Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

An underfunded disaster awaiting taxpayers? Pension puzzles part II

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

In the first part of “Pension Puzzles” I wrote “Everyone knows that taxpayers are getting stuck with a huge bill for teacher pensions and that the money paying for those pensions is money not going into direct education support. The thing everyone knows doesn’t come close to describing how bad the situation really is.”

You probably have a sense that teacher pensions have gotten very expensive. That is true, but things are worse than you may think for two reasons: (1) Much of the large amount that we pay into pension systems is currently allocated to make up for failures to adequately fund pension systems in the past—such spending doesn’t support current education at all; and, (2) The accounting rules for public pension systems are bent, so the real deficit is far larger than it appears to be.

Are we really spending that much more than we used to on teacher pensions? Robert Costrell, of the University of Arkansas, has put together the numbers that show just how much spending has risen. Costrell’s first graph shows employer contributions for teachers’ retirement benefits (in red) and for private sector managers and professionals (in blue) from 2004 through the fall of 2015.


The first thing that strikes you may be that the red teacher line is substantially higher than the blue private-sector line. Remember though that the height of the lines are determined by employer contributions divided by salary. The denominator (the salary) is generally higher in the private sector (as I’ve written about before), which makes the blue line lower than it would be if we were looking at employer contributions for equal salary levels. So the relative heights of the lines don’t necessarily mean that pension payments are higher (in actual dollar value) for teachers. However, Costrell’s work does make two things clear:

  1. The mix of pension spending to current salary is much higher for teachers than it is for the private sector. This suggests, but for reasons discussed below doesn’t prove, that the mix between current and deferred compensation for teachers is wrong.
  2. Spending on pensions versus current compensation has skyrocketed for teachers while remaining more or less unchanged in the private sector.

Does this pension spending amount to a big deal in the overall scheme of education budgets?


Costrell has calculated that school contributions to retirement plans (for all employees, not just teachers) has doubled in inflation-adjusted terms over the last decade. Here’s his picture:

gs_20161012_teachers_benefitsCostrell estimates that schools now devote almost 9 percent of all current spending to pension contributions.

Here’s another way to put the numbers. This figure shows we now spend nearly $1,100 per student on retirement benefits. The average public school student teacher ratio is 16 to 1. So we are spending about $17,000 per year per teacher in pension contributions. Do you suppose most teachers might prefer a little less in the way of pension contributions and a little more in the way of salary? The mix of current versus deferred compensation for teachers seems weighted too heavily toward pension and not enough toward current salary.

But here’s the problem. In many states, much of the spending on teacher pensions isn’t actually going to pay for pensions for current teachers. Instead, the payments into pension funds are going to make up for the failure to adequately fund those pensions in past years. (The inadequate funding is a problem for state and local pensions generally; it’s not limited to teacher pensions.)

How did we get into this situation? When politicians sit down to negotiate teacher compensation they face a choice: Pay good salaries now and raise taxes to fund them, or pay modest salaries now with the promise of big pensions later and figure that someone else will be in office when the bill comes due. Well, you could probably guess what happened in most states, and now the bill is coming due. The National Council on Teacher Quality writes,

In 2014 teacher pension systems had a total of a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities—a debt load that climbed more than $100 billion in just the last two years. Across the states, an average of 70 cents of every dollar contributed to state teacher pension systems goes toward paying off the ever-increasing pension debt, not to future teacher benefits (p. iii).

While we are spending a huge amount to fund teacher pensions, most of that spending doesn’t go to attracting the best teachers. It’s paying off past debts. (For a more detailed discussion, see Chad Aldeman’s “The Pension Pac-Man.”)

If all this sounds bad, that just means you don’t fully appreciate the situation. It’s not “bad,” it’s really, really bad. It turns out that public pension systems play by a different set of accounting rules than those allowed in the private sector, and this allows the pension funds to greatly overstate their reserves. (Again this is all local and state pensions, not just teacher pensions.)

The issue at hand is the interest rate that the public pension systems are allowed to assume in calculating how much money they need to fund future pension liabilities. The fundamental rule of finance theory is that if you guarantee a future payment—as pension funds do—then you need to figure your investment returns based on investments guaranteed not to lose money. In other words, the interest rate you should use in calculations is the so-called “safe rate of return.” Safe assets don’t pay as much as risky assets. When we invest for our own retirement, most of us put some of our money in stocks. We realize that if the stock market takes a turn for the worse we’ll be hurt, but the odds are good that we’re better off with some risk in the investment. The issue is that when we invest for ourselves we’ve decided to risk a smaller retirement income. Pension funds have promised a specified payment level—therefore they should be forecasting earnings only at the safe rate of return.

