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Discussion: (9 comments)

  1. SeattleSam

    teaching offers some unusual benefits that are attractive to a subset of the workforce:

    1. Lots of time off and in large chunks
    2. Short work days (you can leave work early — 2:30 pm if you need to)
    3. Tenure
    4. Relatively large pensions
    5. Retirement benefits after only 25-30 years of work
    6. Low cost medical benefits

    Even if the cash wages were lower than average, these would still be reasons for many people to choose teaching. It’s why many people with modest ambitions and a college education choose it.


  2. teachers in elementary education these days face tough working conditions.

    It has a high attrition rate – about 50% leave in the first 3 years.

    the glut is no doubt based in part on the tough economy and the stats that many with college degrees cannot find jobs – there is a view that teachers will always be needed.

    but teaching in the K-3 grades these days is a real grind.

    take a look at the standards for proficiency:

    and understand that right now only about 1/3 of American elementary kids meet the “proficient” standard while their counterparts overseas about 2/3 do.

    1. Andrew Biggs

      Larry, You’re right that teaching is tough (I couldn’t do it…). Attrition is high early on, but falls a lot after that so overall teaching attrition isn’t that much different from other professions.

      But the bigger point is that you could find statistics like these even before the recession. It may be a bit worse now, but there’s long been a surplus of aspiring teachers over the number of available slots.

      1. re: surplus of aspiring teachers…

        there is indeed and the economy is behind at least some of it but teaching now days is beyond the education that most graduate from College with.

        A GOOD teacher is a veteran who is exceptionally competent at handling classes that contain a wide range of students from at-risk, behind grade level kids to kids who probably ought to be in the next grade up.

        New teachers out of college thrown into such an environment are totally dependent on the veterans mentoring her/him.

        And the irony here is the sound bite perception that veteran teachers are expensive dead-wood that should be replaced with cheap entry-level neophytes.

        this is what happens, by the way, in schools in tough neighborhoods.

        GOOD veteran teachers have their pick of schools and most want no part of the tougher schools where conditions are way more challenging than in typical suburban schools.

        You have to pay more in these tough schools JUST TO GET teachers to come there and most who do – cannot qualify for employment at the easier suburban schools where the teachers are often accomplished veterans.

  3. Being a teacher is difficult work. I admire teachers. They are vital members of our society. But one thing to keep in mind is that they only work 9 months. That means they work 25% less than a typical worker. Yet they claim to be under paid by 13%. Doesn’t it really mean they are overpaid by 12%?

    1. Andrew Biggs

      In our work we tried to account for the shorter work year and other work hour issues. It’s trickier to get right than we originally thought, but your basic point holds that you need to control for the different lengths of their work years.

  4. john solis

    Now look at the retention rates.

    1. Yup. It takes about 5 years for a teacher to become a seasoned veteran that is not only capable of working independently by mentoring newbies.

      and the fact is that at the end of 5 years, 50% are gone and the ones that stay often work 10 hours a day on site and bring home work to do.

  5. Todd Mason

    My wife recently retired from her job as a preschool special ed teacher working with autistic kids. Thanks to her success and the Internet, parents fought for a spot in her classes. She hears once a month from parents of children realizing milestones like drivers licenses and graduations that seemed unthinkable when she first met them. In short, she is as unique as an NFL player. So why doesn’t the law of supply and demand work better in sports than teaching, to say nothing of respect? I am going to date myself here, but in my youth teachers and bankers earned modest livings but were paid handsomely in respect.

    Spare me the privatization argument. My state farmed out early childhood special ed to nonprofits who go unpaid during every budget crisis.

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