Teachers in U.S. Found To Clock More Class Time

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

WASHINGTON--Teachers in the United States typically teach longer hours and more classes than do their peers in other economically advanced countries, a study concludes.

"American teachers are told that their workday is too short, that not enough time is spent on instruction, and that their summer vacation is too long,'' the report by the American Federation of Teachers says. "By international standards, these conclusions are unwarranted.''

Elementary teachers in the United States spend more time with their students than do teachers in 18 other advanced countries, the study found.

At the secondary level, teachers in the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands--who all teach about five classes a day for five days--have the largest teaching loads.

And Japanese and most European teachers have more time for class preparation during the school day than their American counterparts do.

The report is meant to shed light on the "nuances of difference'' between teaching in the United States and in other countries, according to the A.F.T. It examines conditions in 19 industrialized nations and is based on previous studies and data gathered by the union.

The findings were released here last month at the union's educational-issues conference.

Less Training, Less Pay

Only Japan, Ireland, and Spain reported having larger elementary classes than those of the United States. At the secondary level, U.S. class size is average, the study found.

But because American teachers teach more hours and more classes than their foreign colleagues do, they teach more students in total.

In addition, the study found, U.S. high school teachers, in particular, have less training and are paid less well than teachers in other countries.

American high school teachers need at least a four-year degree to become licensed. But in many European countries, teachers in the upper-secondary grades are required to spend five or six years studying at a university before they can begin teaching.

Standard of Living

To examine how well American teachers are paid, the study compared teachers' salaries to the gross domestic product per capita in each country. Generally, it found, American teachers enjoy a standard of living comparable to that of teachers in other nations.

But because the United States over all has the highest standard of living in the world, the study concludes that American teachers are paid relatively less than teachers in most of the nations studied.

Measured that way, the salaries of U.S. elementary teachers rank just below average of the 19 nations studied, while the salaries of senior-level teachers rank above only those of Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

While veteran American high school teachers earn about $38,000 a year, for example, their counterparts earn $43,000 in Germany, $45,000 in Japan and France, and up to $70,000 in Switzerland.

But the study notes that the fact that American high school teachers have less training than their peers in many European countries partly explains their lower pay. Even though many American teachers have master's degrees, it notes, they are often attained in educational administration or other areas not related to the subjects taught.

Most Hours Per Week

Teachers in the United States also work shorter years than the international average. While U.S. teachers generally work 185 days, the international average is 190 to 195 days.

But none of the other nations studied requires teachers to teach for more hours a week than American teachers do.

All of the nations with more than 200 school days per year hold classes on Saturday mornings, rather than teaching for more weeks during the year. Every nation studied had between 12 and 15 weeks of vacation annually, including fall, winter, and spring breaks.

Copies of "How U.S. Teachers Measure Up Internationally: A Comparative Study of Teacher Pay, Training, and Conditions of Service'' are available from the Research Department, American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001; (202) 879-4428.

Vol. 12, Issue 40

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories