New report reveals worst-ever teacher pay gap
- A new study by the Economic Policy Institute states that effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student success. Schools must both recruit and retain high-quality teachers. And despite teachers enjoying more attractive benefits packages than other professionals, pay is still the most important factor in retention and recruitment.
- The teacher compensation penalty (how much less public school teachers are compensated as compared to other professionals with similar education levels) grew by 11.4 percentage points from 1994 to 2017, the report says. The penalty is higher for men than women, which partly explains why the gender mix in the profession never really changes very much. There is not a single state in which public school teacher pay is equal to that of other college graduates.
- All 50 states went into the 2017–2018 school year with teacher shortages. The fact that qualified potential teachers can make more in other fields, especially if they have math or science backgrounds, is a big reason why. Other factors deterring students from going into education include more stressful working conditions, larger class sizes, and a deterioration of the public respect for teachers that was a given a generation ago.
Teacher strikes in a number of states across the country, such as the current one in Washington state, have drawn national attention to the erosion of teacher pay. A Phi Delta Kappa poll recently showed that the public largely agrees that teachers don't earn enough, and at the same time, a majority of those respondents were against their own children becoming teachers, citing not only "crappy pay," but calling it a "thankless job" and even dangerous in the wake of the many school shootings. The researchers noted that they hadn't considered how much influence parents had over their children's chosen college majors, but acknowledged it is a factor worth looking at as efforts continue to woo high school students to teaching.
For administrators, stemming the loss of teachers to other careers starts with supporting them, especially through professional development and career advancement. That can be a win-win, as offering supplemental pay to a school's best teachers for becoming mentors to newcomers, or taking on other leadership roles, can keep them in the classroom, rather than bolting for leadership positions in the district.
Another tactic, used by about two-thirds of large districts, is pay differentation — paying teachers in hard-to-fill subject areas or schools more. Also, hiring early in the school year can reduce shortages. The sooner schools start the process, the more applicants they'll have to choose from.