improving prekindergarten programs as a means to improve early reading, math, and social development.

To achieve this, districts must ensure that pre-K teachers meet the state requirements for teacher training and qualifications. Participating in ongoing professional development that provides tools for playful, well-planned, and meaningful instruction in the prekindergarten classroom is also important.

HB 4 was passed in the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature (2015) providing $118 million to fund a High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant program. Six hundred and three districts applied for the grant, 599 were eligible to receive the grant, and 573 accepted and received the grant. Funding for the grant was for one year ending on August 31, 2017.

In 2017, the General Appropriations Act, Article III, Rider 78, was passed by the 85th Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Abbott on June 12, 2017. Rider 78 ensures that state-funded prekindergarten programs implement high-quality programs consistent with the requirements in Texas Education Code (TEC) §29.167–§29.171 and TEC Chapters 41 and 42.

These requirements include the use of a curriculum aligned with the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, increased teacher training and qualifications, implementation of student progress monitoring, program evaluation, and development of a family engagement plan. Not less than 15 percent of the 2018–2019 biennium formula funding should be used to implement these requirements. This amount is estimated to be $236 million statewide. The 15 percent funding is calculated using the existing Foundation School Program (FSP) funds that districts and charter schools generate based on four-year-old prekindergarten Average Daily Attendance (ADA).

Teacher qualifications

According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, a teacher in a high-quality prekindergarten program must be appropriately certified under TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapter B, and have one of the following qualifications:

  1. Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential
  2. Certification offered through a training center accredited by Association Montessori Internationale or through the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education
  3. At least eight years of experience teaching in a nationally accredited child care program
  4. Graduate or undergraduate degree in early childhood education, early childhood special education, or a non-early childhood education undergraduate degree with a documented minimum of 30 hours of coursework in early childhood education
  5. Documented completion of Texas School Ready Training Program (TSR Comprehensive)
  6. Employment as a prekindergarten teacher in a school district or charter that has ensured that:
  1. prior to assignment in a prekindergarten class, teachers who provide prekindergarten instruction have completed at least 150 cumulative hours of documented professional development addressing the 2015 Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines in addition to other relevant topics related to high-quality prekindergarten over a consecutive five-year period;
  2. teachers who have not completed training required in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph prior to assignment in a prekindergarten class shall complete:
  1. the first 30 hours of the 150 cumulative hours of documented professional development before the end of the school year. The professional development shall address topics relevant to high-quality prekindergarten including:
    1. the Revised 2015 Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines,
    2. the use of student progress monitoring results to inform classroom instruction,
    3. improving the prekindergarten classroom environment to enhance student outcomes,
    4. improving the effectiveness of teacher interaction with students as determined by an evaluation tool, and
  2. the additional hours in the subsequent four years in order to continue providing instruction in a high-quality prekindergarten classroom; and
  1. at least half of the hours required by subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of this paragraph shall include experiential learning, practical application, and direct interaction with specialists in early childhood education, mentors, or instructional coaches. (TAC §102.1003 (e))

Resources

A publication on the TEA website, The 2016–17 High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant: The Road to Quality in 10 Texas Districts and Charter Schools, can be used as a guide for school districts as they seek to achieve a high-quality prekindergarten program. This report analyzed ten school districts and charter schools that participated in the High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant program during the 2016–2017 school year. The study was a collaborative effort between the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) at American Institutes for Research and TEA. Education Service Centers (ESCs) 1, 4, 10, 19, and 20 provided support and assistance during the site visit component of the project.

The publication states all levels of employees benefited from increased professional development. The most significant impact was providing professional development geared towards a prekindergarten teacher and not pertaining to older students as had customarily been the practice. A list of types of professional development opportunities provided to the staff from the districts in the study was also provided. These included workshops, webinars, conferences, and one-on-one coaching on a wide range of topics.

Also available to school districts and charter staff is a suite of free web-based teacher professional development tools through the Children’s Learning Institute. Information on resources available to early childhood professionals may be found on the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS) website. The Texas Core Competencies for Administrators and Practitioners also has some key resources including online training modules.

All 20 Texas ESCs provide pre-K-related professional development trainings and workshops. The content covered includes Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, Classroom Instruction, Learning Centers, Classroom Management, Family and Community Engagement, Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD)/Inclusive Classrooms, New Teacher Training, and additional early childhood professional development topics. Training calendars are posted on each of the individual ESC websites.

