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Teacher characteristics and trends

Question:
What are the current characteristics of teachers and trends in the teaching profession?

Response:

In the 2017–18 school year, there were 3.3 million full-time and part-time traditional public school teachers, 205,600 public charter school teachers, and 509,200 private school teachers.1 The number of traditional public school teachers in 2017–18 was 12 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (3.0 million), the number of public charter school teachers in 2017–18 was 1,076 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (17,500), and the number of private school teachers in 2017–18 was 13 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (449,100).

Demographics

In 2017–18, a higher percentage of private school teachers than of traditional public school teachers were White (85 vs. 80 percent), and both percentages were higher than the percentage of public charter school teachers who were White (68 percent). In contrast, a lower percentage of private school teachers than of traditional public school teachers were Black (3 vs. 7 percent), and both percentages were lower than the percentage of public charter school teachers who were Black (10 percent). The same pattern can be observed for the percentages of teachers who were Hispanic: some 7 percent of private school teachers, 9 percent of traditional public school teachers, and 16 percent of public charter school teachers were Hispanic. The percentage of teachers who were Asian was higher for public charter and private school teachers (3 percent each) than for traditional public school teachers (2 percent). The percentages of teachers who were Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, or of Two or more races were 2 percent or less at all three types of schools. A higher percentage of private school teachers (26 percent) than of traditional public and public charter school teachers (24 percent each) were male.

The private school and traditional public school teacher workforces were older than the public charter school teacher workforce in 2017–18. For instance, the percentage of teachers who were in the 60 and over age category was higher for private school teachers (15 percent) than for traditional public school teachers (8 percent), and both percentages were higher than the percentage of public charter school teachers who were 60 and over (6 percent). In contrast, private school and traditional public school teachers had lower percentages of their workforces in the age categories under 40 compared with public charter school teachers. For instance, 14 percent of traditional public school teachers and 16 percent of private school teachers were under 30, compared with 24 percent of public charter school teachers.

In 2017–18, the percentage of teachers who had completed a postbaccalaureate degree (including a master’s degree, an education specialist degree or certificate,2 and a doctor’s degree) was higher for traditional public school teachers (59 percent) than for private and public charter school teachers (48 and 46 percent, respectively). A lower percentage of traditional public school teachers than of private school teachers had a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree (39 vs. 42 percent), and both percentages were lower than the percentage of public charter school teachers who had a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree (50 percent). Lower percentages of traditional public and public charter school teachers had less than a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree (3 percent each) compared with private school teachers (10 percent).


Percentage distribution of teachers in traditional public, public charter, and private elementary and secondary schools, by highest degree earned: 2017–18

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

1 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level. Includes certificate of advanced graduate studies.

NOTE: Excludes teachers who teach only prekindergarten. Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.


Salaries of Public School Teachers

Earlier sections of this Fast Fact explore characteristics of all full-time and part-time public and private school teachers. Teacher salary information is also available, but is presented only for regular full-time teachers in public schools.3 The average base salary for full-time public school teachers in 2017–18 can be compared to average salaries in previous years using constant 2018–19 dollars. In terms of constant 2018–19 dollars,4 for instance, the average salary for full-time public school teachers was lower in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 ($59,100 vs. $59,700) but not measurably different in 2017–18 than in 2011–12 ($59,000).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). The Condition of Education 2020 (NCES 2020-144), Characteristics of Traditional Public, Public Charter, and Private School Teachers and Characteristics of Public School Teachers.

Pupil/Teacher Ratio

During the 1970s and early 1980s, public school enrollment decreased while the number of teachers generally increased. For public schools, the number of pupils per teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio—declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 17.9 in 1985. After enrollment started increasing in 1985, the public school pupil/teacher ratio continued to decline, reaching 17.2 in 1989. After a period of relative stability from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the ratio declined from 17.3 in 1995 to 15.3 in 2008. After 2008, the public school pupil/teacher ratio increased, reaching 16.0 in 2016. In comparison, the private school pupil/teacher ratio was 11.9 in 2015. The average class size in 2011–12 was 21.2 pupils for public elementary schools and 26.8 pupils for public secondary schools.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics, 2018 (NCES 2020-009), Chapter 2.


1 Excludes teachers who taught only prekindergarten. These numbers are based on sample survey data and could differ from those based on other sample surveys or universe surveys.

2 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level. Includes certificate of advanced graduate studies.

3 Salary data are presented for regular, full-time public school teachers only; the data exclude other staff even when they have full-time teaching duties (regular part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, long-term substitutes, administrators, library media specialists, other professional staff, and support staff).

4 Constant dollar estimates are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

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