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Indicators 2002
Introduction Overview Chapter 1: Elementary and Secondary Education Chapter 2: Higher Education in Science and Engineering Chapter 3: Science and Engineering Workforce Chapter 4: U.S. and International Research and Development: Funds and Alliances Chapter 5: Academic Research and Development Chapter 6: Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding Chapter 8: Significance of Information Technology Appendix Tables
Chapter Contents:
How Well Do Our Students Perform Mathematics and Science?
Science and Mathematics Coursework
Content Standards and Statewide Assessments
Curriculum and Instruction
Teacher Quality and Changes in Initial Teacher Training
Teacher Professional Development
Teacher Working Conditions
IT in Schools
Transition to Higher Education
Selected Bibliography
Appendix Tables
List of Figures
Presentation Slides

Click for Figure 1-15
Figure 1-15

Click for Figure 1-16
Figure 1-16

Elementary and Secondary Education

Teacher Working Conditions

Trends in Teacher Salaries
Variation in the Salaries of Math and Science Teachers
International Comparisons of Teacher Salaries

Salaries for math and science teachers remain well below those of bachelor’s and master’s degree scientists and engineers in industry. Given that teacher retirements are on the rise, increased salaries provide a means of retaining good teachers and attracting the number of quality teachers needed to replace retirees. The difference between the annual median salaries of all bachelor’s degree recipients and teachers has declined over the past 20 years, mainly due to increases in the relative size of the older teaching workforce and in salaries of older teachers. This section reviews how average teacher salaries have changed over the past quarter century, how the earnings of math and science teachers vary in high- and low-poverty schools, and, finally, how the salaries and teaching time of U.S. teachers compare with those of their counterparts in other countries.

Salary and teaching time are only two components of teacher working conditions. The amount of professional development time supported by a school or district, student behavior, participation in school decisionmaking, class size, quality of facilities, and adequacy of resources are examples of conditions that could also influence a teacher’s desire to teach or not teach at a particular school. Many of these conditions, however, are either difficult to measure or do not have a parallel in S&E occupations outside teaching.

Trends in Teacher Salaries top of page

As a wave of younger teachers hired in the mid-1970s has aged, a demographic shift in the age of teachers has occurred (NCES 1999a.) For example, in 1975, 53 percent of all full-time teachers were younger than age 35; in 1993, the percentage of younger teachers fell to about 23 percent. By 1998, the percentage of younger teachers had risen only slightly, reaching 27 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of full-time teachers age 45 years or older increased from about 26 percent in 1975 to 48 percent in 1998. (See figure 1-15 figure.) Average teacher salaries have been affected by these demographic shifts, particularly over the past 20 years.

The annual median salaries (in constant 1998 dollars) of full-time teachers decreased between 1971 and 1981 by about $500 to $700 annually in each age group. Between 1981 and 1989, the salaries of teachers rose. The annual median salary of full-time teachers grew slowly during the 1990s, reaching $35,099 in 1998 (NCES 1999a.) For the oldest group of teachers, salaries rose by about $1,100 per year on average, while for the middle-aged and youngest groups, salaries increased by smaller amounts. Since 1989, the salaries of the oldest and youngest groups of teachers have remained about the same, while the salaries of the middle-aged group (between ages 35 and 44) have declined by about $400 per year on average. (See figure 1-15 figure.)

The difference between the annual median salaries of bachelor’s degree recipients and all full-time teachers declined from about $5,000 in 1981 to $2,300 in 1998. This decline in the salary gap has been due mainly to increases in the relative size of the older teaching workforce and in the salaries of teachers age 45 or older (NCES 1999a.)

Variation in the Salaries of Math and Science Teachers top of page

Many believe that competitive salaries and benefits are key to attracting and retaining high-quality teachers (Murnane et al. 1991.) Research has shown that levels of compensation and criteria for awarding salary increases affect who goes into teaching, who stays, and how teachers move from district to district and from school to school (Odden and Kelley 1997.) When asked whether various factors were important to them in determining the type of work they planned to do in the future, 1992/93 bachelor’s degree recipients responded affirmatively to "income potential over career" and "intellectually challenging work" (45 percent in each case) more often than to any of the other factors mentioned (Henke et al. 1997.) This section examines variability in the compensation levels of mathematics and science teachers in 1999/2000 across high- and low-poverty districts by school location.

International Comparisons of Teacher Salaries top of page

Internationally, teacher pay scales in the United States tend to be lower than those in a number of other countries, including Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and teaching hours tend to be longer. The gaps are particularly wide at the upper secondary (high school) level because a number of countries, unlike the United States, require higher educational qualifications and pay teachers significantly more at this level than at the primary (elementary) level. For example, salaries for upper secondary teachers with 15 years of experience and the minimum level of education and training required to be certified exceeded $40,000 in 1998 in Denmark, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands and exceeded $60,000 in Switzerland (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2000.) The comparable salary for the United States was $35,000. This section reviews cross-country variation in teacher salary, adjusting first for differences in country wealth or ability to spend on education, and second for differences in the amount of time that teachers are required to spend in instructional activities to earn their salaries.

Association Between Teacher Salaries and Per Capita Gross Domestic Product

Teacher salaries relative to per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are an indication of the extent to which a country invests in teaching resources relative to the financial ability to fund educational expenditures. A high salary relative to per capita GDP suggests that a country is making more of an effort to invest its financial resources in teachers. Relative to per capita GDP, teacher salaries are relatively low in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Norway and relatively high in South Korea, Spain, and Switzerland.

Wealthier countries do not necessarily spend a greater share of their wealth on educational resources, however. (See figure 1-16 figure.) Although the Czech Republic and Hungary have both relatively low GDP per capita and low teacher salaries, other countries with GDP per capita below the OECD average, including South Korea and Spain, have comparatively high teacher salaries. Norway and the United States, two countries with relatively high GDP per capita, spend a below-average share of their wealth on teacher salaries, and Switzerland spends an above-average share of its relatively high per capita GDP on teacher salaries.

Salaries Adjusted for Statutory Teaching Time

Another measure of the investment in teaching is the statutory teacher salary relative to the number of hours per year that a full-time classroom teacher is required to teach students. This measure reflects the fact that teaching time is organized differently across countries, influenced by both the number of instructional hours planned for students each year and the proportion of the working day that a full-time teacher is expected to be engaged in direct instruction. Although this measure does not adjust salaries for the amount of time that teachers spend in all teaching-related activities, it can nonetheless provide a rough estimate of the cost of an hour of instruction across countries.

The average statutory salary per teaching hour after 15 years of experience is $35 in primary education, $43 in lower secondary education, and $52 in upper secondary (general) education across OECD countries (OECD 2000.) For primary education, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Mexico have relatively low salary costs per hour of instruction ($13, $15, and $16, respectively); by contrast, costs are relatively high in Denmark ($48), Germany ($49), South Korea ($62), and Switzerland ($48). Salary costs per primary teaching hour in the United States are in the middle of this range at $35. In South Korea, high costs per teaching hour at the primary level are balanced by a relatively high student/teacher ratio (31.2) and a low proportion of current expenditure on nonteaching staff, resulting in below-average expenditure per student (OECD 2000.) In contrast, Denmark’s high costs per teaching hour at the primary level combine with a relatively low student/teacher ratio (11.2) and an above-average expenditure on nonteaching staff to create one of the highest expenditure-per-student figures in the OECD. There is more variability in salary cost per hour of teaching in upper secondary schools, ranging (among OECD countries) from $16 or below in the Czech Republic and Hungary to $90 or above in Denmark and South Korea. Comparable costs for the United States were $38.

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