What teachers make

See how well your school district pays its teachers, writes the Sacramento Bee. California’s average teacher earned $65,808 last year, an increase of 3.4 percent from 2007, but pay varies.  High school districts pay the most, unified (K-12) districts are in the middle and elementary districts usually have the lowest pay.

I noticed pay averages $93,283 at my local high school district, with a starting salary of $59,692 and top pay of $112,796. That’s the highest, especially the starting pay, in our high-cost county.

Via Right on the Left Coast.

About Joanne


  1. Wow, must be nice. All I do is try to keep criminals off the streets–you know, public safety, the reason why government was created in the first place–and the state doesn’t pay me nearly that much. Plus between undergrad and law school I’m sure I have more student loan debt than almost any teacher. AND I don’t get 2-3 months off each year.

    But yeah, teachers are SO underappreciated. [/snark]

  2. If it makes you feel any better, Dave, those of us outside California aren’t making anything like that. The starting salary is what I could top out with if I had a PhD. (In other words, I’ll never make that starting salary.)

    I also work most of the summer — just not in front of kids. I’m not sure why, but people don’t consider us working when we’re prepping and grading.

  3. Yeah. My potential top salary tops out where these California salaries start–after I’ve been working maybe 15 years more. My current salary is about 25k below the average in California–after 5 years of teaching and a Masters. First-year teachers in Joanne’s district make 19k more than I do.

    (That said, there’s no freaking way I want to get a license and teach in California. Between the politics and the state debt load…disaster’s in the making there. Bad enough in my own state, but it’s survivable. I like my school, I like my district.)

  4. I’ve been teaching for 16 years now and I don’t make what the “average” US teacher makes, I don’t even make what the average Texas teacher makes.

    Plus, in just 4 more years I’ll top out on the Texas payscale at 20 years of service, and will only get raises when the state legislature or local school board decides to give me one.

  5. To DaveJ:
    Just curious, do you spend nights and week-ends prepping for your job? Are you expected to buy supplies, like paper, pencils, pens, folders, binders, etc. for your job? Are you expected to do professional development, like conferences and other classes, on your own time and dime? Are you expected to give up your lunch break and time after your day with no extra pay to help other people?

    Today is Sunday. I will have the distinct pleasure of reading and grading 60 essays and lesson planning for the upcoming week. Most days after school lets out, I am in my classroom a full hour and half or two hours grading and prepping for the next day. This week-end, I spent almost $50 for supplies that I need for my classroom – none of which is reimbursable. Every day my classroom is open at lunchtime and after school to help students who may need extra help.

    Yet, when I compare my salary to those in my county, my pay has actually decreased by a -8.1% when adjusted for inflation. When I hear people like Dave scoff at our salaries, my only response is to please come and do what I do. I’ve worked in the private sector for many years prior to teaching. There is no other job that I’ve held that is tougher and more under appreciated than teaching.

  6. Robert Wright says:

    The database isn’t accurate. I’m in San Jose’s Berryessa district and I make a couple thousand more than what they have listed as max.

    A few years ago I interviewed for a higher paying district but on my way out, I mistakenly opened the door to the closet.

    Everybody from the department was on the interview team, and every time I gave an answer the principal, a fat, unpleasant woman, actually snorted.

    It was the interview from hell.

    So, I make $20K less, but I still make more than it says I should in this database.

  7. Thanks for the link 🙂

  8. Mrs. Lopez says:

    I’m not mike, but most professionals have to spend some time outside of their 40-hour work weeks prepping for meetings, presentations, etc. Things are especially tough in this economic climate, where companies are laying off staff and expecting the rest to carry the weight.

    “Are you expected to buy supplies, like paper, pencils, pens, folders, binders, etc. for your job?”

    “Are you expected to do professional development, like conferences and other classes, on your own time and dime? Are you expected to give up your lunch break and time after your day with no extra pay to help other people?” Yes, because we are professionals, not assembly-line workers who punch a clock.

    “Most days after school lets out, I am in my classroom a full hour and half or two hours grading and prepping for the next day.” Good. That is called an EIGHT HOUR WORK DAY.

    “…my pay has actually decreased by a -8.1% when adjusted for inflation.” Welcome to the club. My husband is an engineer who has had a pay decrease for 4 years in a row now. We hope things get better for all of us soon. Teachers and other professionals.

