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Building Teacher Career Pathways in Texas Schools, Part 2

Teacher's desk with letter blocks, colored pencils, and a stack of books with an apple on top.

Editor's note: This is the final part of a two-part series on teacher career pathways. 

Big Spring ISD All In on MCL Model

In our previous article on this topic, we stated the most popular teacher career pathway model chosen by Texas schools has been the multi-classroom leader (MCL).

The MCL model was used at three elementary campuses in Big Spring ISD last school year. The district was struggling to improve retention and support many beginning teachers. The MCL model has been so successful that the district is expanding it to another elementary campus and adding two more leader positions at the intermediate school.

Sharon Chancy is the districtwide instructional support specialist in Big Spring and her job is to support the classroom leaders. She meets with the leaders monthly and helps them to plan professional development throughout the year. 

The campus-based classroom leaders have two hours of structured planning time with their teams weekly and model at least two classes with each team member during the school year. Each campus uses their MCL in a different way. One campus uses MCLs to lead content teams in math and reading across grades 1 to 4 while another campus uses their MCLs to lead in all content areas for a grade level.

The key to success, according to Chancy, is to select the right leaders and hold them accountable. She explained, “In schools where the leaders were effective and returned in those roles, teacher retention improved and student scores doubled or tripled in growth over the other schools that were not supported in the same way.”  She attributes the improvements in student growth to better lesson planning and professional development from the classroom leaders.

Richardson ISD Builds on Existing Leader Roles

The Richardson (RISD) story began two years ago when the district was struggling with how to reduce teacher turnover. Teachers were surveyed to find out what would entice them to stay. The top issue identified by teachers was more opportunity for growth and recognition. This understanding led to the development of the RISD Teacher Career Pathways Model.

RISD had teacher specialist and teacher leader roles already in place at each campus. All that was missing was the visibility and compensation connection. With no grant money available, new funding had to be carved out of a lean budget which meant starting small. The district is now in the first year of implementation of a more robust and visible teacher career pathway and plans to do more in the future.

The district started by identifying existing teacher leader and specialist roles on all of the campuses and then decided which of those roles warranted additional compensation. Each leader role receives a salary stipend. Teacher leader roles receive variable amounts related to their scope of responsibility. Campus specialists receive $1,000 and district specialists receive $1,500.

The RISD model is illustrated below. The performance recognition piece for regular classroom teacher roles was envisioned before the implementation of T-TESS and have not yet been developed. The district plans to revisit this concept after more data on T-TESS results and student growth measures become available.

Round Rock ISD Fully Integrates the Educator Career Pathway

Round Rock ISD (RRISD) took an approach similar to Richardson ISD, by building a career pathway around leadership roles that already existed in the district. The district had established positions for instructional specialists and instructional coaches at each campus. However, there was no additional compensation attached to these roles other than additional duty days.

The difference is that Round Rock fully integrated the entire base salary structure for all educators and instructional leaders. Instead of adding stipends to a separate teacher salary schedule, RRISD added two new pay ranges for instructional specialists and instructional coaches and built a connected pay range structure from teacher up through campus and district instructional leader jobs.

Teachers who are promoted to a teacher specialist or instructional coach will receive a promotional adjustment in pay just as an administrator would. In the first year of implementation, each job incumbent in the new pay grades 503 and 504 received a larger daily rate increase than regular teachers to position them at a higher pay level.  

In both Richardson and Round Rock, teachers can now see more advancement opportunity connected to the classroom.  Those who just want to be great teachers can aspire to achieve more, be recognized, and compensated more.

Worth Every Penny

Both Richardson and Round Rock ISDs implemented their teacher career pathways without the benefit of state or federal grant money amid tight budgets. In spite of the additional cost involved, their school boards were enthusiastic and supportive of these recommendations.

Dr. Christopher Goodson, assistant superintendent in Richardson ISD, explained, “Once the board understood the reach of teacher leaders and how all teachers would be supported through this program, they fully supported the budget and everything we were trying to do. They understand that this money represents an investment in the development of all of our teachers.”

An effective teacher in the classroom is the most powerful tool we have to promote student learning. Investing in their growth and development should be worth every penny.

For more information on how to build your own teacher career pathways, look out for the next edition of Texas Lone Star Magazine

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