The way the law is written, public pension funds are allowed to assume they will earn at the higher, risky rate. Nobel laureate William Sharpe (Bill invented much of modern finance theory) explains that public pension funds can be valued in two ways. The “actuarial approach” uses the (legally permissible) higher, risky interest rate. The “market value approach” uses the (correct) lower, safe rate of interest. For example, CalPERS (the giant California public pension system for most workers other than teachers) assumes a 7.5 percent return on assets (actuarial approach) when deciding how much money it needs to set aside but assumes a much lower 2.56 percent return (“market value approach”) when negotiating buyouts from the system.

All this makes an unbelievably large difference. Suppose you wanted to guarantee a $20,000 a year pension with 30 years of payments. If you believe that you are guaranteed to earn 7.5 percent a year then you need to set aside $236,208. But if you are only sure to earn 2.56 percent a year then the required set aside rises to $415,276. In this example, a pension fund using the actuarial method has set aside only a bit over half of what it really needs.

If that sounds really, really bad…you’re still missing something. Most teacher pension plans provide significant inflation protection. That means that the safe investment return has to include an offset for future inflation. At the moment, the return on a 30-year Treasury bond that includes an inflation offset is only 0.67 percent. Using that as a truly safe rate of return, the pension fund in our example should really set aside $541,908 (2.3 timesthe original set aside value).

In summary, teacher pensions aren’t great for most teachers, and the system is an underfunded disaster waiting to happen for taxpayers. For teachers, we should reform the system to something equitable for all teachers and fairly funded going forward. It’s harder to say what we should do about the gross underfunding of the already incurred pension debt. But as the aphorism attributed to Will Rogers says,

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

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Are teacher pensions really that high? Pension puzzles part I

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

Everyone knows that teachers get great pensions and that those great pensions make up for the less-than-stellar salaries teachers earn. Everyone knows that taxpayers are getting stuck with a huge bill for said pensions and that the money paying for those pensions is money not going into direct education support. Well, the first thing everyone knows isn’t true and the second thing everyone knows doesn’t come close to describing how bad the situation really is.

The first thing you should know is that really good data on pensions that’s comparable for teachers and non-teachers is tough to come by. The best source for teacher pension data is probably TeacherPensions.org, a  group that’s trying to straighten out the teacher pension mess. I’ll show you some of their data together with data from other sources for non-teachers.Teacher pensions are a mess. Understanding what’s going on with teacher pensions is messy as heck. However, some progress can be made if we divide the topic into two pieces: Are teacher pensions really high? (Not so much.) Are teacher pensions really expensive? (Not only expensive, they’re even more expensive than it appears on the surface.) I’ll tackle the first question today, then focus on the second in my next Chalkboard post.

If we want to ask whether teacher pensions are high or not, we need to begin by asking “Compared to what?” The labor market for teachers is a subset of the more general labor market for college-educated workers. So let me give you two background numbers computed from the Current Population Survey. Among college-educated workers, only 57 percent report that they have an employer-provided pension plan. Almost all public schools provide a pension plan, so in terms of availability teachers are better off than other workers. Except, as we’ll see in a minute, many teachers never become eligible for the offered plan, so the difference isn’t as great as it may seem.

How large are pensions for college-educated workers in general? The number I’ll use as an average benchmark, computed from the Current Population Survey, is $33,281 a year. But this is more of a factoid than a hard number. It’s the average pension for college-educated workers who report being retired and who report pension income—except that I exclude IRA’s, 401(k)’s and the like from reported pension income because the data doesn’t separate out whether these sources include employer contributions or are based in some part on the retiree’s own savings. (A retiree’s own savings aren’t part of the teacher pension numbers, so they should be left out.) In other words, in order to exclude private savings I had to also exclude in 401(k)’s I had to exclude employer contributions as well. So $33,281 is somewhat lower than the truth.


How does $33k compare to teacher pensions earned by recent retirees? Here’s a map, based on data from TeacherPensions.org, that shows the average pension for teachers who retired in the last decade.

Average teacher pensions

In 35 of the states, teacher pensions are lower than our national average of $33,281 for all college-educated workers. In the middle-ranked state, the pension is only $21,355. Even though the comparison numbers are quite rough, what we have suggests that teacher pensions are not out of line with pensions of similarly educated workers. Maybe they’re even a bit on the low side. (Remember though, that the comparison numbers for college-educated retirees may include pensions from multiple jobs. Although, the comparison numbers don’t include anything from employer provided 401(k)’s. Many teachers will also have pensions from non-teaching jobs because they don’t teach their entire career. Since these “other job” pensions aren’t included, the comparison isn’t perfectly “apples-to-apples.”)

On the other hand, you can see that the states marked in dark blue have pensions paying over $60,000 a year! Oh, you can’t see it…it’s too tiny; that’s because the only place with such high teacher pensions is Washington, D.C. The average pension paid in D.C. is fully a third higher than the pension in the second-ranked state (Connecticut). Except, while D.C. is high, it may not be quite so crazy high as it may sound.


Here’s the next puzzling piece about teacher pensions: In 15 states, teachers are not eligible for social security. One of those “states” is D.C. So part of the explanation for high pensions in D.C. and those other states is that the high pensions are making up for the absence of social security payments. Country-wide, about 40 percent of teachers are left out of the social security system.