  9. I’d write exactly what Ms. Teacher said. But then I read these other comments, so I’ll add some things here. I’m a career-changer, from a stressful, high-paid field. I changed careers because I wanted to make a difference. And you know what? Teaching is SO much harder than anything I’ve ever done before.

    I have to be at school at 7:30. Most days I need to be there by 7:00 to be ready. Kids are gone by 3:30. I don’t really get a lunch or break, because I’m on-duty all the time. That’s over an 8-hour day already, constantly “on” with the kids–thank you very much for the sarcasm, Mrs. Lopez. I work 2-3 additional hours every weekday, and spend much of my weekend working as well–prepping, planning, grading. With NCLB and mainstreaming, I have special ed students, gifted students, and English Learners in my classroom of 30+ kids, and I have to differentiate instruction for ALL of them. The planning time for that is astronomical, and there is zero down time in the classroom.

    Weekends? Ha. I work most of my weekends. Prepping, grading, planning. And I still can’t get it all done.

    In the summer, I do get something of a break, but I spend much of it prepping for the next year, taking classes, and trying to stay up on my field.

    I spend significantly more of my own money to have the basics for my classroom than I ever would have dreamt of spending at any other job. We’re not talking a box of file folders and a few pens here.

    For years as a non-teacher, I thought teachers were spoiled complainers. Then I became one and found out different. Anyone who thinks teachers don’t know what it’s like in the “real world” should go try to be one. They’d find out that teachers don’t live in the real world–because the expectations placed upon us are absolutely UNREAL.

  10. Eight hour workday. Go on! You’re pulling my leg. I added up what I spent last year for classroom supplies and teaching materials and it was pretty close to a thousand bucks (ouch). FWIW, I’ve yet to see my husband, who works for a major corporation, spend a cent on work stuff other than maybe a few pens/pencils. I never spent my own money on supplies when I worked in the private sector. They even paid tuition reimbursement!

    I’m a career changer, too. I love teaching, but it is harder than anything I’ve ever done. That’s probably one of the reasons I like it. A lot of people tell me they could never teach high school, and they’re probably right. Spending the day with a hundred or so teenagers and keeping your patience/sanity is not as delightful as it sounds. I know people who won’t even come near my building when class is in session because it scares them — and our kids are well behaved.

    Oh, and I know I’m supposed to be all motivated by money and stuff, but I’m with joycem — no frickin’ way I’d teach in California (or Texas). I clued into that one years ago when I noticed reps from those two states at local education job fairs offering unheard-of salaries. I figured it must suck pretty bad to work there if they were paying that well and still had to recruit thousands of miles away.

  11. Robert–you may be getting some extra pay contracts. I know I am so I am making more than the top of the chart for Fresno Unified. I’ve been on the job for 20 years and I have over 90 units beyond the BS. I get an extra pay contract for yearbook and for department chair. Nice thing about that is the extra pay contracts now get STRS taken for retirement benefits. That started in 2000.

    Lightly Seasoned–you are right, it does such pretty bad to work in some of the schools here in California. I work in an inner city school and it has really worn me down over the 20 years. I just don’t see any improvement in what we are getting as for raw material. The behavior is getting worse, not better. I did a career change 20 years ago from industry to education. I want to go back to industry, and I’m willing to take a pay cut to do it.

  12. Too bad the list wasn’t done by school with the associated API scores. At least for Santa Clara county I get the general impression that better performing districts pay teachers more, but with the variety of district structures (high/middle/elementary) I’d have to do my own research to be more certain.

  13. Mrs. Lopez says:

    I knew that wasn’t going to be very popular. I try to treat teachers like the professionals they are supposed to be. In every profession there are those who go above and beyond what is expected and what they are paid to do. My sincere admiration goes to those. I just find it odd when teachers complain about the fact that they are professionals and expected to work outside of a 6 hour day. Don’t you?

  14. Robert Wright says:

    I spend on average $3,000 of my own money a year for school supplies. My friend, Mike, spends well over %5,000.

    The 40 hour work week?

    There are some teachers who work less than 40 hours per week, true, but most teachers I know work 60 hours per week.

    Most days I work through lunch. Those days that I do eat, I only have 15 to 20 minutes.

    I make about $88k a year, but that’s after 33 years. When you figure I started out at $14K and you average it all out, it’s not as high as it may seem.

    But I really don’t have any complaints. I own a house. I have one reliable car. I can afford music lessons for my son. And, I like teaching. In fact, I like it so much that I’d work for a lot less.