The Dos and Don’ts of FML

by Patti Ellis

Providing guidance on administering family and medical leave (FML) could get quite lengthy because there are so many possible scenarios, but we've put together a list of dos and don’ts that should help HR staff with some of the more common scenarios.

Preparing for a foreseeable leave

Do:       Plan

Some leaves, such as the birth or adoption of a child or a scheduled medical procedure, allow planning and preparation. You should plan out what work will be completed prior to the start of the leave, what work will remain to be completed by others, and who will take on those responsibilities.

Don’t:   Require additional workload

You may not require a teacher to prepare lesson plans any further in advance than if they were not taking leave.

Communication with employee while on leave

Do:      Communicate

Reasonable, limited contact about work-related matters is permissible during an employee’s leave. You may reach out to obtain updates on the status of the employee’s leave and intent to return, as well as to request institutional knowledge or confirmation of completed assignments. Whenever possible, contact should be scheduled, so as not to interrupt or interfere with the reason for leave. Time worked should not be counted against their FML entitlement.

Don’t:   Require work from home

You may not require an employee on leave to work from home or produce work. If an employee does so voluntarily, remind the employee in writing they shouldn’t be working during their leave.

Notices to employees

Do:      Provide notices even if request is not explicit

Employees are not required to use the term “FML” or explicitly request leave. When an employee expresses a need for extended leave, treat the situation as an FML request.

Don’t:  Forget there are three required notices

Make sure you provide required notices to employees: Employees’ Rights and Responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (e.g., posting), Notice of Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities, and Designation Notice.

Premium payments

Do:       Maintain required payments

Employer payments for health insurance premiums must be maintained during any paid leave and during FML, even if the FML is unpaid.

Don’t:   Be inconsistent with policy

If you pay for benefits beyond FML requirements, make sure it’s in alignment with policies adopted by the board and outlined in Policy CRD (LOCAL). Failure to follow policies can lead to inconsistent practices, which risks claims of favoritism or discrimination.

Certification of healthcare provider

Do:       Ask for a second opinions

You may request an employee obtain a second opinion from a healthcare provider of your choosing not employed by you. The employer would cover costs associated with this request, and until certification is received, the employee would be provisionally entitled to FML.

Don’t:   Ask for additional information

While HR or a leave administrator may contact a healthcare provider to authenticate or clarify the certification, new or additional information must not be requested.

Intermittent leave

Do:       Pay attention to patterns

If you find employees are taking leave in patterns, for example Mondays and Fridays, you can inquire further to verify the medical need for this schedule.

If employees are scheduling medical appointments during these times, you can ask the employee if there is a medical need to receive treatment on the specified day and require verification from the doctor. If no medical need exists, you may ask that the appointments be scheduled after hours or on a different day.

In general, you can’t ask for medical certification for each intermittent absence. However, if the Monday/Friday absence is not because of appointments, but rather the employee’s serious health condition, you can ask for recertification. According to a Department of Labor Opinion Letter, employers may ask for recertification more frequently than every 30 days in cases of a Friday/Monday absence pattern.

Don’t:   Penalize employees for taking leave

Be careful not to count absences protected by FML against an employee or implement a penalty related to absences covered by FML.

Extra-Duty Stipend Survey Results for 2017–2018

by Troy Bryant

According to the 2017–2018 Extra-Duty Stipend survey, 31 percent of responding districts pay a stipend to their high school head football coaches. Across the state, high school head football coaches in Texas receive a median annual stipend of $8,000, an increase of $500 compared to last year. Stipends for football coaches can vary significantly based on the size of the school. Head coaches in UIL Class 1A schools receive $4,500, while Class 6A coaches are paid $15,300 for the duty.

In addition to a stipend, nearly half of these districts (49 percent) pay extra days to high school head football coaches. Districts provide a median of 20 extra days.

The annual survey collects stipend counts, amounts, and number of extra-duty days, as well as information on how districts pay for extracurricular duties. Districts not paying stipends for head football coaches may compensate strictly in salary. Additional data covering salaries for head football coaches can be found in the Other School Employee salary reports in DataCentral.

Similar to last year’s results, most districts (87 percent) assign and pay athletic stipends for each sport coached. Other districts (13 percent) pay a single stipend to compensate a coach for managing multiple athletic assignments. For the purposes of our survey, districts paying a single stipend to a coach for multiple sports were asked to split the amount by each sport.

