Katy ISD is considering the statewide Teacher Incentive Allotment that could get a subset of their most measurably effective teachers an additional $3,000 to $32,000 per year.

House Bill 3, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in June 2019, established the optional TIA program with the goal of a six-figure salary for teachers who prioritize teaching in high needs areas and rural district campuses, according to the TIA website.

When discussions first began, Brian Schuss, the district’s chief human resources officer, said they would monitor the progress of the program throughout the state. At the time, 80 school districts were participating.

Now that this number has increased to 450, the district recruited Kreuz Consulting Group, LLC to work with teachers and staff to develop a local designation system.

At the March 27 board meeting, Tammy Kreuz, president and founder of the firm, said this TIA program is one of the most complicated teacher incentive pay programs in her 18 years of experience.

Through TIA, teachers are categorized as either recognized, exemplary or master, Kreuz said while delivering a presentation on the program.

When the district’s high-performing teachers earn this allotment, 90% of the additional funds must be dedicated toward teacher salaries on that campus—which could be distributed among all teachers at that campus or the one who received the designation, and is also based on a tiered system with regard to the number of economically disadvantaged students and whether or not the campus is in a rural or nonrural area—Kreuz said.

“What we saw happen [in the first couple of cohorts] was those districts that didn't give 90% to the teacher that earned the designation [lost the teacher to another district], and the money follows the teacher,” she said. “So not only did they lose all of their TIA funds, they also lost all of their best teachers.”

Because of this, most participating school districts have a 90-10 spending plan, where the teacher who earns the designation receives the salary increase, and the remaining 10% of the allotment goes towards administrative fees for the district to maintain the TIA program, Kreuz said.

The recognized designation would earn between $3,000 to $9,000 of additional compensation per year. The exemplary designation would pull down $6,000 to $18,000; and master teachers would earn an allotment of $12,000 to $32,000.

Any teacher with a national board certification automatically earns the recognized designation, but the institution of a local designation system is what graduates them to the exemplary and master designation—thus increasing the teacher’s and district’s potential earnings.

The requirements for the local designation system include teacher observation in a classroom setting based on T-TESS, which is a third-party rubric approved by the Texas Education Agency. A 3.7 score earns teachers the recognized designation, a 3.9 score earns an exemplary designation, and a 4.5 score earns a master designation.

The system must also incorporate a student growth measure. Katy ISD will use STARR test progress data, where teachers with at least 55% of students meeting or exceeding expected growth receive the recognized designation; exemplary teachers will have at least 60% of students meeting or exceeding growth; and master teachers will have at least 70% of students meeting or exceeding expected growth, Kreuz said.

Eligible teachers for this round of data monitoring include instructors who teach fourth through eighth grade reading and math; Algebra I and English I and II teachers; and life skills teachers. Special education resource instructors and in-class support teachers who teach these disciplines will also be included in the data capture, Schuss said.

“These are all of the grades and subjects where the state is measuring growth with the STARR tests,” Kreuz said. “The committee wanted to focus just on the two required measures, weighting them equally 50% based on [teacher observation] and 50% based on classroom growth.”

Teachers in the district who do not fall within those subjects are encouraged by district officials and board members to retrieve a national board certification, though it is costly and “a lot of work,” Kreuz said.

“I am told it is taking teachers an average of about 18 months to finish the process, and it is supposed to be about as much paperwork as it is to go get a master's degree,” Kreuz said. “It's also about $2,000 in fees.”

However, Board Member Dawn Champagne said she still thinks it would be beneficial for teachers to earn the certification, since they could potentially earn at least $3,000.

“I hate to say this, but we only give our teachers $1,200 more for a master's degree,” Champagne said.

The goal of the TIA is to recognize and reward the top 33% of teachers across the state, Schuss said. It also aims to recruit more teachers, keep them in the profession and help make their salaries comparable to other professions, he said in an email.

"Currently, Katy ISD has about 200 teacher vacancies," Schuss said. "We expect to have 302 new vacancies for the 2023-24 school year as we prepare to fill positions at two elementary schools that will open fall 2023."

Kreuz said she created a webinar to explain the teacher incentive allotment, the local plan, and the national board certification process—including who is eligible and the timeline for validation through the state. This will be disseminated through the district once the application is submitted to TEA.

If the application is approved, the district's data capture year would occur in the 2023-24 school year.

Editor's Note: This article has been amended to reflect that Katy ISD's application is awaiting approval from the Texas Education Agency, and to add additional context on how the TIA legislation will affect teacher staffing in the district.