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PRESS RELEASE

May 9, 2006

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

New Report Finds Teacher Comparison Data Not Uniform
State-by-state comparison of teacher salaries lacks consistency

WASHINGTON — Florida Education Commissioner John L. Winn today presented the Florida Department of Education's Teacher Pay Review to the National Board for Education Sciences in Washington, D.C. The new report analyzes existing state-by-state comparisons of average teacher salary and documents a survey and review of the average teacher salary calculation methods of 15 states, including Florida. Calling for quality research and accurate reporting, the report provides compelling evidence for the need to develop uniform standards to define average teacher salary.

"No single education statistic is more commonly repeated than our average teacher salary," said Commissioner Winn. "It dominates conversation during every Florida legislative session, yet it is the based on the most flawed data collection in education. Regardless of the effect on Florida, it is time for the nation to have accurate, reliable data upon which true comparisons of teacher wages can be made."

Historically, wages earned by teachers across the nation have been compared using average teacher salaries. However, states significantly differ in their methods of calculating average teacher salary. Some states include bonuses, supplements, and/or retirement or health benefits in their average teacher salary calculation. Florida does not include bonuses, supplements or benefits, only the base salary. If, for example, Florida were to include these components in its calculation, it would raise the state's average annual teacher salary of $41,587 to $42,646.

"This study by the Florida Department of Education highlights the critical need in our country for common definitions of key educational data regarding both teachers and students," said U. S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Thomas Luce. "Achieving all the goals of No Child Left Behind, including our assurance that every child be taught by an effective, high-quality teacher, requires a more complete understanding of the forces that shape public education. We look forward to working with Florida, and all states, to develop a richer, more complete understanding of teacher compensation and how it affects schools' abilities to retain high-quality teachers."

Further disparity exists in states' definitions of a teacher and the criteria for inclusion in the average teacher salary calculation. Categories of personnel included in the calculation of average teacher salary could negatively or positively impact a state's average teacher salary. In Florida, the term teacher is applicable to all instructional staff as defined by law, including classroom teachers, student personnel services (guidance counselors, social workers, career specialists, and school psychologists), librarians/media specialists, and other instructional staff (primary specialists, learning resource specialists, and instructional trainers). In comparison, some states, such as Georgia and North Carolina, include only classroom teachers in the calculation of average teacher salary.

Differences in the states' formulas go beyond who is considered a teacher, but also how teachers are counted. Some states, including Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina, count the actual number of full-time teachers. Whereas, some states count teachers using the ratio of the actual hours worked to the hours expected in a full-time position, known as "full-time equivalent" or FTE. The FTE is smaller than the actual number of teachers if any teacher works less than full-time. Consequently, using FTE produces a higher average teacher salary than using total number of part-time and full-time teachers.

"The policy issues surrounding teacher pay could not be more important, and yet we do not even have reliable data on the most basic components of teacher salary," said Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Recommendations in the report include the implementation of a new, three-tiered approach to calculating average teacher wages and drawing comparisons from state to state. Under this system, which each state would uniformly implement, teacher wages would be compared using three thresholds — average teacher salary, average teacher compensation, and average teacher market value. Each of these three thresholds would be defined as:

  • Average Teacher Salary — the sum of all salaries paid by a state to classroom teachers, excluding other instructional staff, divided by the total number of full-time classroom teachers.
  • Average Teacher Compensation — includes the average teacher salary plus an average of any supplements for additional duties and bonuses paid to classroom teachers that year.
  • Average Teacher Market Value — includes the average teacher compensation plus any real-life employment variables such as retirement and health insurance contributions made by the employer, and the impact of a state's income tax and cost-of-living adjustments.

The report further recommends these thresholds should be reported by degree level including bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctorate.

"It is time to take a 21st century approach when making comparisons within and among the states," said Florida State Board of Education Chairman Handy. "In order to accurately compare teachers' earning potential in all 50 states, we need to agree to consistent measures that move beyond our traditional methods of calculating average teacher salary."

In addition, the report highlights other factors that play a significant role in the calculation of average teacher salary, such as teacher experience (years of service), the education level of a state's teachers and its rate of student enrollment.

Those states with a large percentage of teachers having 15 or more years of experience will have a positive effect on the state's average teacher salary, because pay levels increase with each additional year of experience. Conversely, states with a larger percentage of teachers having three or fewer years of experience will experience a negative effect on the state's average teacher salary, since teachers with little or no experience will make a salary that is lower than teachers with more years of experience. For example, Florida teachers with less than three years of experience make an average of $34,488, while teachers with 10 to 20 years of experience make an average of $46,051.

States with a high percentage of teachers with master's degrees will have a higher average teacher salary. (Thirty-five percent of Florida teachers have a master's degree, while 21.3 percent of teachers in Texas have a master's degree and 79 percent of teachers in New York have a master's degree.) States with high student enrollment growth will have a greater percentage of beginning teachers whose salaries are generally well below a state's average salary, thus lowering the collective average.

To download a copy of the report, visit http://www.fldoe.org/ARM/Teacher_Pay_Review.asp