    How much should teachers be paid? That’s an easy question.

    Teachers, like everyone else, should be paid as little as possible.

    When there’s an actual shortage, you pay them more. When there’s a glut, you pay them less.

    The idea that one group deserves more, or deserves less, isn’t compatible with a free market system.

  15. Mrs. Lopez–You’re missing the point. Most upper elementary teachers at least, are responsible for an 8 hour day, NOT a six-hour day. There are children on my campus, and I am solely responsible for teaching them for about 7 of the 8 hours of that time. I am responsible for responding to their needs and/or supervising them for the other hour–it is not “off time.”

    We are also responsible for prepping and grading, which takes more hours per day. That is not above and beyond what is expected–we cannot teach without prepping and grading. The idea that ANY teacher can, or is expected, to complete his or her work during the scheduled school day is ludicrous. You are misinformed if you think that teachers have a 6-hour day with children to begin with–it is 8 hours, do the math. I HAVE to work at least 10-hour days, plus the weekends. However, my complaint IS NOT about my hours, it’s about the assumption many of the public make that teachers don’t work as hard as everyone else, the assumption of people like you that we even could work a 6 hour day.

    I think that if people are going to accuse other professionals of “complaining,” that perhaps they should find out what those professionals actually do. Don’t you?

  16. Mrs. Lopez–

    Teacher workdays are not the same as the student contact day. Teachers are required to be on site at least 15-30 minutes before students arrive/school starts, and are required to be on site for at least 45 minutes-1 hour after students leave. My official work day is at least 8 hours. That’s not the same amount of time that students are there.

    Even at that, the hours we’re there that students are not are generally insufficient to finish work, especially grading or paperwork for those specialties (such as special ed or ELL) which require extra paperwork for tracking/bureaucratic record keeping. I also am a career changer, and the amount of work expected outside of the contracted work day is higher for teachers than for almost anyone outside of highly paid professionals who usually make at least twice what a teacher makes. Those professionals also usually don’t need to buy supplies for their office because the budget’s been frozen.

  17. As a freelancer, who works all the time, I’d love to be a teacher, but I’m not at all interested in getting an education degree. I still don’t see what that’s the big requirement.

  18. Stop whining. You chose this job, so just stop whining that you’re underpaid or underappreciated or overworked. Telling us how we all don’t understand how hard you work does not increase sympathy. It does not make us more likely to vote a bond measure for you, either.

    All your whining does is undermine your “profession” and its respect and prestige.

  19. It’s not whining, it’s reality. As a career changer, I used to scoff at teachers as well. However, once I stepped into the classroom, I realized that what I thought was whining and complaining wasn’t that at all.

    Yes, I chose this profession and I love what I do. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that most people think I have it easy because their erroneous assumptions. In the last past four years, I have seen my salary increase by a whopping $400 dollars a year. In the meantime, I am expected by the wonderful state of California and the federal government to do more and more with less and less.

    I would love to actually only work what my contract requires of me. However if I did that, the public would complain that I was being lazy. I don’t expect any of those on the outside to understand it. I didn’t get it either until I actually started teaching.

  20. It’s always interesting to me that non-teachers think they know what it is to be a teacher. I would never presume to know more about what people in other professions do than they themselves.

    It’ always interesting to me that when we try to correct people’s HUGE misconceptions about our job, they have the nerve to call it “whining.”

  21. Do you have ANY IDEA what MY JOB is like? Do you find me constantly feeling the need to explain to non-scientists what I actually DO as a scientist?

    Because I assure you, most people, including most college educated people I’ve met have absolutely no idea what a scientist does.

    Do I spend my time on blogs whining that other people have misconceptions? Do I feel the need over and over again to justify my plight, how misunderstood it is, how overworked I am?

    No, I don’t. We don’t. Most people don’t. Why not? Because we are not victims, we are not picking our field of work to receive “oh you poor dear” accolades, so we can feel we’re making the world a better place “if only” those other folks would help us.

    And if that isn’t what you are or what you do, then you’d be wise to stop acting a victim who needs our pity. It’s not helping your cause. It’s really not fixing our misconceptions. It’s certainly reinforcing that my main conception of most (particularly female, and particularly young) teachers is “whiner. Victim. emotional basket case who uses teaching to fill empty holes in life.”

  22. Just so people don’t think that I actually meant $400 each year, that’s $400 total since 2004. That is despite the fact that during that time I earned my Master’s degree and took on extra professional development courses in order to move me up the pay scale.