Is being left out of social security a big deal? A person who has earned $50,000 a year for the last 20 years would expect, roughly, $25,000 a year in social security benefits. So the absence of social security in D.C., and other states, makes a huge difference in thinking about pensions. (But remember that neither school districts nor teachers in those states have to contribute their share of social security tax, which is around six percent of salary each.) A Brookings study by William Gale, Sarah Holmes, and David John explains the reasons why it would be better to bring all teachers into the social security system. But for thinking about current teacher pensions, that’s not where we are now.

If you think that not being covered by social security is weird, since almost everyone else in the country is covered, let me make it a little weirder. Suppose a teacher has worked part of her career in the covered sector, paying social security taxes and earning credit toward social security on retirement. Now that teacher takes a job in a district which doesn’t participate in social security. It turns out that the teacher loses part of the social security benefits she earned and that she and her employer paid for in the covered sector. A study by Alan Gustman, Thomas Steinmeier, and Nahid Tabatabai finds that teachers in this situation lose about 20 percent of the social security benefits they had earned.


What we have to this point is the idea that teacher pensions might be roughly comparable to other pensions, although there is clearly enormous variability. Except, about half of teachers don’t get teacher pensions at all. As an extreme example, “high-pension” D.C. estimates that four out of five beginning teachers won’t get a cent in pension pay.

Two issues affect whether a teacher gets a pension and whether that pension is worth much. Both are related to the fact that many teachers have relatively short careers in education. In many pension systems, you have to participate for a minimum number of years for the pension to “vest,” i.e. for you to get a right to your employers’ pension contributions. In general, federal law requires private employers to either vest fully after five years or to begin partial vesting earlier, in which case full vesting can stretch to seven years. However, public sector pension plans are allowed longer waits.About a quarter of such plans require 10 years or more for full vesting. So the first short career issue is that many teachers leave teaching before being vested in their pension.

There is enormous variation across states in how many teachers end up with a pension. With a warning that the map isn’t perfect because some states have changed plans, here’s a picture again based on TeacherPensions.org data.


There’s a lot of light blue on that map. That’s a lot of states where many teachers walk away with no benefits at all.

The second short career issue is that many teacher pensions are rigged up to give disproportionately high payments to very long service teachers at the expense of quite low payments to teachers with “short” careers. Sometimes “short” means a couple of decades. Chad Aldeman, Daniel Fuchs, and Leslie Kan have looked at how the value of Illinois’ current pension system varies depending on how long a teacher works. Chad sent me their data.

 captureThat’s right, a teacher who retires after 25 years of teaching loses money. How can that be? Teachers, like most of us, make contributions to their pension as does their employer. In Illinois, the system is set up so that the value of a pension for a teacher with 25 years on the job is less than the value of that teacher’s contributions plus accumulated interest.

So what’s the bottom line? Some teacher pensions are indeed very generous, but many teachers end up with only a small pension—or no pension at all. This is a screwy way to run a retirement system, and is almost certainly not an effective way to spend taxpayer money to attract great people into the profession.

And on that issue of what this means from the taxpayers’ point of view, stay tuned to my next Chalkboard post for the bad news.

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Making better use of data on free school lunches

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

A student carries her lunch tray at Salusbury Primary School

Feeding hungry children is the primary purpose of America’s free (or reduced price) lunch program. Just over half of public school students are eligible for the program, ranging from nearly three-quarters of Mississippi students to just over one-quarter of students in New Hampshire. However, there is also a secondary use of the free lunch program: eligibility for free lunch is often the only way for states, school districts, and education researchers to identify low-income students.

Schools don’t generally have records of exact family income—it being mostly none of their business—so eligibility for free lunch status is usually the best proxy measurement anyone has to identify low-income students. But the real educational issue is less whether a family is having a bad financial year right at the moment and more what the family’s finances look like over the long run. So it makes sense to look at more than current-year free lunch eligibility. Katherine Michelmore and Susan Dynarski, in a paper titled “The Gap within the Gap,” demonstrate that using multiple year measures of free lunch status better identifies long-term, low-income students. Bottom line: students who are on free lunch status for several years come from lower income families than students who just happen to be eligible for free lunch this year. I’ll explain here the intuition of what’s going on (having benefitted from hearing Sue talk about the paper) in a rather wonky way. Below, I’ll explain why this should be a real action item for those who distribute money and resources among schools.

In the figure below I show (in blue) a pattern of fluctuating income that might be representative of a particular student’s family over the course of primary school. The shape is the same in the left and right panels. The red line shows the cutoff for free lunch. So in the years in which the blue line dips below the red, the student gets subsidized lunch. You will see that the student depicted on the left is eligible for free lunch only once. In contrast, the student on the right is eligible in most years. (In the real world, thecutoffs are 130 percent of the federal poverty line for free lunch and 185 percent of the poverty line to be eligible for a reduced price. The exact numbers depend on family size and are slightly different for Alaska and Hawaii, but for a mother with one child free lunch kicks in at a yearly income of about $21,000 and the reduced-price line is about $30,000.)

