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Virginia Journal of Education

A Snapshot of America’s Teachers

Every year, the U.S. Department does a survey of public PreK-12 schools to get some facts and figures on the professional educators who are teaching our children. Drawn from the its most recent survey report, “Characteristics of Public Elementary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States,” which was released in August, here is a snapshot of our nation’s teachers:

• There are many, many of you across our land—an estimated 3,827,100 in public PreK-12 schools. About 6 percent teach in public charter schools. (According to NEA research, Virginia has 102,064 of the national teacher total.)

• Over three-quarters of you (77 percent) are female. Nine percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are black and 2 percent non-Hispanic Asian. Eighty percent are white.

• While plenty of you are rookies this year, public school teachers have an average of about 14 years of classroom experience. Forty-two percent have 15 years or more; 40 percent have less than four.

• Almost half (47 percent) of you listed a master’s as the highest degree you’ve earned; 41 percent said bachelor’s.

• You feel pretty good about the amount of control you have in your classrooms: About 98 percent say they have significant say in evaluating and grading students, choosing teaching techniques, and determining the amount of homework assigned. You’re a little less confident when it comes to curriculum: 85 percent say they have some control of selecting content and skills to teach, 84 percent on choosing textbooks and other materials.

• Many of you are not getting some of the most important preparation needed for teaching in today’s schools: Slightly less than two-thirds (64 percent) say they had undergraduate or graduate courses before entering the classroom in serving students from diverse economic backgrounds; just 38 percent say that was the case for helping English Language Learners or students with limited English proficiency.

• You spend an average of 53 hours on your job weekly.

• Your average salary is $55,100, and teachers who get paid for extracurricular or additional activities earn, on average, an extra $2,600. Teachers who report income from sources outside the school system average $5,100. (NEA research puts the average salary figure at $58,353 and Virginia’s average at $50,834, leaving the Commonwealth’s teachers slightly over $7,500 behind the national average.)

• If you’re teaching in a departmentalized set-up, your average class size is 27 for primary and middle schools, and 26 for high schools.


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