Too much holiday dinner? Pig out on ed statistics

The National Education Association has released the latest in its long-running series with the not-too-sexy title: Rankings and Estimates — Rankings of the States and Estimates of School Statistics.

For our money (although it’s now a free download online), this annual compilation of U.S. education data is a high-value reference, both for policy geeks and grant writers, and for teacher leaders who want to expand their knowledge of the big picture beyond their own schools, districts and states.

The publicity that accompanies the report’s release usually centers on the annual rankings of teacher salaries and related data about teacher compensation. But there’s lots of other interesting information. Here are a few highlights from the 2007 edition:

• Investments in America’s public schools remain stagnant. The average one-year increase in public schoolteacher salaries was 2.9 percent, while inflation escalated 3.9%

• The national average public schoolteacher salary for 2005-2006 was $49,026.  State average public  salaries ranged from those in California ($59,825), Connecticut ($59,304) and the District of Columbia ($59,000) at the high end ,to South Dakota ($34,709), North Dakota ($37,764) and West Virginia ($38,284) at the low end.

•  Public school enrollment was 48,727,536, up 0.7 percent over fall 2004. The largest percentage of school enrollment increases from fall 2004 to fall 2005 were in Nevada (3.1%), Georgia (2.9%), Texas (2.8%) and Arizona (2.4%). The greatest declines were in Louisiana (-9.6%), North Dakota (-2.2%), Utah (-1.9%) and the District of Columbia (-1.3%).

• Average per student expenditure for public elementary and secondary schools was $9,100 based on 2005–06 fall enrollment. States with the highest per student expenditures were New Jersey ($13,781), New York ($13,551), Massachusetts ($12,596), Vermont ($12,475) and Connecticut ($12,436). Among the states with the lowest per student expenditures were Utah ($5,347), Arizona ($5,585), Nevada ($6,755), Oklahoma ($6,944) and Tennessee ($6,979). NEA says these figures, in the context of adequacy and equity in school funding studies, are about 25 percent short in meeting student needs.

•  Males comprised 24.4 percent of public schoolteachers in 2006. Many of them taught in Kansas (33.3%), Oregon (31.4%), Alaska (30.9%) or Indiana (30.5%). States with the lowest percentage of male faculty were Arkansas (17.5%), Mississippi (17.7%), Louisiana (17.8%), South Carolina (17.9%), Virginia (18.8%) and Georgia (19.3%).

• There were 3,121,638 teachers in 2005-06. The average number of students per teacher declined from 15.8 in 2004-05 to 15.6 in 2005-06. NEA notes that this ratio of students to teachers must not be confused with “Average Class Size,” which is the number of students assigned to a classroom for instructional purposes. According to recent studies, the difference between student-teacher ratio and average class size in K-3 is 9 or 10 students (Sharp 2002). Therefore, an elementary school with a schoolwide student-teacher ratio of 16:1 in kindergarten through third grade would typically have an average class size of 25 or 26 students in those same grades.

• The highest number of students enrolled per teacher  (see caution above) in public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2005: Arizona (21.8), Utah (21.3), California (21.0), Oregon (19.8), and Washington (19.3). States with the lowest student-teacher ratios were Vermont (10.5), Rhode Island (11.1), New York (12.3), and Maine (12.5).

AFT’s Salary Spin: The American Federation of Teachers also publishes teacher salary data (in the spring of each year), with a somewhat different riff. There’s a lot of focus on historic trends, the real “buying power” of salaries, and comparisons with other white-collar occupations. In AFT’s most recent Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends (2005 data – March 2007), you’ll find data tables illustrating facts like this: “Between 1984 and 1989, teachers saw a real increase in mean salary that averaged $1,039 per year. This is more than the total increase in average teacher salary from 1995 to 2005.” There are also tables comparing teacher salaries with other professions, nationally and by state. You may seek out additional “holiday cheer” when you read this: “Teachers are now among the lower-paid public employees. In 2004, the average teacher salary fell below the average salary for government workers for the first time since 1982.”

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