This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of The Classroom Teacher.

The Teacher Incentive Allotment/local teacher designation system was one of numerous programs in House Bill 3, the comprehensive school finance bill passed in the 86th legislative session in 2019.

There are two main parts to TIA: one is that teachers are identified and paid in part on student growth; another is that teachers who have National Board Certification automatically receive a Recognized rating along with teacher incentive allotment earnings.

For the aspect of the program in which teachers are identified and paid in part based on student growth, eligible districts must have adopted a local teacher designation system designating a certified classroom teacher as a Master, Exemplary, or Recognized teacher for a five-year period based on the results of single or multi-year appraisals that comply with T-TESS or a locally developed appraisal process as well as student growth.

TEA rules provide that the district utilize student growth measures such as:

  • Value added measures based on STAAR or other normed, valid tests
  • Student learning objectives
  • Student portfolios
  • Pre- and post-tests

Assessments used to measure student growth must be valid and reliable, and implemented with fidelity, according to vetted testing protocols.

The funding available for the teacher incentive allotment varies by designation:

  • Recognized teachers: $3,000 to $9,000 per teacher
  • Exemplary teachers: $6,000 to $18,000 per teacher
  • Master teachers: $12,000 to $32,000 per teacher

Districts with designated teachers serving at rural schools and schools with high levels of socio-economic need will receive higher allotments. For example, the allotment for an Exemplary teacher at a rural school with the highest level of socio-economic need would receive $18,000.
Teachers holding National Board Certification are automatically awarded a Recognized designation, regardless of whether their school district has a local teacher designation system in place.

However, a key point, regardless of how the designation is earned, is that the funding does not go directly to the designated teacher. Rather, the funding goes to the teacher’s school district, with the requirement that the district must use at least 90% of the funds for teacher compensation on the campus where the designated teacher works.

Twenty-six districts were approved for the first Cohort (A) to offer teacher designation systems in 2019-20. The program distributed about $40 million to around 3,650 teachers across the state for the 2019-20 school year (as part of the settle-up process in September 2020).

More districts started the process of creating local designation systems in 2020-21, and others plan to begin in 2021-22. Click here to see if your district is on the list

Earning National Board Certification

Three hundred and twenty-seven National Board-certified teachers were automatically awarded Recognized status in 2019-20, generating anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000 for their district (as noted previously, the amount depends on the socioeconomic status of the students and the campus’ rural status). 

Among them is TCTA member David Walker, a science teacher at LASA High School in Austin ISD, who earned National Board Certification in 2017. Walker talked about the certification process during a session at TCTA’s 2021 Virtual Convention in February, saying there are many reasons to pursue certification, “from helping your teaching practice, to helping your students, to actually getting more money from both the state and your school district potentially.” (Go to members.tcta.org and log in to view the session recording and earn 1.5 hours of CPE credit.)

Since 1987, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards has certified teachers who demonstrate that they can meet and maintain high and rigorous standards for the profession. There are five core propositions:

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and experience.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

“A large part of becoming National Board certified is obtaining a lot more information about who your students are and what their needs are,” Walker said.
To apply, teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least three years of teaching experience in the subject area for which they are seeking certification. Walker said applicants are put into cohorts and must complete objectives in four component areas within three years to earn certification:

  1. Content Knowledge Assessment
  2. Differentiation in Instruction
  3. Teaching Practice and Learning Environment
  4. Effective and Reflective Practitioner

The process requires testing, videos and written components, along with a portfolio. He said the process showed him that he was already a good teacher, meeting many of the standards the National Board requires. But it also helped him identify areas to improve and forced him to analyze why he taught lessons a certain way. 

“Overall, it really helped my practice,” he said. “I had fallen into kind of a cycle of repeat when I was pursuing this. ... Every year, we are busy with a lot of other things in our lives, and so it’s very easy to say, ‘I’m just going to teach the same stuff next year. Sweet.’ 

“But (National Board certification) helped me not be satisfied with that, and it really motivated me as part of finishing the certification program to dig into my teaching and think about how to improve it,” he said.

Walker is currently working on recertification. Once every five years, two of the four component areas must be completed again.

Nationally, about 3% of teachers are National Board certified, but only about 0.3% of Texas teachers held certification as of 2019. That number is rising with the TIA program. 

Three hundred more National Board teachers are expected to earn designations in 2020-21 in Texas. However, to automatically receive the designation, NBCTs need to make sure they have registered with a Texas address in the NBCT directory.

TEA also offers NBCT fee reimbursement. These funds can be used to reimburse even those teachers who received National Board Certification in the 2019-20 school year. Click here to find links with more information.