Fluctuating income under two scenarios

As a guess, the fact that the student at the right has more years eligible for free lunch was probably the second thing you saw in the figure. You likely noticed first that the wiggly blue line on the right is lower than the wiggly blue line on the left. And these two observations exactly explain the intuition of why students who are more frequently eligible for free lunch generally come from families with lower long-term income. If a high income family has a one-year dip in income, the odds are their income is still too high to qualify for free lunch. In contrast a family of more modest means is often near the eligibility border, so a dip down makes their child eligible. And a very low income family’s child is probably always eligible.

Michelmore and Dynarski look at a massive administrative data set from Michigan and show that the pattern described above is what we see in the real world. (Michelmore and Dynarski then go on to show that the number of years eligible for free lunch is a better predictor of educational outcomes than you can get using a single year.) In the next figure, I’ll show you what the relation between income and years eligible for free lunch looks like in nationally representative data taken from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.Fraction of students on free lunch vs income

Students and their families were surveyed five times from kindergarten through eighth grade, and one of the items surveyed was whether their children were eligible for free (or reduced-price) lunches. About half of students were never eligible. Other students were eligible between once and every year of the survey. The big income drop-off is, unsurprisingly, between the “never eligible” and everyone else (where income is measured as average income for a family over all surveyed years). But—just as in the first picture above—there is a large difference in average incomes between those eligible one year and those eligible every year. The gap is close to a factor of two. So if you want to identify students who come from very low-income backgrounds, look for those who are regularly on the free lunch program.

I promised an action-item suggestion above. There are, in fact, two.

Very frequently the only income data available to education researchers is whether a student is eligible for subsidized lunch. Researchers who are looking for a proxy for low socio-economic status should use all years, not just the current year. (Wonk side note: Matt Chingos points out that Congress has changed the technical requirements for establishing free lunch eligibility in ways that are good for kids but which may make FRPL eligibility much less useful for researchers in the future.)

The more important action item is for state and school district administrators who direct money in part toward low-income districts or low-income schools. You should strongly consider adjusting your formulas to put heavier weight on those districts and schools in which many students have a long history of being on free lunch. That’s a more effective way of getting money to the lowest of the low income.

Garrison Schlauch provided research assistance for this post.

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The Kathleen Dunn Show

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Teacher cognitive ability around the world

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

If you think the skills of American teachers don’t stack up to those of teachers in other countries, you’re wrong—American teachers are perfectly mediocre. Well, in fairness, American teachers seem to be a touch above average in literacy skills and noticeably below average in numeracy. They shine in neither area. “Mediocre” means middling. I guess some country has to be in the middle, but that’s not how we Americans like to picture ourselves. For me, American teachers being middle-of-the-pack isn’t good enough. I expect—at least if you’re an American reader of Chalkboard—that you too want the U.S. to be a world leader in education.

If this reads like a knock against American teachers, that’s not quite the intention. It isintended as a knock against American policymakers. We in fact get much better teachers than we pay for. More on this below.

Before we turn to the evidence, a few caveats are in order. Obviously many teachers have extraordinary cognitive ability. The data we’ll talk about looks at averages. And there are two “limits” on the data. First, teachers certainly need noncognitive and emotional skills as well as cognitive abilities, and we’ll only be talking about the cognitive side. Second, the data I’ll show you use measures of the kind of problem-solving skills we’d expect of a high school graduate. The questions asked are not about college-level work. “Limits” notwithstanding, the findings are shocking.

Today’s pictures all come from a paper that Rick Hanushek was nice enough to send me. Hanushek and coauthors Marc Piopiunik and Simon Wiederhold used data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which administered cognitive ability tests to 160,000 adults across 24 countries. The tests focused on real-world problems that someone who had completed high school (or the local equivalent) would be expected to be able to solve. The authors identified university graduates in the sample and then pulled out the data points for all the teachers. This allowed them to compare data for teachers to other university graduates within a country.

The first question is “How do the literacy and numeracy skills of American teachers compared to other American college graduates stack up to the skill of teachers in other countries compared to college graduates in those other countries?” Hanushek and coauthors offer a striking picture, following up on a chart originally done by Andreas Schleicher.

Position of teacher cognitive skills in the skill distribution of college graduates

The gray bars span the 25th to 75th percentiles in skill level among college graduates in each country. The red lines mark the skill of the median teacher. For literacy skills, American teachers look about like the average college graduate, and their median score is slightly better than in the average country studied, but nowhere near the top. Numeracy skills of American teachers are below average both in comparison to other American college graduates and in comparison to teachers in other countries.

Here is possibly the most surprising result of the research: despite the average skill level, American teachers are underpaid relative to the skills they have. Hanushek and coauthors estimated the differential in pay within each country controlling for experience, gender, and—importantly—for cognitive skills. They write

“The estimates…indicate that teachers are paid some 20 percent less than a comparable college graduate elsewhere in the U.S. economy after adjusting for observable characteristics.”

