Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Wall Street Journal Says Teachers Work Full Time

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] data from 2008 — the most recent available" shows that teachers work full time even if school is not in session during part of the summer.
Including hours teachers spend on work at home and outside the classroom, American primary-school educators spend 1,913 working in a year. According to data from the comparable year in a Labor Department survey, an average full-time employee works 1,932 hours a year spread out over 48 weeks (excluding two weeks vacation and federal holidays).
The OECD data tracks 27 countries.  Teachers in the United States put in nearly more 100 more per year than hours than second place New Zealand.
U.S. primary-school educators spent 1,097 hours a year teaching despite only spending 36 weeks a year in the classroom — among the lowest among the countries tracked. That was more than 100 hours more than New Zealand, in second place at 985 hours, despite students in that country going to school for 39 weeks. The OECD average is 786 hours.
The Journal adds a graph that shows the countries where teachers work the most hours.
The report is not completely rosy.
Despite the amount of time that teachers spend working, student achievement in the U.S. remains average in reading and science and slightly below average in math when compared to other nations in a separate OECD report. That remains a concern as education is one of the most important ways a country can foster long-term economic growth.
The Atlantic Wire offers two reasons for this anomaly.  First,
Business Insider reported that in comparison to other developed countries, American educators work the most hours of all industrialized nations, but are the fifth lowest paid after 15 years on the job. Finland, the company ranked highest in international tests, has teachers that work the fifth fewest hours, and are the ninth lowest paid.
. . . the New York Times reported that a study on comparative educational systems placed raising the status of the teaching profession as a top suggestion for the U.S. In the report, it was not nearly an issue of salaries. "University teaching programs in the high-scoring countries admit only the best students, and “teaching education programs in the U.S. must become more selective and more rigorous,” the report said. The problem there, however, is that while the average salary of a veteran elementary teacher in the U.S. was $44,172 in 2008, higher than the average of $39,426 across all OECD countries, that salary level was 40 percent below the average salary of other American college graduates. In Finland, by comparison, the veteran teacher’s salary was 13 percent less than that of the average college graduate’s.
I'll offer one more option to improve learning that I've written about before.  First in the Education Reform post.
Change the calendar to a 6 or 7 week on and 2 week off pattern instead of 9 months on 3 months off monstrosity that probably never worked anyway. Yes, that means teachers will have to teach more days during the calendar year.
I was a little more cynical in this post.
The school year should not be a nine month marathon with a three month vacation  Instead, it should be a series of six or nine week sessions separated by two or three week breaks.

I would suggest that one of the two week breaks be scheduled around the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year season and another around Independence Day. The rest should follow the normal session.  The calendar should take into account holidays like Thanksgiving, Presidents' Day, and Martin Luther King Day.  Local districts could set a few others.

That's it; it's simple and clean.  I don't have any stats about effectiveness or cost.  It can't be worse than the calendar that most of us work under now, and I'm positive students will learn more, so I'm pretty sure no one will think about adopting it.
So, I'll offer the modest proposal one more time.  Spread out the year, and shorten the days a bit.  If teachers already put in full time hours, there's no reason not to.  I'm certain it'll help learning

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