  23. Oh Allison, please show me the blogs and the articles in which people write that you make too much and you have it easy. And, for the record, most of the people that have posted on this blog have tried to tell the critics of teachers that we have had other jobs prior to teaching. I started teaching AFTER starting a family and going back to school. Far from the “young female whining” teacher that you write about!

    I don’t expect accolades. I do expect people to understand that the perception that they have a teaching day is nothing like the reality. I’m not a young teacher just starting out. I am a person who has lived life and has had other positions, both in the private and public sector. None of it compares to what I am required to do as a teacher on a salary that continues to decrease when adjusted for inflation.

    Please share what you are expected to do and give us a chance to judge you. Afterall, that’s what the general public does to teachers every single day.

  24. It’s really simple actually.

    I’ll accept the low wages and long hours if society simply does one thing; give teachers the tools to teach.

    -Every student/teacher should have access to the best tools possible.
    -Every teacher should have the tool to remove a student from class (the reason charters work is simple: make own expulsion policy and motivated parents).
    -Every district should have the tool to fire bad teachers, without idiot union interference.

    Our society is incredibly hypocritical in demanding that teachers “do better” when they fail to give teachers tools they need for success. (notice it didn’t say ‘pay teachers’). When you actually start taking education seriously (meaning teachers, parents, officials, society in general), then you’ll get serious results.

    In the meantime, you morons that think you have a clue about teaching can shut-the-hell, unless you have the balls to step into the classroom and find out what it’s like to have society expect the building of the Pyramids while at the same time taking way shovels, instigating rebellion, and blaming you for the sandstorm.

    Take education seriously and the kids will get seriously educated.

  25. From whining to indignation!

    The general public judges you for taking their money and their children–inputs–and not producing expected outputs, e.g. literate and numerate young adults.

    Telling us how hard your job is and what lousy conditions you have does not change the input or output.

    But you can keep trying to sell your sarcasm and contempt to me. It still doesn’t improve my estimation of you. So again: what is your goal? To educate me on the reality of your sacrifice? You keep educating me on the entitlement you feel.

    What is your goal? To correct our misconceptions–so that we then what, exactly? pay your more? save you from your lousy job conditions? Feel sorry for you? say “aw shucks, they work so hard! Let’s give them unicorns!” Because, again, whatever it is you hope to achieve by “Educating” me, does it really appear to be working? Why not top blaming those of us having to hear it, and consider the message is the problem.

  26. Just remember, my lousy job conditions are your kid’s lousy job conditions.

  27. Some teachers are underpaid. Other teachers are vastly overpaid. In my child’s elementary school, twenty three year olds with no life experience who don’t have enough sense to wear clothes that cover their underwear make over $41,000 per year.

    In two years, they get a contract for lifetime employment. The also get extremely good health benefits.

    There is little to no accountability. If they can’t teach or maintain order in their classroom, if they can’t manage to maintain enough knowledge of California history or math in their heads to teach it, there are no consequences for the teacher.

    There are some teachers who try to remediate the effects of the bad teachers.

    The consequences for poor teaching fall on the students and their parents. If the kids don’t learn enough, they don’t do well enough in high school to go to college or they show up at college without a sufficient background. The lucky kids have parents willing and able to afterschool to make up for the school’s deficits.

    As for the complaint about not making enough money…be a grownup…no one makes as much money as they want. If the job you chose doesn’t provide a sufficient income, get another one. If you don’t get another one quit complaining.

    By the way, my husband and I work for ourselves. We buy all are own supplies, and there have been quite a few years we have had to take a pay cut. Both of us have had to alter what we do to make enough money for our needs.

  28. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Allison, that’s because nobody really cares what you do.

  29. Margo/Mom says:

    This conversation is typical of so many I have seen on blogs. I have spent some time in classrooms, far more on the outside. It doesn’t matter what my experience has been–it’s never enough to convince anyone that I have a valid viewpoint if it is anything other than teachers are underpaid, underappreciated and not supported in their quest to do more than is humanly possible.

    I agree that looking at California’s numbers is not instructive for most of the rest of the country.