American teacher pay is lower than would be expected given the skills teachers have. Or put the other way around, American teachers have better skills than one would expect given their pay.

You could argue that as public employees, American teachers do get good benefits in terms of pensions and health insurance when compared to other workers. And that is probably more true in the U.S. than it is in other countries, especially where health care is provided to everyone. However, the value of these extra benefits is likely small compared to the compensation gap. Remember that the relevant comparison is to other professional workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 95 percent of teachers are offered retirement benefits. So, however, are 85 percent of management, business, and financial workers. The BLS reports similarly that 97 percent of teachers have access to medical benefits, but that’s compared to 94 percent in the management, business, and financial worker category. In fairness, teacher pensions for long-time teachers have historically been very generous. To some extent that has changed recently. Moreover, pension benefits for the many teachers who teach only for part of their career are much less generous. Chad Alderman and Andrew Rotherham have estimated that about half of teachers will receive no pension at all. In other words, while there is some truth to the notion that teachers get higher than average benefits, the reality of extraordinary teacher benefits is often exaggerated.

Nonetheless, the combination of slightly better health and retirement benefits means that 20 percent American teacher underpayment number likely is somewhat exaggerated in comparison to other countries. It’s possible that international comparisons fail to fully capture the other ways we compensate our teachers in the form of extra benefits to government employees.

But it’s not like the U.S. number is close to what happens elsewhere. Here’s the picture.

Teacher wage premiums around the world

There’s the U.S….dead last.

American teachers don’t have the great basic skills we’d like them to have, not compared to the rest of the world they don’t. But, we way underpay them for the skills they do have. Both ought to get fixed.

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Teacher pay around the world

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

American teachers are underpaid.

More specifically, American teachers are underpaid when compared to teachers in the nations we compete with. Let me begin with a picture showing how we compare to Finland—everyone’s favorite educational success story and a country not noted for paying its teachers especially well. Then we’ll talk some about the right way to make international teacher salary comparisons. After that, some more data.

Teacher salaries relative to similarly educated workers

Even against modest-paying Finland, American teachers are underpaid. If we wanted to raise the relative salaries of American teachers to the level seen in Finland, we’d require a 10 percent raise for primary school teachers, an 18 percent raise in lower secondary, and a 28 percent raise for upper secondary school teachers.

What is the right way to make international comparisons of teacher salaries? The answer depends on why you think salaries are important. Is it because someone with a particular set of qualifications deserves a certain level of pay? Or perhaps some general level of fairness or equity? To an economist, the answer is rather different: you want to pay enough to attract really good people to become teachers in the first place and to remain in teaching rather than bailing out for a more lucrative career. That means that the right way to compare across countries is to look at how teacher pay within the country compares to pay in alternative careers that a person might consider when deciding whether to become a teacher.

The OECD has put together a set of comparisons of teacher pay to earnings of all college graduates. These are the numbers shown in the chart above, and the numbers used throughout this post. You can see in the chart that both Finland and the United States pay teachers less than they pay other college graduates, but Finland gets notably closer than we do.

I picked Finland for the comparison in the chart above because, well because lots of countries aspire to be Finland when it comes to education. While paying better than the U.S., Finland is pretty much an average player when it comes to teacher pay. Most of the developed countries with which we compete pay much better. Here’s the relevant picture taken directly from the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2015.

Teachers' salaries relative to earnings for similarly educated workers (2013)

The quick lesson is that in most industrialized countries relative teacher pay is higher than in the United States. To see the gap in a different way, the next chart tells how much the U.S. would have to raise upper secondary salaries to match relative salaries in a variety of other countries. Just as we saw for the example of Finland in the opening graphic, the gaps are even larger for upper secondary than for lower secondary.

Percentage increase in U.S. upper secondary salaries required to reach relative salaries in other countries

While American salaries aren’t the lowest, many other countries not only pay better, but the gap is really, really big.

The simple summary: Other countries make teaching a more financially attractive career for college graduates than we do.

The facts are the facts. But allow me to predict one response to these facts: “Teachers aren’t motivated by money, they teach because they love it.” Often true. And I’ve noticed that the people who say that teachers teach for love are quite often themselves very good teachers. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine someone who teaches well who doesn’t like their students. However, it’s very easy to imagine many, many potential teachers—who would also love their students just as much—who have made the decision to forego a teaching career in order to better provide for their family.

Dollars aren’t the only thing that determines career choice. Prestige and working conditions matter too. (Finland pays a fair amount better than the U.S. The prestige attached to being a teacher is enormously higher.) My guess is that being a teacher has both more prestige and better working conditions in other industrialized countries than here at home. (How do administrators treat teachers? How do parents treat teachers? Heck even, how do students treat teachers?) No data though, so either facts or anecdotes from those who know more about teaching in other countries are in order.

