Strategic Staffing: Part 2—Teachers

March 05, 2021 • Cheryl Hoover

Strategic Staffing: Part 2—Teachers

The second part of our strategic staffing series focuses on teacher positions, which can be compared to peer district data, the state average, and TASB recommended benchmarks.

Benefits of strategic teacher staffing

There are many benefits of strategic teacher staffing, including the ability for entities to:

  • Obtain a clear picture of current staffing and allocations
  • Identify opportunities to avoid or reduce costs
  • Eliminate staffing through negotiating with campus principals
  • Empower campus principals in the process
  • Use objective standards for decision-making
  • Forecast long-range personnel costs leading to more efficient budgeting
  • Ensure administrative efficiency and instructional focus

Staffing considerations

Strategic Staffing: Part 1 provided guidance for identifying peer districts using TASB HRDataSource™. Reports are available to provide a big picture view of teacher staffing by furnishing the total number of teachers per district.

Peer district comparisons also can be performed using two reports found on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website: Staff FTE Counts and Salary Reports and Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). According to these reports, the state staffing average for teachers is 66.1 teachers per 1,000 students. Recommended student-to-teacher ratios from TASB HR Services are:

  • 22:1 for kindergarten through grade four (elementary class sizes average 19.5 to 20.5)
  • 25:1 for grade five
  • 22:1 to 24:1 for grade six through eight
  • 22:1 to 25:1 for grades nine through 12

Strategic teacher staffing starts with having an accurate view of current staffing allocations. It’s important to analyze your district’s patterns and trends, evaluate student enrollment and demographic projections, and set guidelines for student-to-teacher ratios as well as standards for minimum class sizes based on enrollment changes.

Analyzing student needs is critical to provide the appropriate support for all students in the district. The district must staff special services (e.g., ESL, dyslexia, special education) to meet specific student needs. The special services staffing allocations may not fall within the general teacher staffing ratios depending on type of program offered (e.g., inclusion versus pull-out).

Identification and implementation of district initiatives and programs can also impact staffing allocations and needs. The skill set and number of staff may differ based on the importance of the program for a specific district.

Employees with a unique skill or single certification may restrict a district’s ability to achieve goals within current staffing allocations. Staff trained to provide a variety of services or holding multiple certifications provide a district with flexibility to make changes more easily without impacting programs or students. Districts can build staff capacity by providing professional growth opportunities to increase knowledge and skills.

Elementary teacher staffing

Texas Education Code (TEC) § 25.112 states a school district may not enroll more than 22 students in a kindergarten through fourth grade classroom. If a classroom exceeds the 22:1 ratio for more than a twelve-week period, the school district must file a class size waiver for that grade level. District of Innovation (DOI) districts may have flexibility if an exception is included in their DOI plan.

Projections for elementary teacher staffing for the upcoming year can be calculated based on the current enrollment aging up students in grades one through four. Analyzing historical enrollment trends can provide the data necessary to determine a percentage increase or decrease to apply to projected enrollment or whether no adjustment is needed because enrollment is stable.

In the example below, a two percent increase in enrollment has been applied. Even with this increase, the absorption/reduction of five teachers would bring the district closer to a 22:1 ratio in grades Pre-K through grade four and a 25:1 ratio in grade five.

Teacher Staffing

Secondary teacher staffing

No legislation mandates a staffing ratio for grades five through 12. The type of master schedule, program offerings, and class averages will predominantly drive staffing needs.

The master schedule and allocation of instructional personnel should reflect a school district’s values, priorities, and strategic goals. However, there is limited evidence showing a particular type of master schedule has a greater impact on student achievement.. More important factors include the presence of a skilled and highly committed teacher and a principal who is a skilled instructional leader and sets improved teaching and learning as the school’s highest priority.

There are many options for secondary master scheduling including, A/B block, accelerated block, traditional, and modified block. The traditional schedule is the simplest in terms of staffing assignments, master schedule development, and lunch scheduling. In contrast, block scheduling requires more teacher full-time equivalents (FTEs) with little impact on student learning.

The type of secondary master schedule impacts class size averages and the daily student load for each teacher. An eight-period versus a seven-period schedule provides an opportunity for students to take an additional elective and should offer smaller class sizes on average compared to a seven-period day. However, the additional period increases the teacher’s student load.

The class size average is easily calculated by dividing the number of seats taken by the number of sections available (e.g., 1,600 seats/80 sections = 20). Another method to evaluate class size averages is using the theoretical average. It represents the most efficient utilization of current staff and is based on the assumption that all available periods are utilized by current teaching staff given the student enrollment and master schedule in place. The theoretical average is calculated by multiplying the number of students by the master schedule factor (i.e., student periods/number of periods taught) and dividing by the number of teacher FTEs. An 8/6 master schedule results in a factor of 1.33 (8/6=1.33). An 8/7 master schedule has a factor of 1.14 (8/7=1.14).

Below is a sample calculation of the theoretical average for a high school:

The campus has 510 students and 30 teachers, with an 8/6 master schedule.

  • 510 (# of students) X 1.33 (factor) = 678.3
  • 678.3/30 FTEs = 22.6

The theoretical average for this high school is 22.6 students per class.

Adjustments can be made to the class size average or the master schedule using this same formula. The example below increases the class size average from 22.6 to 25.0 students per class.

  • 510 (# of students) X 1.33 (factor) = 678.3
  • 678.3/25.0 (proposed class size average) = 27.1 FTEs
  • 30 FTEs - 27.1 FTEs = 2.9 FTEs

Cost savings are calculated based on an average teacher salary of $50,000.

  • $50,000 X 2.9 FTEs = $145,000 (savings)

In a second example, the master schedule is changed from an 8/6 to an 8/7 (students take eight classes and teachers teach seven classes) using the original theoretical average (22.6).

  • 510 (# of students) X 1.14 (factor) = 581.4
  • 581.4/22.6 (theoretical average) = 25.7 FTEs
  • 30 FTEs - 25.7 FTEs = 4.3 FTEs
  • $50,000 X 4.3 FTEs = $215,000 (savings)

Adjusting the type of master schedule and/or increasing the class size average at the secondary campuses can have a significant impact on staffing allocations and personnel costs.

Attrition

Absorbing teachers through attrition (as vacancies occur) is an effective way to reduce personnel costs at elementary and secondary campuses. Before posting a vacant position, evaluate the need for the position and explore options for providing the service within existing allocations.

Reducing FTEs through attrition is much easier than conducting a Reduction in Force (RIF). The HRX article Planning for Reducing Personnel Costs outlines various options and strategies available to reduce personnel costs.

Moving forward

Strategically planning for the future will help districts stay ahead of their staffing needs. Developing and using staffing ratios and understanding how the secondary master schedule affects staffing can help HR and campus administrators with planning and implementation of an efficient and effective teacher staffing model.

The next article in our strategic staffing series focuses on auxiliary staff who support child nutrition, custodial, maintenance, and transportation services in a school district.


Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl.hoover@tasb.org.


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Tagged: HR, Staffing