This is the second of three deep dives we will take into the final report from the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force. The recommendations from the report fell into three broad categories:
- Working Conditions
- Training & Support
Last week, we covered topics related to compensation. Today, we will take a closer look at recommendations on working conditions.
Demonstrate Respect and Value for Teacher Time
Just like our Texas Needs Teachers report from last year, the TVTF report identified unsustainable working conditions as the top reason that teachers are leaving the profession. All the planning, paperwork, copying, grading, and parent communication has taken its inevitable toll.
The first of the task force recommendations is for the state to fund a comprehensive teacher time study with the goal of streamlining teachers’ duties. If conducted, the results would be publicly available to inform future policy. While we support a data-driven analysis of this problem, we already know what some of the solutions are. A time study must not be used as an excuse for short-term inaction. Our teachers and counselors need relief from their workloads now. Which is why we support hiring sufficient support staff — and retaining them by paying a respectful wage — so that classroom teachers are not saddled with extra duties unrelated to teaching.
The next recommendation is the development of a technical assistance network to provide support on designing strategic schedules that focus on reducing non-instructional tasks and increasing time for planning, as well as peer-to-peer collaboration and completing required training during the school day.
The last recommendation in this area is for the state to design and support “strategic staffing models.” This strategy is not fully explained in the report, so we will closely monitor future communications on this point.
Ensure Schoolwide Culture and Discipline Supports
The report recognizes that there is a dearth of counselors and other mental health professionals on our campuses and that lack of access to these services is negatively affecting both our teachers and our students. When school counselors are absent, those duties often fall to the classroom teacher, increasing their stress and interfering with academic instruction.
Here’s the thing: The report recommends expanded access to counseling staff and services but does not offer solutions for how it should be accomplished, beyond including these services in a benefits package. We know this is a tough situation as there is also a workforce shortage among mental health providers. Advocates for mental health like the Hogg Foundation and Texans Care for Children are urging the Legislature to appropriate dedicated revenue to mental health and behavioral health supports on public school campuses.
Noticeably absent from the report were some commonsense solutions for which we have continuously advocated such as closing class-size loopholes. Getting class sizes under control will positively affect both teacher workloads and classroom climate. We also firmly oppose any so-called safety measure that would involve more guns on campus.
Next week, we will parse through the last group of recommendations: Training and Support.