Last word: Making teaching a financially more attractive career isn’t the only thing that matters for who teaches. It does matter though, and probably it matters a lot.

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What do teachers do when they leave teaching?

Monday’s post appeared on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

When teachers leave teaching, where do they go next? Are they getting good jobs outside of education? Or are subsequent jobs more of a lateral move? Or do teachers who quit teaching also quit working?

School districts that lose teachers lose their investment in training those teachers, whether the teachers quit teaching or whether the teachers move to another district. To a significant extent, districts to which teachers transfer in get a benefit at the expense of the sending districts. In contrast, when teachers move to another profession, public schools as a whole lose out. (At least to the extent that it’s the better teachers leaving.)

Chalkboard reader Dr. Joe O’Reilly, of the Mesa, Arizona school district, asked if I could put together any data to help sort this all out. I have put together a few such numbers. To set the stage, here’s a chart taken from data from the “Teacher Follow-up Survey” (TFS) of the School and Staffing Survey, which is administered to school teachers nationwide every four years by the U.S. Department of Education.

Fraction of teachers moving or leaving teaching

We see in the chart that about 16 percent of teachers exited a school in recent years, combining both exits represented here. Roughly half of that 16 percent move to another school. (Some of these “movers” end up in a different school in the same district.) This fraction of teachers switching schools hasn’t changed much over time.

If that eight percent represented equal-sized back-and-forth trades between districts, it might not be of great concern. I suspect, however, that some districts regularly lose more than their share of experienced teachers while others (wealthier? “easier” to teach students) are net gainers. (Boyd, et. al. wrote “…schools with better working conditions and higher salaries bid away the better qualified teachers from difficult-to-staff schools.”[1]

The other eight percent leave teaching. The fraction of teachers leaving the profession entirely has noticeably risen. Unless one thinks that we’ve seen a major increase in the tendency of weak teachers to move onward—and I can’t imagine that such a major increase is likely—then this trend is a matter of some concern.

TFS also offers us some information about what teachers who left teaching did next, as shown in the next chart.

Where do teachers who leave teaching go?

Basically, two-thirds of leavers either take a non-teaching job in K-12 or move into retirement. Neither of these “destinations” raises a concern about teachers finding more attractive careers on the outside. (Although there probably is something wrong when the only way a master teacher can get a significant raise while staying in education is to quit teaching.) Another nine percent leave to care for a family member and a small number go back to school—also probably not of great concern.

We’re left with a relatively small number of teachers who leave education for alternative work. This number is on the order of two percent per year. While the number is small, if you’re running a school district you still might want to have a better idea of where the leavers are leaving to. To get a bit of a handle on this I turned to the Current Population Survey, putting together data for 2010-2015, and asked where leavers went who were working and not in some kind of K-12 position. With the caution that the sample was pretty small—I found only 332 respondents—the next table gives the breakdown of the “larger” categories.

Destination occupations of teachers who left education

Lawyers, Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers 6.93
Physicians and surgeons 6.63
Postsecondary teachers 4.22
Retail salespersons 3.61
Secretaries and administrative assistants 3.01
Social Workers 2.71
Managers, all other 2.41
Customer service representatives 2.11
Other education, training, and library workers 1.81
Personal and home care aides 1.81
Child care workers 1.51
First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers 1.51
Cashiers 1.51
Receptionists and information clerks 1.51
Human resource workers 1.2
Artists and related workers 1.2
Cooks 1.2
Janitors and building cleaners 1.2
Marketing and sales managers 0.9
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers 0.9
Construction managers 0.9
Business operations specialists, all other 0.9
Counselors 0.9
Social and human service assistants 0.9
Religious workers, all other 0.9
Miscellaneous legal support workers 0.9
Speech-language pathologists 0.9
Registered nurses 0.9
Recreation and fitness workers 0.9
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing 0.9
Door-to-door sales workers, news and street vendors, and related workers 0.9
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 0.9
Interviewers, except eligibility and loan 0.9
First-line supervisors/managers of production and operating 0.9

You will see why I put “larger” categories in quotes. Those who leave teaching go to an incredibly wide variety of different jobs. It is notable that the first three destinations—lawyers, doctors, and professors—are all lucrative or prestigious jobs. Past that point, the destination jobs are all over the map.

Pulling this all together, we have a four-point answer to Dr. O’Reilly’s query.

  1. Schools lose about one teacher out of six each year. If you’re a principal or an HR director that’s a huge burden, without respect for where the teachers may be going.
  2. A fair number of teachers, about one out of 12, do leave the profession each year. The bulk of moves might be characterized as “about what we would expect,” i.e. teachers retire, take other education positions, or are taking care of a family member.
  3. Among the modest number of real career changers, there isn’t much of a pattern as to what sort of jobs teachers move to. But…the data isn’t great. The sample is small and we observe teachers for only a single year after leaving teaching. Leading to…
  4. Chalkboard readers might well chime in here. Do you have anecdotal evidence about where teachers go next? Does your district do exit interviews? Are you a teacher…or former teacher…with friends who’ve made the jump? Share what you know in the comments section and we can all enlighten each other.