    Perhaps I can make a stab at explaining why so many of the rest of us–that is, those outside of education–get so frustrated with this discussion. Many, although not all, teachers enter the field straight out of college and stay until they retire. Their experience and expectations come from a fairly small pool of reality. It is surprising to many teachers that most workers elsewhere do not have any expectation of due process in lay-offs or firings. For most workers firing without cause is a legally protected right of employers. Although teachers have far more due process protection than most workers, as a profession they frequently disavow responsibility for inititating reforms due to fear of various repercussions–including job loss. While teachers frequently point out that they obtain additional training on an ongong basis (on their own time and dime), they also frequently blame others–administration, ed schools, for not providing them with the knowledge that they need to respond to the actual population in their school.

    I have never heard a teacher admit to flying out the door as soon as the children leave, yet, as a parent, I cannot ever reach a teacher by phone after the last bell. I cannot schedule a conference with a teacher during that time. This has been my experience for over a decade. Even administrators are not able to schedule conferences with parents that include teachers outside of class time. It may be different in other districts–but this is how it is in mine. In addition, a couple of years ago, the official school day was shortened by one class period for middle and high school. Teacher time remained unchanged. Were teachers happy about this change (which included one period in the day in which NO teachers had classses–which should have facilited collaboration)? No–the union launched a campaign focused on the unfair expectation that teachers be required to collaborate during “their” time. The district also allowed a budget for after-school intervention classes targetted for students with highest need. It never happened because the union circulated the word that any teacher who participated (by teaching extra hours for extra pay) would be considered to be a traitor to their cause.

    As a worker–in non-profits most of my life and now with government–I expect that I have twenty more working years before I can afford to retire. Most of my retirement fund in previous years has been “on my own dime,” and I still contribute in addition to what my employer will provide. I know educators my age who have already retired with full benefits, including health care. I don’t begrudge them their opportunity. I just wish there was a greater appreciation for the work done by others–frequently as risk-filled, as gruelling and challenging, perhaps with longer hours and even less reimbursement. Perhaps some valuable learning time next summer could be spent making home visits and getting to know the kinds of work (with what kinds of compensation) the parents of some of your students are accustomed to. It wouldn’t cost much.

  30. linda seebach says:

    McSwain, above, says, “With NCLB and mainstreaming, I have special ed students, gifted students, and English Learners in my classroom of 30+ kids, and I have to differentiate instruction for ALL of them. The planning time for that is astronomical, and there is zero down time in the classroom.”

    Deliberately mixing academically dissimilar students in a single classroom not only requires astronomical planning time, it guarantees an unsatisfactory outcome for nearly all the students. All in pursuit of an illusory goal of “inclusion.” Wouldn’t it work better to group similar students together, so they could progress at similar rates?

    Of course it would, but that’s one of the things that Cannot Be Said. Let alone done.

    The system does make teachers’ jobs harder than they need to be. On the other hand, a lot of the people filling those jobs would have a hard time making the same kind of money (considering security and benefits. especially retirement benefits, as well) in other careers. They certainly wouldn’t in journalism.

  31. Margo/Mom says:

    linda–it can be said, and frequently is said–particularly by those who advocate for advantaged students. the problem is that while it appears to be “logical,” based on our post-industrial experiences, to group students by “ability” and achieve better outcomes for all, the evidence doesn’t point in that direction. Most research that I have seen on the topic shows that, particularly at an early age, ability grouping reinforces, rather than compensates for differences. Furthermore, mixed groupings typically produce better outcomes for those on the bottom with no harm to those on top.

  32. I cannot ever reach a teacher by phone after the last bell. I cannot schedule a conference with a teacher during that time.

    That is the exact opposite of my experience.

  33. Lightly Seasoned says:

    I have no problem respecting what other people do for a living. I think social workers, doctors, even those much maligned lawyers, work hard for their money. So do police officers, nurses, social workers, and others in similar professions.

    From context, Margo, I assume you were a social worker at one time (or are still). At what point have I ever launched into a tirade about the how incompetent social workers are because one put my student, who was beaten bloody with a telephone, back with his mother so she could then get her boyfriend to beat the crap out him?

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    > It’s always interesting to me that non-teachers think they know what it is to be a teacher. I would never presume to know more about what people in other professions do than they themselves.

    You must be new here. Teachers often say that it’s unreasonable to expect certain things from them and insist that no one else has meet those expectations when those expectations happen to be SOP outside teaching.

    For example, pay for results. And, no, you don’t get a break if there’s something wrong with the inputs. If you can’t succeed with what’s available, you lose. If no one can succeed in those circumstances, the job goes away.

