Texas State Board of Education looks to improve teacher retention rates

Hemphill Elementary School third grade teacher Natalie Martinez-Esparza reading to her students. (KXAN Photo)
Hemphill Elementary School third grade teacher Natalie Martinez-Esparza reading to her students. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tonesha Holland has learned a lesson from teaching the last 13 years.

“You have to truly understand you’re making a difference whether your students appreciate it every day,” she said.

The Hutto High School English department chair knows the career isn’t easy and that’s a common feeling educators can have, she said.

“I think that there’s this old adage that teaching is a thankless profession,” she said. “It’s not a profession where you get daily accolades for what you do.”

Holland says she often reminds herself that she has an impact in helping students academically, socially and emotionally and remembers why she entered this profession.

“That has to be your motivator and I don’t think that’s always necessarily communicated to teachers – new teachers, novice teachers directly coming out of college,” she said.

The Texas State Board of Education is currently working on crafting a new Long-Range Plan for Public Education, which is supposed to establish a list of goals for the state’s public schools through 2030. It’s required by state law.

Member Tom Maynard says it’s an “intentional and reflective look at education.”

“Perhaps provide a long-range blueprint moving forward that could be part of some legislative priorities and maybe some policy,” he said.

Maynard said one of the early discussions has been over parental empowerment. “I think that all the data indicates to us that when parents are engaged, that the students do better,” he said.

Another critical piece will be teacher recruitment and retention. The Texas Education Agency says right now, there’s an annual teacher turnover rate of 16 percent.

“We do not only need people to deliver content, but also to deliver mentorship to students and also be role models,” he said.

There’s currently a steering committee meeting in Austin during this school year and the board is hosting community gatherings to get public input from local school districts and families.

Maynard said some districts are already taking action on their own to address the issue of teacher turnover.

“With the scarcity of teachers, I think it’s provided a lot more incentive for administrators to mentor teachers and to try to make the teachers they have work,” he said.

“I have been a mentor teacher for a student teacher, to have a student teacher sit in my classroom for a semester and definitely try to give him a really good look at what he was going to have to do when he got into the classroom,” Holland said.

Guidance is an important aspect when preparing a teacher to lead a classroom. Maynard said the board will also be examining alternative certification programs and ways to better assist teachers from military families relocating to Texas.

“Not only to help our military families, but to also help our school districts where they live,” Maynard said.

Holland said at Hutto, the district has helped its teachers with discounted daycare and a small stipend to help with buying classroom materials. “Not all districts can or are able to provide that, but this district does,” she said.

Holland said she hopes the state can explore and help other districts with similar ideas.

The State Board of Education and the State Board for Education Certification will host a conference on Jan. 31 focused on teacher recruitment, preparation and retention. Panels discussions will cover Texas Education Agency resources for teachers, ways to support teachers starting in their careers and opportunities for growth and development.

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