Sunday, January 19, 2014

Part 4 of 4: What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education?

Time to tackle the final myth that comes from the PISA

Myth #5: Teachers are overpaid for the amount work they do

First, look at the map and chart below. It is a breakdown of every state's average teacher salary.
salary map

salary alaskahawaii
salary list

As the second chart shows, an average can be totally skewed by a few numbers. 16 out of 51 (because of D.C) pay their teachers higher than the national average so therefore only 31% pay higher. How ridiculous is that?

For the sake of this argument, I'm going to only focus on Virginia since that is where I teach. Virginia has an average salary of $49,869. Let's round up and say that Virginia teachers make $50,000 a year. Now, that is the average salary of all teachers in the state; new, 5 years in, with doctorate, etc. This is not the average starting salary.

In comparison, the median income in VA is $63,636. Let's round that to $64,000. So on average, teachers make $14,000 less than the average Virginian.

"Wait!" people who don't understand how teaching works say. "Teachers only work from the end of August to the beginning of June! Plus they have all of those vacations in the middle! They deserve to make that much. Actually, they are most likely overpaid for the amount of work they do!"

And here is why that argument is crap.

Teachers go back a week before students, so they work 2 weeks in August. They stay roughly a week longer than students so they work 2 weeks into June. So teachers work 9 months of the year in total. We get about a week and half off in the winter and one week for spring break. So that means we work 8 and 1/2 months.

We do technically get off other days, like Memorial Day and Labor Day, but most work places get those days off so it isn't worth considering them in the grand scheme of things. And the days that students have off, the teachers are working so although we are not teaching we are still working. So again, we only get advantage of 2 extra weeks.

This comes up with 34 weeks that we are actually in the school building for 40 hours. That means we are in the building for 1360 hours. A person with a "normal" job (aka one that works 48 weeks), works 1920 hours.

Yes, from that standpoint, teachers are overpaid.

Before you start rejoicing that I just proved this myth to be true, you're forgetting all the extra work teachers do during a week.

I get to work an hour before my contract hours and I stay at least an hour later on a daily basis  including the weeks I don't actually teach (this is normal for teachers. Sometimes it is only after school or only before but we all stay extra time at school). That equals 10 extra hours a week. This brings my total hours to 1700 hours.

Then we have the work we have to do on our own time.


I grade on the weekends, during commutes, over vacations, while I'm watching sports games, even when I go out to eat. I basically grade whenever I have a spare moment.

Let's look at the amount of grading I did yesterday: I graded one class worth of projects which took me about 2 hours. This is faster than papers which take me about 3 hours per class. I have 6 classes so when I have to grade a paper, it takes me about 12 hours. This is fast because I'm "good" at it now.

I assign two major projects or papers a quarter so, considering some are projects, let's assume I add 20 hours of grading a quarter. There are 4 quarters which means that is an extra 80 hours of work which brings my total up to 1780 hours.

Of course, this is only projects and papers. I also have tests. I usually do some type of short answer on each to truly see if students understand the information. It takes me about an hour per class per test and I give about 3 tests per quarter. That's 18 hours per quarter which is 72 hours total. My total is now 1852.

I also have homework. The amount of hours I spend grading homework per week depends on if I assign reading questions or something more detailed like paragraphs. However, on average, I spend about 2 hours grading homework a week. Since I don't actually give homework 2 of those 34 weeks, I spend a total of 64 hours grading homework. My total is now 1916.

So I'm now short by 4 hours of the 48 week worker.

But I'm still not done.

I need to plan which I can't always complete in my planning period during the day because sometimes I have to meet with other teachers, make copies, or hunt down a student for one reason or another.

On average, I plan an hour a week outside of school. 34 hours, since I plan more during the week before school, added makes my total 1950.

I'm still not done.

I am required to attend parent-teacher conferences and back to school night. Conferences are 2 hours each time, which is 4 hours, and back to school night lasts about 3 hours. So an extra 7 hours. My total is now 1957.

Assuming I'm making $50,000, I am making about $25 per hour. In 34 weeks.

Those that work 48 weeks and make the average $64,000 make about $33 per hour.

I work more hours, for less money, in a shorter amount of time. Yes, I "work" less weeks but usually, teachers do some other type of work over the summer. Last summer I taught summer school and attended an AP certification class. Some teachers work summer camps. Others take classes.

Next time you try and say a teacher rarely works, trying to spend some quality time with them during those 34 weeks that we are "working." My boyfriend will tell you it sucks because I'm always working during that time.

I am sorely underpaid for the amount of work I do.

And now that I've made myself sad due to doing math, I need to get back to grading.

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