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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

3.7. Selected characteristics of public school teachers


Racial/ethnic minorities accounted for a smaller percentage of public school teachers in rural areas than in all other locales in 2003–04. A smaller proportion of rural public school teachers than suburban and city public school teachers had a master's degree or higher.

During the 2003–04 school year, there were more than 3.2 million teachers in public elementary and secondary schools (table 3.7). The number of public school teachers working in rural areas (739,000 or 23 percent of all such teachers) was smaller than the number in suburban areas (1.1 million or 34 percent) or cities (914,000 or 28 percent), but greater than in towns (472,000 or 15 percent). The distribution of these teachers across locales did not vary by sex, varied little by age, and varied markedly by education, teaching assignment, and race/ethnicity.

Nationally, 75 percent of public school teachers were female, a percentage that held relatively constant across all locales. A greater percentage of public school teachers across the nation were between 50 and 59 years old (29 percent) than between 40 and 49 (26 percent), between 30 and 39 (25 percent), under 30 (17 percent), or over 60 (4 percent). As with sex, the percentage of teachers in specific age categories was relatively constant across all locales.

The percentage of public school teachers in rural areas who held a master's degree or higher (43 percent) was lower than in suburban areas (52 percent) and cities (49 percent), but was not measurably different from the percentage in towns (45 percent) (table 3.7). Within rural areas, a greater percentage of teachers in rural fringe areas and distant rural areas had a master's degree as their highest level of education (40 and 38 percent, respectively) than in remote rural areas (32 percent) (table A-3.7).

Public school teachers in rural areas also differed somewhat from such teachers in other locales in both the level and subject of their teaching assignment. In both cities and suburbs, a larger percentage of teachers worked in elementary schools than in secondary schools, but in rural areas and towns there was no measurable difference between the percentages of elementary and secondary school teachers (see table 3.7). Public schools in rural areas and towns had a larger percentage of secondary teachers teaching vocational/technical education (14 percent) than public schools in cities and suburbs (10 percent each). However, public schools in rural areas had a smaller percentage of secondary teachers teaching foreign languages (4 percent) than public schools in cities (5 percent) and suburbs (6 percent). Otherwise, the distribution of secondary teachers across specific subject areas did not differ significantly between public schools in rural areas and other locales.

Some measurable differences were detected in the proportion of racial/ethnic groups in rural areas compared with other locales. Racial/ethnic minorities made up a smaller percentage of public school teachers in rural areas (8 percent) than in cities (29 percent), suburban areas (15 percent), and towns (12 percent) (figure 3.7). American Indian/Alaska Native teachers were the only racial/ethnic minority with a higher proportion in rural areas than in the other locales. Overall, 23 percent of all public school teachers worked in rural areas; however, among American Indian/Alaska Native public school teachers, 41 percent worked in rural areas, with 18 percent of those working in remote rural areas (data not shown). American Indian/Alaska Native teachers accounted for 2 percent of all teachers in remote rural areas, a higher proportion than in all other locales (table A-3.7).

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