Data sources:

Teacher Follow-up Survey: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), “Current and Former Teacher Data Files,” 2012-13; Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2008-09 Teacher Follow-up Survey, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2010-353).https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/TFS1213_2014077_cf1n_001.asp ; http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/TFS1213_2014XXX_f1n_006.asp

Current Population Survey 2010-2015, “Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 6.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2015.”

[1] Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, and Wycoff, “How Changes in entry and requirements alter the teacher workforce an affect student achievement,” Education Finance and Policy,Vol. 1, No. 2, 2006.

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Careers of ed students: Yesterday and today

Today’s post appeared on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

Roughly 100,000 students a year earn a bachelor’s degree in education, a number that has been steady for decades. How do ed students spend their careers? Do they teach or do they follow an alternative career? At what point do they quit working entirely? And are times changing for the newest graduates?

No one tracks career paths of individual college graduates, of course. But we can get a good ballpark answer to these sorts of questions by looking at what sort of work individuals do today and then retrospectively asking when they earned a college degree. I’ve taken the 2014 American Community Survey,* which reports both work status and undergraduate major and computed an “imputed degree year” using as an approximation the assumption that the typical student receives her BA at age 22. I then look at folks who reported that their BA was in education. So we begin by asking, how many people who earned an education BA in the past were still working in 2014?

People with education BAs by labor force status

* The sample is limited to people between 22 and 70 years old with four or more years of college with an undergraduate degree in “Education Administration and Teaching”. Data source: “Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 6.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2015.”

Unsurprisingly many of those who graduated college 40 years ago are no longer in the labor force, presumably having retired. Looking back more than 40 years, retirement rates rise rapidly. But for more recent graduates, only 10 to 15 percent are out of the labor force (and remember that “out of the labor force” includes taking a break from teaching to raise children). In other words, most folks with education BAs keep working until around retirement age.

What about unemployment, that is how many people are trying unsuccessfully to find work? The answer is “very few.” Unemployment rates for people with education BAs are generally between one and three percent.

“What about unemployment, that is how many people are trying unsuccessfully to find work? The answer is ‘very few.’ Unemployment rates for people with education BAs are generally between one and three percent.”

For exceptions to these general findings take a look at recent graduates, those at the very right end on the graph. You can see a bit of an uptick there in “out of the labor force,” although this is no doubt due in part to recent graduates who are now in graduate school. The unemployment rate is also noticeably higher for recent graduates. The last couple of years of graduates in particular have high unemployment rates, although even the worst unemployment rate is noticeably lower than that for other young people. (For 2014 graduates, the unemployment rate with an ed BA was over 7 percent. In comparison, 2014 graduates with other BAs had an unemployment rate at the time of the survey of 12 percent. It takes a while to find a job after getting a degree.) Further, one might speculate that some part of these higher unemployment rates may be a hangover from low school hiring rates following the Great Recession. (Remember that the most recent data in the figure is from 2014.)

Basically, folks with undergraduate education degrees are working. Are they working in education? To help answer this, I’ve used the American Community Survey responses to plot out the fraction of education BAs who keep working in education. (The data defines working in education as “Education Administration and Teaching.” That means that some graduates working at the college level will be picked up as working in education and some school librarians, phys ed teachers, and others may be missed.)

Fraction of people with education BAs working in education

The first answer is that people who graduated decades ago are mostly not working in education. Presumably many are in second careers. Perhaps some are working to supplement teacher pensions.

The second answer is that for most cohorts, except the most recent, 55 to 65 percent of those employed are working in education. Are 55 to 65 percent numbers higher or lower than would seem desirable? The answer isn’t obvious. On the one hand, most college graduates don’t work exactly in the area of their major. Economics majors, for example, get good jobs, but few of those jobs are “economist.” On the other hand, an education degree is very much intended to be specific professional training. Some part of the effort that goes into training teachers is arguably wasted when graduates take non-education jobs.

The picture for the most recent graduates is more puzzling. Remembering that we are looking only at those who are employed, it’s surprising that the majority in the final year of the data are employed somewhere other than in education. Maybe some of this has to do with how the data was collected. (A respondent might have been interviewed after graduating while waiting for a teaching job that started in the fall, and may be temporarily employed in another industry.) However, the penultimate year’s data only had 54 percent of those employed, employed in education. It appears that there may be something of an increasing disconnect between training and employment in education.

It’s hard to know whether something odd is going on for those with recent education degrees, but I have a little bit of evidence that if something has changed, whatever it is isn’t unique to ed BAs. I’ve redrawn below the first figure with two changes. The new version adds in labor force status for BAs from non-education fields. And I’ve restricted the data to the last ten years to magnify the most recent evidence.

