Equity & Diversity

Still Mostly White and Female: New Federal Data on the Teaching Profession

By Madeline Will — April 14, 2020 4 min read
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Who is the average teacher? A 43-year-old white woman, with nearly a decade and a half of teaching experience.

That’s according to newly updated federal data that shines a light on teachers’ demographics, salaries, and their perceptions of evaluations and professional development. It also breaks down the differences between teachers in traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools.

The U.S. Department of Education collects data on schools, principals, and teachers every two years through its National Teacher and Principal Survey. (This is the second iteration of the NTPS; an earlier version was called the Schools and Staffing Survey, which was administered every four years from 1987 through 2011.)

The survey went out to a nationally representative sample of 60,000 public school teachers and 9,600 private school teachers, as well as principals. Data collection began in September 2017 and ended in August 2018.

Here are some of the notable findings from the survey, released today:

1. The teaching profession is largely white, but teachers in charter schools are more diverse than in traditional public schools.

While the teaching profession is still disproportionately white, the percentage of white teachers has been inching down for the past several years, while the percentage of Hispanic teachers has been ticking up. The 2017-18 survey estimates that 79.3 percent of public school teachers are white and 9.3 percent are Hispanic. In 2011-12, nearly 82 percent of public school teachers were white and 7.8 percent were Hispanic.

About 7 percent of teachers are black and about 2 percent are Asian—unchanged from previous years, despite efforts from policymakers and school districts. Meanwhile, slightly more than half of public school students are nonwhite.

Charter school teachers tend to be more diverse than their peers in traditional public schools. Sixty-eight percent of charter school teachers are white, compared to 80 percent of traditional public school teachers. In charter schools, 10.4 percent of teachers are black and 15.6 percent are Hispanic. (Charter and traditional public schools have the same gender breakdown of their teachers, however: 23.5 percent male and 76.5 percent female.)

Meanwhile, 85 percent of private school teachers are white, 7 percent are Hispanic, and 3 percent are black.

2. The average public school teacher makes a $57,900 base salary. Nearly a fifth of teachers work second jobs.

Nearly 43 percent of public school teachers make some extra money—$2,800 a year on average—from doing extracurricular activities in their school systems, and about 8 percent get some additional compensation—$1,400 on average—based on their students’ performance.

Traditional public school teachers make a $58,400 base salary, which is more than charter school teachers who make $50,400, or private school teachers who make $45,300.

About 18 percent of all teachers work a second job outside of the school system, which earns them an average amount of $5,900 annually. Previous federal data has shown that most teachers are unsatisfied with their teaching salaries, which have been the target of many protests, strikes, and walkouts in the past couple years.

3. Fewer than half of teachers took a course in teaching English-learners before their first year teaching.

The survey asked teachers if they took a graduate or undergraduate course in selected subject areas before their first year in the classroom. Here are the results for public school teachers:

  • 79 percent took a course in lesson planning
  • 77 percent in learning assessment
  • 74 percent in classroom management techniques
  • 70 percent in serving students with special needs
  • 65 percent in serving students from diverse economic backgrounds
  • 56 percent in using student performance data to inform instruction
  • 41 percent in teaching English-language learners

Traditional public school teachers were more likely to have taken courses in these areas than their colleagues in private schools or charter schools. The two exceptions are that charter school teachers were more likely to have taken a course in serving students from diverse economic backgrounds (65.3 percent compared to 64.5 percent) and teaching English-learners (47.5 percent compared to 40.5 percent). Traditional public school teachers also had more experience compared to charter school teachers—14 years versus 10.

Researchers have found that many general education teachers are not equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the needs of English-learners or students with disabilities.

4. Public school teachers had a mostly positive view of their evaluations, but less so than their peers in private schools.

In the 2017-18 school year, 78 percent of public school teachers and 69 percent of private school teachers were evaluated during the last school year. Here’s how public school teachers felt about their evaluations:

  • 72 percent said the evaluation process helped them determine their success with students
  • 73 percent said the evaluation process positively affected their teaching
  • 69 percent said the evaluation process led to improved student learning
  • 86 percent said the results of their evaluation were accurate

5. Almost all public school teachers participated in professional development and generally had a favorable view of the experience.

About 76 percent of teachers said they have sufficient resources available for their professional development, and 84 percent said the techniques they’ve learned about in their PD will help improve student achievement.

About 74 percent of all teachers say they have the opportunity to provide feedback to school leaders about their PD experience to determine its value and impact. (Education Week has reported that many teachers feel like professional-development sessions don’t respect their expertise, experience, or time.)

Image: E+/Getty

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.