Thursday, February 01, 2007

Slamming Teacher Pay with Bad Research

The right-wing Manhattan Institute has launched a new attack on teachers, areport called “How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?” by Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters that ranks as some of the most idiotic research ever done on education.

The report declares that teachers are paid more per hour than many other white-collar and professional workers. And how did they get these numbers? Simple: by taking worthless Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on how much EMPLOYERS say that teachers work: “Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working.” In other words, teachers work 8am-3pm and then go home and never prepare for a class. Because most public school teachers are unionized, contracts prevent schools from reporting the actual work of a teacher. Yet these researchers are blissfully unaware of reality: “Some may fear that the extra time that teachers spend grading, preparing for class, and assisting extracurricular activities is not included in the BLS figures, but the BLS appears to include all these activities in its work-hour calculations: ‘Virtually all teachers worked from 30 to 40 hours per week, which included paid lunch and rest periods, as well as preparation and grading time if such activities were considered by the school to be a part of the teacher’s workday...’” Once again, this is all based on what the school reports to be part of the teacher’s workday, not on the actual amount of work done by teachers. The BLS makes no pretense of reporting how much work teachers do, but the Manhattan Institute twists this data to depict a false picture.

For another view on the topic, read the book by Dave Eggers et al called Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers. Of course, there are some teachers who manage to work the minimum possible hours, as there are people like that in every profession. But to assume that every teacher does no work outside is almost as crazy as David Horowitz’s bizarre assertions that professors only work “6 or 9 hours per week” based on classroom contact hours. Maybe if these researchers did more teaching, and less profit-making punditry for right-wing foundations, they might have a different view.

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