Magazine article Insight on the News

Teachers' Pet Peeves

Magazine article Insight on the News

Teachers' Pet Peeves

Article excerpt

A new study asserts that teachers earn substantially less than other college grads, a circumstance that has educators leaving the profession even as teacher shortages worsen nationwide.

A huge pay gap persists in teacher salaries when their education levels are compared with other professions, according to a just-released study of kindergarten-through-12th-grade education by the nonprofit journal Education Week.

While working professionals with bachelor's degrees earned salary increases averaging 17 percent from 1994 to 1998, teachers' wages rose only 1 percent for the same time period, according to the report. "It's shocking that the gap is so great, especially since, ultimately, it is students who are harmed when we treat teachers as second-class citizens," says National Education Association President Bob Chase.

The study looked at salaries and teacher hiring and retention practices and graded each state on its efforts at reform. It found that the salary gap varied from state to state, but one thing remained constant: Veteran educators were not rewarded financially for their perseverance, even if they earned advanced degrees.

Teachers age 22 to 28 earned $7,894 less on average than other college graduates of the same age. Those age 44 to 50 with master's degrees lagged behind their peers by more than $30,000. "I don't think this country values teaching," concludes Virginia B. Edwards, editor and publisher of Education Week. (The entire report can be found on the Web at www.edweek.org.)

The study was harsh on state efforts to ensure that new teachers know their subject matter. While 29 states require beginning teachers to pass tests in the subjects they plan to teach, all but New Jersey have created loopholes that allow them to disregard their own standards in some instances.

"Emergency credentials and out-of-field teaching should be eliminated," says Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who proposes that districts offer incentives to credentialed teachers to take more classes in their field or to encourage qualified veteran educators to stay on the job longer. "We can't afford to shortchange children because adults are unwilling to address this problem."

The research, the most current on the state of teaching in the United States, was conducted in 1999 and paid for by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia foundation. It was gleaned from federal surveys, interviews with state education officials and analysis of state policies, laws and regulations. Each state was graded on improvements in teacher quality, standards and accountability (whether students are tested for basic achievement in core subjects, for instance), school climate (such as class size, absenteeism and school choice) and resources (chiefly state spending on education). …

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