Date: Oct 1, 2012 6:18 PM
Author: Paul A. Tanner III
Subject: US teachers are overworked and underpaid

US teachers are overworked and underpaid. Here is some proof:

"Teacher Pay Around the World"


"American teachers spend on average 1,080 hours teaching each year. Across the O.E.C.D., the average is 794 hours on primary education, 709 hours on lower secondary education, and 653 hours on upper secondary education general programs.


In the United States, a teacher with 15 years of experience makes a salary that is 96 percent of the country's gross domestic product per capita. Across the O.E.C.D., a teacher of equivalent experience makes 117 percent of G.D.P. per capita. At the high end of the scale, in Korea, the average teacher at this level makes a full 221 percent of the country's G.D.P. per capita."

Even the hyper-conservative Wall Street Journal has the guts to tell the truth on this one:

"Number of the Week: U.S. Teachers' Hours Among World's Longest"


"How much time do teachers spend teaching?"

Look at chart D4.2. This shows that the number of yearly teaching hours of US teachers is roughly 50% greater than the OECD average. This is really significant, since the US school year is typically shorter. This means therefore that each day, US teachers spend vastly more time teaching in the classroom than do teachers of other countries, which means that US teachers have vastly less time each day while during contracted work hours to do anything else such as collaborating with other teachers or preparing instruction or other such important things that would involve good teaching.

Look at chart D4.3. This shows that the percentage of working time spent teaching for US teachers was greater than a large majority of the other countries in the study, and very much larger than for some countries: In the neighborhood of *twice as high* as Japan and Norway, for instance.

Note: US teachers, although sometimes having shorter contracted work time, work much longer hours than teachers of other countries while not "on the clock", and so total working time reflects that for all the countries. These not "on the clock" hours would be hours spent working while away from school on such as grading papers, preparing instruction, and calling parents - especially of unruly students. (Since the US has a much greater classroom disruption problem than these other countries, I'd say that we'd find that US teachers have to do this latter much more than teachers of other countries, mostly in terms of calling parents of unruly students, something US teachers are required to do by their bosses, the principals.)

That is, if only contracted time was covered in the definition of working time, then the percentage of working hours that were teaching hours for the US would probably be off the chart greater than almost all the other countries, much greater than the already higher measures. This means for instance that instead of just roughly twice as high as Norway and Japan, it would be approaching roughly three times higher than Norway and Japan.

That is, specifically, let's compare the US to Japan, a country that performs on average without adjusting for demographics much better than the US and almost the entire world on international tests:

Using the charts in the very first link above, we see that the total number of yearly teaching hours of the Japanese teacher is only 600 hours per year, while for the US it is roughly 1100, almost twice as high. Every school I've worked at had me doing roughly 30 teaching hours per week for about 37.5 hours per week that I had to be on campus. That's about 75% of contracted time. But the charts in the last link say that for the US it's about 60% or a bit less - this means that time spent outside the campus is included as working time. For Japan it's only in the 30-35% range. But this is significant, since their school years are much longer, about 50% longer at 243 days compared to the US's 180. So per school day, the average Japanese teacher has about 600/243 ~ 2.5 teaching hours per day while the average US teacher has about 1100/180 ~ 6.1 teaching hours per day. (I've read that Japanese teachers do not have the same load maxed out each and every day like the US teachers, b!
ut are instead like US community college teachers in their weakly load, different on different days of the week and much less - about half or so - total teaching time per week.)

And we see that after 15 years experience, the salary of the Japanese teacher (in PPP) is roughly $49,000 and of the US teacher it is $44,000, but as a percentage of per capita GDP (here PPP, not nominal), we see that the Japanese teacher gets about 146% but the US teacher gets only about 96%.

And so this question:

Why are US teachers overworked and underpaid compared to so many of these other countries - including those that measure higher on international tests like Japan?


Conservatives who vote in the school districts - the vast majority of which are in red (Republican dominated) states and red congressional districts (meaning the teacher unions in these areas just don't have much power after all) have made damn sure through their very loud voices that they don't want any of those "lazy bum and overpaid" union teachers being "worse slackers than they already are".

Conservatives would be screaming bloody murder if US teachers had it as good as Japanese teachers, teaching only 2.5 instead of 6.1 hours per school year day and being paid 146% of per-capita PPP GDP instead of only 96% of per capita PPP GDP.

(Side note: I can imagine some conservative trying to sell some fertilizer like, "I would have no problem with paying lots more taxes to finance US teachers having it this good if they got the results that Japanese teachers get." My reply would be, "You have it backwards - US teachers could get the results that the Japanese teachers get only if they the US teachers were not forced to be to be sardines stuffed in a can, unable to breathe, suffocating to death from teaching loads being way too heavy and from having to deal with all those disputing students. That is, do all that to the Japanese teachers, make them vastly more overworked and underpaid and having to deal with small armies of disrupting students like the US teachers, and then watch those Japanese scores on those international tests collapse.")