Teachers are the biggest in-school factor on student achievement, but many are leaving the classroom in what’s been referred to by master educator Shareefah Mason as a “Great Migration.” Among teachers under 40 who left the profession during the pandemic, the top reason identified for their departure was that the pay was insufficient to merit the stress of the job.
But a new initiative has proven to help mitigate this trend. House Bill 3 (86R) created a pathway to recruit and retain great teachers by paying them significantly more through the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). Under TIA, school districts can employ excellent teachers and pay the very best up to a six-figure salary.
Recruiting and retaining well-prepared teachers is essential for all students to achieve – but the stakes are even higher for students experiencing economic instability and students of color. Generally, these students are more likely to be taught by novice teachers. But through TIA, high-quality, effective teachers from across the state are being financially rewarded for moving to traditionally hard-to-staff, more economically disadvantaged schools to lend their expertise. This is a win for students and teachers alike, and it’s becoming a trend.
For districts large enough to have teachers move between schools, TIA is quickly becoming a key strategy. In fact, 30 of Texas’ 45 large school districts (those that enroll more than 20,0000 students) who serve a majority of students experiencing economic instability are actively in the process of implementing TIA and taking advantage of state funding to do so.
These 30 districts that utilize TIA educate over 27 percent of Texas students and almost 35 percent of Texas’ students experiencing economic disadvantage. In total, that is 1.5 million students – including 1.1 million students living in economic insecurity – who have the benefit of learning from TIA-designated teachers. That’s larger than the total student enrollment of 10 states.
The 15 large school districts who serve a majority of students experiencing economic disadvantage but are not actively implementing a TIA system are leaving behind an estimated $36 million of state funding annually – or roughly $66 per student – that could be used to recruit top teachers.
The benefits of TIA are not limited to large school districts alone. Historically, teachers in rural school districts earn significantly less than their urban counterparts and these small districts may not have the resources to change that. But through TIA, 108 rural school districts are implementing an evaluation system and rewarding exceptional teachers. With this blueprint, many of these schools can now offer salaries comparable to larger school districts and help retain top teachers as a result. Big or small, TIA is helping Texas schools retain, recruit, and reward its best teachers.
The data makes it clear – TIA is an exceedingly common and cost-effective tool to ensure Texas students can learn from the best teachers our state has to offer And for school systems with high populations of students experiencing economic instability, it can be a game changer to ensure even traditionally hard-to-staff schools have access to effective teachers. As the 88th legislative session begins next year, keeping our best teachers in the classroom is more important than ever to ensure Texas students continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.