The Texas Teacher Workforce Challenge

July 15, 2022 |

Dr. Cathy Horn from the University of Houston participates in a panel discussion on The Texas Teacher Workforce with JoLisa Hoover from Raise Your Hand Texas on June 30, 2022.
Dr. Cathy Horn from the University of Houston participates in a panel discussion on The Texas Teacher Workforce with JoLisa Hoover from Raise Your Hand Texas on June 30, 2022.

On June 30, Raise Your Hand Texas hosted the second event in its Across the Lawn event series. The Texas Teacher Workforce presentation and panel discussion featured Dr. Cathy Horn from the University of Houston, presenting research on issues facing the future of the teaching profession in the state and practical implications of the situation on the ground in our public schools. Dr. Horn’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Raise Your Hand Texas Teacher Specialist JoLisa Hoover and included Allison Ponce, a dual language curriculum specialist from Leander ISD, and Thea Ulrich, the director of the Raising Texas Teachers program from the Charles Butt Foundation.

The in-person audience included legislative staff members, lobbyists, and some former teachers, and the online event had more than 350 virtual registrants.

Dr. Horn, a third-generation educator herself who serves as the Moores Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Houston’s College of Education, expressed great concern for the future of Texas’ teaching profession and our country because an educated populace is at the heart of American politics and prosperity. Her research found that teachers must feel they are making an impact and are heard.

“What we have learned is at the core of our state’s and country’s future is our having our best and brightest teachers getting into the classroom and feeling successful,” Horn said.

Dr. Cathy Horn presents research during the Across the Lawn: The Texas Teacher Workforce Challenge event on June 30 at Raise Your Hand Texas.
Dr. Cathy Horn presents research during the Across the Lawn: The Texas Teacher Workforce Challenge event on June 30 at Raise Your Hand Texas.

Knowing the economic future of our state and country is at stake if the teaching profession cannot retain and recruit educators should be a clarion call to our legislators and administrators to examine the data. Understanding why teachers are leaving the profession, where teachers are most effective, and who could be most hindered by a teacher shortage in the future is key to keeping quality teachers in the classroom.

More than 5.4 million students are in Texas public schools, and among them approximately 60% are considered economically disadvantaged. Therefore, not having an experienced, quality teacher in the classroom disproportionately impacts these children and the potential for their families to elevate their economic status. Dr. Horn’s research provides an opportunity to understand the challenges all of our students and families bring, especially in spaces where there are concentrated systemic challenges for their educational journey.

Investing in Teachers

Horn closed her presentation speaking about the passion teachers bring to the classroom. It is a career many choose because of the work needed to be done in educating our children, molding them into lifelong learners, and helping them find their own passions and interests to blaze their own trail.

“Anybody who has been a teacher will tell you, ‘no teacher I have ever met is driven by money.’ It is a profession that has a different motivation for entry,” Horn said. “That said, the importance of recognizing and investing in the value of teaching as a critical profession and have it represented through a competitive salary structure to allow teachers to live their best lives is not being represented in the historical data in this state.”

In fact, the average base salary for a teacher in Texas has dropped approximately 1% since 2011. During an era that has seen economies boom and costs rise, first-year teachers are making less than they did 10 years ago.

While teachers do not enter the field for money, they certainly appear to be leaving due to it.

Not only have base salaries dropped, so have wage premiums for experienced teachers. Teachers can work in the same district for years and see only a slight salary increase over their tenure.

When taking the preparedness of teachers on their first day, the salary trends in the industry, and the amount of teachers leaving all into account, the research is available to administrators and policy makers with the information and tools they need to put effective policies in place that ensure the success of our students and the livelihood of teachers because as Horn said, “Great teaching matters and having a great teacher in every classroom matters.”

According to research from Dr. Horn, the average base pay of teachers has declined since 2011.
According to research from Dr. Horn, the average base pay of teachers has declined since 2011.
Data shows teachers are receiving lower wage premiums for each year of experience now than they were in 2011.

Much of the panel discussion following Dr. Horn’s presentation focused on teachers’ salaries and the workplace environment. For many teachers, the traditional American dream is not within reach because they cannot purchase a home in their district.

“We’re trying to elevate the status of the teaching profession. This is a profession and a career,” Ulrich said. “The number of teachers that work two jobs would blow your mind. We can’t undercount the importance of having that livable wage.”

Thea Ulrich speaks during the Across the Lawn: The Texas Teacher Workforce Challenge event on June 30 at Raise Your Hand Texas.

More Teachers of Color in Classroom

One trend moving in a positive direction is an increase of teachers of color at the front of classrooms. Texas has seen a large increase in Black and Hispanic teachers since the 2010-11 academic year, which also reflects the changing population in Texas.

While this is a bright spot, the state still remains understaffed overall and first-year teachers are leaving in droves. More than half of first year teachers in Texas left the field following the 2019-20 school year, according to Horn’s research.

Preparation Matters

Horn also hit on how teachers certified in the more traditional pathway of earning teacher certification through a 4-year college program appear to have more rigorous training as opposed to alternative certificate programs. Teachers trained in quality preparation programs achieve better student outcomes, rank higher on principal evaluations, and remain in the field longer than those trained in ineffective programs. Unfortunately, the majority of Texas teachers are trained in alternative certification programs

“We do see programs that have greater success than others, but as a general well-documented outcome, our university-based education providers are delivering the best in-class preparation,” Horn said. “Are we ensuring that our teachers are getting the kinds of experiences they need to enter the classroom Day 1 ready? From that we must ask, are all students benefiting from that?”

A link to Dr. Horn’s presentation is below along with a link to register for an on-demand viewing of the entire Across the Lawn: The Texas Teacher Workforce presentation and discussion.

If you’d like to attend a future Across the Lawn event, please email Max Rombado, policy research associate for Raise Your Hand Texas, at [email protected]. He will add you to the invite list.

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