  35. “Just curious, do you spend nights and week-ends prepping for your job?”

    I’m a prosecutor. Nights, yes. Weekends? Not every one, but when I’m in trial you bet your ass plus a million dollars I work harder than you do for less money and less thanks.

  36. Margo/Mum, one of the programmes shown to be most effective at teaching students is Direct Instruction, which uses grouping by ability. See http://www.projectpro.com/ICR/Research/DI/Summary.htm and http://www.aasa.org/issues_and_insights/district_organization/Reform/overview.htm

    This programme focuses on grouping children by two factors – how much they already know and how much they learn. So a kid with an IQ of 120 who starts school not knowing their alphabet would be placed earlier in the lesson sequence than a kid with an IQ of 80 who starts school knowing their alphabet. Kids can and often are placed in different places in the maths and reading sequences based on their results. Replacements are frequently reviewed. And if a kid misses a chunk of school, say due to illness, they’re placed back where they left the sequence, rather than being expected to have magically learnt everything their class learnt while they were missed. There are a lot of other things that Direct Instruction does, including providing scripted lessons to teachers and providing school backup for teachers dealing with difficult students. But this brief description of how placement by ability is done in Direct Instruction indicates how difficult it is to make general statements about grouping by ability – the Direct Instruction system is very different to, say, giving kids an IQ test and then using the results of that test to assign them to one stream for all their academic lessons.

    Education really deserves to be a profession in that it’s like engineering or medicine or architecture – a whole lot of things need to go right for the overall outcome to be good. Engineers not only need to build a working internal combustion engine, but also fill it up with fuel, if they don’t do this step then the car doesn’t go no matter how good the engine is. A doctor needs to prescribe you the right medicine, and then the pharmacist needs to disburse the right medicine (my father started getting some serious health problems when he was prescribed a medicine to be taken twice a day, and the pharmacist gave him a different medicine which should only have been taken once every two days, so Dad was getting 4x the expected dose and of the wrong medicine to boot). A building may have wonderful walls and a brillantly designed-and-built roof, but if the builders stuffed up the foundation it can all come crashing down. Be careful about drawing conclusions from education research, it’s hard to figure out if something failed because the idea was wrong or because a detail of the implementation was wrong.

  37. Margo/Mom says:

    Tracy W.

    I am no intuitive fan of Direct Instruction–but I do pay attention to research and what it says, and I am aware of the research re DI and what it says and doesn’t say. The grouping used in DI is flexible ability grouping. This means that children are assessed frequently and placed in groups accordingly. These groups are used for reading instruction. This is a very different thing from ability streaming or tracking–which is what I understood to be advocated. These systems typically lack flexibility, apply across the board–so that students are abundantly clear regarding who are the smart kids and who are not, and the earlier that this tracking takes place, the less likely kids are ever to move from one group to another (particularly upward). Most effective systems internationally have moved away from this kind of tracking (although the popular US delusion is that they are still educating and testing only the best and the brightest) with the result being that their aggregate scores are higher, but also that the spread between top and bottom is narrower. They have fewer kids (smaller percentages) on the bottom and more at the top.

    Early studies with school integration, in which minority students who performed less well were integrated with better performing majority students. The minority students tended to do better with no detriment to the majority students. Studies of inclusion of students with disabilities have tended towards similar results.

  38. Margo/Mom said

    “Furthermore, mixed groupings typically produce better outcomes for those on the bottom with no harm to those on top.”

    There is harm to the top. A mixed group by definition has children at different skill levels. A child who can read Harry Potter levels gain no benefit sitting in a classroom sounding out three letter words. The wasted time is harmful.

    You can argue that:

    1. The benefit to the bottom kids outweighs the harm to the high kids;
    2. The high kids don’t deserve to learn in school;
    3. Or whatever else you want

    But at least admit the harm that sitting in a classroom with little to no opportunities for learning, interacting with academic peers, or developing study skills causes the top kids.

  39. linda seebach says:

    MargoMom bove said, “Most research that I have seen on the topic shows that, particularly at an early age, ability grouping reinforces, rather than compensates for differences. Furthermore, mixed groupings typically produce better outcomes for those on the bottom with no harm to those on top.”

    It is almost certainly correct that ability grouping reinforces differences. But that’s not a bug, as she seems to think; it’s a feature. The difference between a child with -2 S.D. IQ and +2 S.D. cannot be “compensated for;” the only thing mixed grouping can guarantee is that time does not widen it as much as should happen if every child is achieving his or personal best.

