New study shows Texas' teaching environment needs tutoring

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The Lone Star State ranks 19th in the U.S. for its teaching environment. Educational First Steps/Facebook

If Texas were a student, it would earn a mediocre grade when it comes to the state's atmosphere for schoolteachers. In a new study from personal finance website WalletHub, Texas ranks 19th for its teaching environment compared with the 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

While Texas earns good marks for teacher salaries, the rest of the state's grades for teachers are below average, according to WalletHub. In all, WalletHub studied 22 metrics to come up with its report card.

Texas ranks second for the average starting salary for teachers and 13th for the average salary for teachers. However, both data points adjusted for cost of living in Texas. The state also ranked 13th for the 10-year change in teachers' salaries, WalletHub says. Texas doesn't fare nearly as well in WalletHub's other measurements, though:

  • No. 29 for pupil-teacher ratio.
  • No. 30 for teacher safety.
  • No. 32 for fewest teachers per student projected for 2026.
  • No. 36 for school quality.
  • No. 36 for per-student spending in public schools. According to the National Education Association (NEA), per-student funding in Texas is $2,300 less than the national average.
  • No. 37 for teachers' potential for income growth.

A recent survey by the Texas State Teachers Association backs up the notion that the state's teachers aren't in the same class as their counterparts in places like New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois, which were graded by WalletHub as the best states for teachers.

For instance, the Texas survey indicates that about four of every 10 teachers expect to take jobs outside the classroom to make ends meet during the academic year. In addition, the typical teacher in the survey reported spending an average of $738 a year on school supplies out of his or her own pocket.

According to the survey, moonlighting teachers in Texas average 14.1 hours a week at their extra jobs. That's on top of the 17 hours a week they spend outside the classroom on school-related work.

The Austin-based Texas State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the NEA, says the average salary of teachers in the survey was $53,221, which is $7,300 below the national average. According to the NEA, Texas ranks 29th for teacher pay.

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas association, pins the blame for the plight of Texas teachers on Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and their legislative allies. He says they've failed to properly finance public education.

"Our teachers … remain dedicated to their students' success, even if it means spending evenings and weekends at extra jobs away from their families," Candelaria says in a release. "It's time for our elected officials at the state Capitol to demonstrate the same kind of dedication to our children by providing the necessary resources."

In August, Abbott said he wants to boost pay for the state's best teachers, putting them on a path toward earning more than $100,000 a year — without a hike in property taxes.

"Teaching is a calling; it would be hard to do otherwise," Abbott said. "But I want to ensure that teaching in Texas also becomes a profession, where we are able to attract the very best and keep the very best."

"We can and we must do more to improve education in Texas," the governor said. "As we approach this next legislative session [in 2019], one of my top goals is to improve education by investing more in our teachers and students."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Houston-based health tech startup is revolutionizing patient selection for clinical trials

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On many occasions in her early career, Dr. Arti Bhosale, co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health, found herself frustrated with having to manually sift through thousands of digital files.

The documents, each containing the medical records of a patient seeking advanced treatment through a clinical trial, were always there to review — and there were always more to read.

Despite the tediousness of prescreening, which could take years, the idea of missing a patient and not giving them the opportunity to go through a potentially life-altering trial is what kept her going. The one she didn’t read could have slipped through the cracks and potentially not given someone care they needed.

“Those stories have stayed with me,” she says. “That’s why we developed Sieve.”

When standard health care is not an option, advances in medical treatment could be offered through clinical trials. But matching patients to those trials is one of the longest standing problems in the health care industry. Now with the use of new technology as of 2018, the solution to the bottleneck may be a new automated approach.

“Across the globe, more than 30 percent of clinical trials shut down as a result of not enrolling enough patients,” says Bhosale. “The remaining 80 percent never end up reaching their target enrollment and are shut down by the FDA.”

In 2020, Bhosale and her team developed Sieve Health, an AI cloud-based SaaS platform designed to automate and accelerate matching patients with clinical trials and increase access to clinical trials.

Sieve’s main goal is to reduce the administrative burden involved in matching enrollments, which in turn will accelerate the trial execution. They provide the matching for physicians, study sponsors and research sites to enhance operations for faster enrollment of the trials.

The technology mimics but automates the traditional enrollment process — reading medical notes and reviewing in the same way a human would.

“I would have loved to use something like this when I was on the front lines,” Bhosale says, who worked in clinical research for over 12 years. “Can you imagine going through 10,000 records manually? Some of the bigger hospitals have upwards of 100,000 records and you still have to manually review those charts to make sure that the patient is eligible for the trial. That process is called prescreening. It is painful.”

Because physicians wear many hats and have many clinical efforts on their plates, research tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Finding 10-20 patients can take the research team on average 15-20 months to find those people — five of which end up unenrolling, she says.

“We have designed the platform so that the magic can happen in the background, and it allows the physician and research team to get a jumpstart,” she says.” They don’t have to worry about reviewing 10,000 records — they know what their efforts are going to be and will ensure that the entire database has been scanned.”

With Sieve, the team was able to help some commercial pilot programs have a curated data pool for their trials – cutting the administrative burden and time spent searching to less than a week.

Sieve is in early-stage start up mode and the commercial platform has been rolled out. Currently, the team is conducting commercial projects with different research sites and hospitals.

“Our focus now is seeing how many providers we can connect into this,” she says. “There’s a bigger pool out there who want to participate in research but don’t know where to start. That’s where Sieve is stepping in and enabling them to do this — partnering with those and other groups in the ecosystem to bring trials to wherever the physicians and the patients are.”

Arti Bhosale is the co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health. Photo courtesy of Sieve

Houston nonprofit unveils new and improved bayou cleaning vessel

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For over 20 years, a nonprofit organization has hired people to clean 14 miles of bayou in Houston. And with a newly updated innovative boat, keeping Buffalo Bayou clean just got a lot more efficient.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership unveils its newest version of the Bayou-Vac this week, and it's expected to be fully operational this month. BBP Board Member Mike Garver designed both the initial model of the custom-designed and fabricated boat as well as the 2022 version. BBP's Clean & Green team — using Garver's boat — has removed around 2,000 cubic yards of trash annually, which is the equivalent of about 167 commercial dump trucks. The new and improved version is expected to make an even bigger impact.

“The Bayou-Vac is a game changer for our program,” says BBP field operations manager, Robby Robinson, in a news release. “Once up and running, we foresee being able to gain an entire workday worth of time for every offload, making us twice as efficient at clearing trash from the bayou.”

Keeping the bayou clean is important, since the water — and whatever trash its carrying — runs off into Galveston Bay, and ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. The improvements made to the Bayou-Vac include removable dumpsters that can be easily swapped out, slid off, and attached to a dump truck. The older model included workers having to manually handle trash and debris and a secondary, land-based vacuum used to suck out the trash from onboard.

Additionally, the Bayou-Vac now has a moveable, hydraulic arm attached to the bow of the vessel that can support the weight of the 16-foot vacuum hose. Again, this task was something done manually on the previous model of the Bayou-Vac.

“BBP deeply appreciates the ingenuity of our board member Mike Garver and the generosity of Sis and Hasty Johnson and the Kinder Foundation, the funders of the new Bayou-Vac,” BBP President Anne Olson says in the release. “We also thank the Harris County Flood Control District and Port Houston for their longtime support of BBP’s Clean & Green Program.”