An underlying cause of stagnating average teacher pay
- Concern over the impact of low teacher pay on the profession and on students is widespread, but the reason teacher pay, on average, has been relatively flat in the last two decades could be more about demographics.
- Kirsten Schmitz, an analyst with Bellwether Education Partners, writes for EducationNext that in 1988, the average teacher had 15 years of experience, while in 2008, the average teacher had one, pulling down the average pay calculation with entry-level salaries.
- Even absent policy changes, the makeup of the teaching workforce could spur an increase in average wages as this decade’s new teachers move through their salary schedules.
One reason the teaching field has become heavily tilted toward early-career teachers is because the veterans are retiring. But another reason is that teachers simply aren’t staying long in their jobs. A 2003 study found half of new teachers who started teaching in the late 1980s and 1990s left the field in five years. A more promising review of the data for teachers from 2007-08 to 2011-12, found the actual attrition rate for new teachers was closer to 17%. Differences could be explained by the economic conditions in the years studied and whether researchers were tracking individual teachers or overall hiring numbers.
Either way, research shows more experienced teachers do a better job educating students. Yet, a recent survey found nearly half of teachers would quit their jobs if they found better-paying alternatives. One key area of discontent was in school decision-making. Teachers do not feel heard and it is leading to low morale.
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