Before the Board of Trustees’ meeting last week, SISD Administration gave a presentation on the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) for last school year. The TAPR is a comprehensive overview of metrics for the district, compiled by the Texas Education Agency. It goes through all of the test results from last year, which I have discussed in previous posts. Today, I want to focus on a few of the numbers that are both causes and effects of our troubling test scores.
Causes first. Let’s look at staffing. In 2014-2015, the district employed 1068.5 people. Of those, 644.9 were teachers. That’s 45.8%. The state average is 50.8%. If SISD employed the state average percentage of teachers, we would have hired 54.5 more teachers. That’s a LOT of teachers. Or we could reach it by eliminating some non-teaching positions, freeing more funds for instruction and teacher support. Central Administration employees, on the other hand, are 0.2% of total employees compared to 0.1% statewide. In SISD, 19.4% of our teachers hold a Masters Degree. Statewide, that number is 23.4%. 21.9% of our teachers are beginning teachers (no prior experience). Statewide, that percentage is 8.5%. The average years of teacher experience of our teachers is 9.5 years. Statewide it’s 11 years. Our average teacher salary is higher than the state average for teachers with no prior experience, but after one year of teaching, it is below the state average by $1,500-$3,000. We have a teacher turnover rate of 21% annually. Recruiting teachers to a rural area and retaining them is difficult to be sure. It is made more difficult by below-average compensation.
In sum, we employ fewer teachers as a percentage of employees than the average, pay them less than average, and have a higher teacher turnover than average. Our teachers as a group have less experience than average and fewer hold advanced degrees. How does this manifest?
The effects are that our students struggle with the STAAR proficiency tests. Beyond that, we have only 35.9% of students enrolled in an “Advanced/Dual Credit” course. Statewide, that number is 53.2%. Only 40% of students in the Class of 2014 were “College and Career Ready” in English and Math compared to 54% statewide. You can see the standards for that here (page 8). Only 26.3% passed an Advanced Placement Test (51.3% statewide). And then our students graduate. Then what? According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, about 29% are enrolled in a 4-year institution. Of those, 81 are enrolled in a public university in Texas. Of those 81, 23 are failing, with a GPA below 2.0. That’s 28% of students from SISD that we sent off to a Texas Public University who are unable to pass their first year.
I submit to you that this is a crisis. One that we must address. Do we have good teachers here? Yes. But not enough of them and not enough with experience. Until we commit to invest more in the front lines of our district, our students and our graduates will continue to struggle and many will fail. We must not allow this to continue. We need more teachers, more experienced teachers and more training for teachers.
Together we can do better.