Payment method for extra-duty days

Regarding the payment method for extracurricular duties, 45 percent of respondents reported they pay only a flat stipend to cover the value of the duty and time. This is nearly unchanged from last year when 44 percent of respondents paid a flat stipend only.

Other respondents indicated they pay a stipend plus extra days, typically at the employee’s daily rate. Less than 10 percent of districts pay a standard flat rate, or pay a combination of standard and daily rates. The median flat daily rate is $200.

New stipends for 2017–2018

The 2017–2018 Extra-Duty Stipend Survey includes nearly 80 extracurricular assignments, covering benchmark athletic, academic, performing arts, and other job-related stipends in Texas schools. New to the survey are these extra-duty assignments:

  • Lead Counselor–High School (123 responding districts)
  • Lead Diagnostician/LSSP/SLP (82 responding districts)

For 2017‒2018, 424 Texas public school districts, representing 41 percent of districts statewide, are included in the survey data. For all data on stipend assignments in the survey, members can access DataCentral. Data can be used to identify general market trends for local planning purposes, but unique variables may affect individual stipend payments in a district.

HR Extras

TASB Risk Management Fund Members’ Conference Coming Soon

The TASB Risk Management Fund will host MemCon18 from May 2-4 at the Hilton Austin. Several sessions will focus on issues relevant to HR staff, including workers’ compensation leave and administration, cybersecurity, unemployment compensation, and more. For a full list of sessions and descriptions, view the Session Descriptions on the MemCon18 website. This conference is a benefit included at no cost to members of any TASB Risk Management Fund program. 

Members of the HR Services staff will have a booth set up at the conference, so please come by and visit us!

To register or find out more information, click here

Survey Reveals 73 Percent of Superintendents Say Schools Inadequately Funded

A recent report from The School Superintendents Association (AASA) found nearly three-quarters of superintendents say their school districts are inadequately funded, and more than 60 percent say they don’t have a way to make up any deficit left by potential federal or state aid cuts in the upcoming school year. Roughly 40 percent of survey respondents anticipate a cut in funding, while 22 percent anticipate an increase.

To read the full report, visit the AASA website.

New USDOL program for FLSA pay corrections

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced yesterday a new pilot program to help employers proactively fix potential overtime and minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program will be a six-month pilot, and no word yet on official launch date, but employers interested in participating can subscribe to WHD news alerts to keep informed. At the end of the pilot, the WHD will review the program’s effectiveness, determine necessary changes, and decide whether to make the program permanent.

The purpose of PAID is to encourage proactive resolution of inadvertent overtime and minimum wage violations by allowing employers to resolve these claims quickly and without litigation. The WHD hopes this will result in increased compliance by employers and will allow employees to receive any back wages they’re owed faster and outside of the courts. All FLSA-covered employers are eligible to participate in the pilot and more information about PAID can be found at the Department of Labor website.

Inside HR Services

Welcome Our New HR Consultant, Chris Lane

Chris joins TASB HR Services after working for the City of Round Rock as the HR Manager, overseeing several functional areas including compensation, HRIS, employee relations, and recruiting. He’s a member of Central Texas Compensation and Benefits Association (CTCBA) and Williamson County HR Management Association. Chris also is a certified HR professional by Society for Human Resources Management and the Human Resources Certification Institution and has an MBA in Management.

School District HR Metrics Available in DataCentral

Get essential HR data on common school district policies and practices in DataCentral. Join hundreds of school districts that have already participated. Most surveys take five minutes or less to complete. Find these HR Surveys in DataCentral:

  • Administrator & Professional Support Contracts
  • CTE Pay Rates
  • Dual Credit Teacher Pay
  • Health Insurance Premiums
  • HR Department Responsibilities
  • Leave Reimbursement
  • Local Leave Benefits
  • Sick Leave Banks & Pools
  • Superintendent Contracts
  • Supplemental Benefits
  • Supplemental Pay Rates
  • Teacher Contracts
  • Teacher Professional Development
  • Teacher Substitutes

Coming Soon: A New Look for the HR Exchange

Be on the lookout next month for some aesthetic and mechanical changes as we transition our HR Exchange format from a newsletter to a blog! We'll have more details for you in mid-March.