    (See Malcolm Gladwell’s example of the Canadian hockey rules that inadvertently privilege young players who happen to be born early in a calendar year.)

    If one child makes (or can make) two years’ progress in a school year, and her sister can make only a half-year’s progress in one year, it is immoral to hold the brighter child back so the gap between them does not grow.

    And as public policy, it’s insane. If you’re worried about America’s global competitiveness, worry about the competition at the top for the best-trained brains, not the competition for slightly better performance in entry-level jobs, however important the latter is to the life chances of people who will never get much past entry-level jobs.

    James Coleman explained why minority children who previously attended segregated schools did better when they began attending schools with white children; they had more effective teachers. His research was too explosive to publish at the time, he said in a lecture I heard him give much much later. So even if they did, that does not provide evidence in favor of the proposition that it was smarter *classmates* who made the difference.

    Racial issues aside, I doubt that the experience of feeling that just about everybody in your class is smarter than you are confers any academic benefit. Especially if you’re right.

    For that matter, neither does thinking you’re smarter than just about everybody in your class. Even if you’re right.

    The research that purports to show that high-achieving children are not harmed by homogeneous grouping is methodologically suspect. (see, e.g., the work of Deborah Ruf at wwww.educationaloptions.com/ ). She explains that most of the instruments available to researchers have rather low ceilings, so they don’t show that children above the ceilings are making slower than normal progress (for them). That’s harm, in my book.

    I think we’re in danger of beating a dead thread here. I’m at linsee at plethora dot net, if anyone wants to pursue it.

  40. Early studies with school integration, in which minority students who performed less well were integrated with better performing majority students. The minority students tended to do better with no detriment to the majority students.

    Those studies must have largely controlled for class considerations, then — because the aforementioned James Coleman had changed his initial tune, so to speak, about the supposed benefits of integration on [black] student achievement. I had read only a little of Coleman’s idea that it was better teachers that accounted for any improvement (as Linda noted); I’ve read more (based on research about New Castle County, Delaware’s desegregation case from the mid-70s) regarding his belief that the disparate behavorial issues between suburban (white) and urban (black) kids were more readily apparent than any academic improvements.

  41. Margo/Mom says:

    In supporting heterogeneous classrooms with instruction differentiated to meet the needs of all students, the National Association of School Psychologists says the following:

    “The effects of ability grouping have been analyzed and debated related to various populations including individuals identified as gifted and talented, individuals identified with educational disabilities, individuals of minority status, and economically disadvantaged students. Research has demonstrated that the use of whole class ability grouping disproportionately impacts minority students, economically disadvantaged students, and students with lower ability. Related to individuals identified with educational disabilities, whole class ability grouping does not comply with the requirements of placement within the least restrictive educational (LRE) environment. Further, the practice of whole class ability grouping/tracking can deny many children of their statutory right to equal educational opportunity.

    Demonstrated best educational practice can lead to the establishment of excellence for all learners without resorting to the use of ability grouping.”

    Among the troubling assumptions that I hear from those, particularly in advocating for students that they consider to be of higher intellectual capability, who support ability tracking, are those of an innate cognitive ability that is fixed from birth, and of a superior entitlement based on a belief that those who are judged to be of higher capability will ultimately make a greater contribution to society and therefore warrant an additional amount of attention–and separation from others not to be considered their peers.

  42. Again with the strawmen, Margo. Nobody has even hinted at what you are accusing them of.

    Children are mainstreamed in a number of ways in school and out. Flexible ability grouping is not tracking. Appropriate education for the gifted/bright is not “superior entitlement.” Their “contribution to society” has nothing to do with the speed their math class takes.

    I know quite a bit about this. I have a child with a two-digit IQ and severe developmental delays who I will need to take guardianship in a couple of years, and one with a gifted IQ. There is no way you can put both children in the same room and meet their needs, plus teach 20-something children in-between all at the same time.

    But, I have watched them try. The differentiation that needs to take place just in a special ed classroom alone is enough to drive a good teacher over the edge.

    And you don’t need a research paper to witness the devastation of putting a child in a classroom that is years above his/her level the entire year to know the damage it will do.

  43. linda seebach says:

    Sorry, I meant to write “heterogeneous” too.


  1. […] Via Joanne Jacobs, the Sacramento Bee has put together a database where you can compare teacher pay by district. […]