People with education or other BAs by labor force status last ten years

The figure shows that both out-of-the-labor-force and unemployment status for people with education BAs is noticeably higher for recent cohorts. However, the same increase shows up even more strongly for other BAs. So to the extent that recent BAs are not being quickly matched with jobs, the underlying cause does not seem to be special to the field of education.

Is employment for recent ed BAs different from the past? The unemployment rate for recent ed BAs is higher than the rate for those out five years or more. On the other hand, the same thing is true for recent grads in other fields. My guess—but it is just a guess—is that we are still seeing something of a roiled labor market in the aftermath of the Great Recession and that in the longer run careers of recent grads will look a lot like those of earlier cohorts.

Everyone knows that there is a great deal of turnover among teachers. Still, it appears that most education majors do end up in education, and what’s more, the majority of education majors do spend most of their career working in schools. The data here gives something of a different picture from the commonly held view of enormous attrition rates in teaching. (For related evidence, see this Washington Post story.) My suspicion is that the difference comes from how the data is collected. The charts here track education BAs, while many other studies track beginning teachers. Teachers move between schools and even between states. What’s more, teachers do drop out of teaching for childcare and other reasons and then return later. It’s likely that teachers who make such changes sometimes get lost in teacher-tracking data.

To help think about teacher attrition look at what the charts says for education BAs who received their degrees in 2004, so they would be 10 years into a career when we observe them. About 13 percent are out-of-the-labor-force or unemployed. Of those who are working, 65 percent are working in education. So a majority—about 56 percent—are working in education. Whether somewhat over half of education BAs working in education a decade after graduation is seen as a high attrition rate or a low one probably depends on the view from the eye of the beholder.

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Teacher perceptions and race

Today’s post appeared on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

Freshman students Laurah Pollonais (L) and Dalicia Barker listen during a class at Spelman College in AtlantaWhen it comes to student behavior, what’s polite or rude—what counts as acting out versus what’s seen as healthy youthful exuberance—depends not only on actual behavior but on how teachers read behavior. Black and white American cultures are still sufficiently different in that how teachers read behavior depends in part on the teacher’s race. New research shows that black and white teachers give very different evaluations of behavior of black students. When a black student has a black teacher that teacher is much, much less likely to see behavioral problems than when the same black student has a white teacher.

New research by Adam Wright, “Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Disruptive Behavior: The Effect of Racial Congruence and Consequences for School Suspension,” documents that black teachers have much less negative views of black student behavior than do white teachers. (Conflict of interest notice…hmmm no, braggin’ notice: Wright is one of my PhD students.) Wright looks first at teacher evaluations of behavior, and then at data on school suspensions. Let’s begin with the teacher evaluations.

Wright uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to follow the experience of more than 20,000 students in kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade. During the elementary school years, teachers were asked to assess a number of noncognitive skills. The measure of interest here is “externalizing problem behaviors,” which asks how often the student “argues, fights, gets angry, acts impulsively, and disrupts ongoing activities.” Notice that we see a measure of teacher perception, rather than counts of disciplinary events. Wright focuses on externalizing behavior because this measure is highly correlated with school suspensions.

On a scale in which the average measure of externalizing behavior is normalized to zero, white and Hispanic students average -0.07, while black students average +0.37. (Asian students average -0.38.) So on average, black students are viewed as having much worse behavior—which presumably reflects some combination of objectively worse behavior and perceived worse behavior.

Wright does something very clever, taking advantage of the fact that students are observed several times and that we know which students are in which classes with which teachers. Wright asks how black students are rated by black teachers, controlling for both the average rating of an individual student by all his teachers and for the average rating a particular teacher of all of her students in a given class. What this means is that Wright can identify how a black student’s behavior is perceived by a black teacher as compared to how the same student is perceived by white teachers. The procedure also adjusts for the possibility that black teachers are just more “easy going,” because the average rating given in a class is effectively subtracted off. So Wright is arguably identifying a causal effect of black students being matched with black teachers.

Being race matched matters a lot for black students but not for others

Bottom line: black teachers are much less likely to find problems with black students than white teachers are with the same students. The difference is enormous, accounting for about half the black/white externalizing behavior gap. (Remember that the data does not tell us whether black teachers have different perceptions of black students or whether student/teacher race matching leads to objectively different behavior.) For black students, being matched with a black teacher matters.

Bottom line: black teachers are much less likely to find problems with black students than white teachers are with the same students.

How about white or Hispanic students being matched with white or Hispanic teachers, respectively? Nope, no discernable differences in externalizing behavior. (To be clear, black teachers rate white students about the same as do white teachers.) In other words, being race matched matters a lot for black students but not for others.

Wright drills down further. First—and this is probably unsurprising—the effect of race matching is entirely due to the evaluations given to black boys. There isn’t a noticeable difference for black girls. Second, the effect of matching is limited to the year of the match. When Wright checked reports of black students when they were assigned to white teachers following a year with a black teacher he found no lingering effects of that year of being race-matched. This suggests that the findings reflect teacher perceptions rather than real behavioral differences since we might expect improvements in behavior to persist the following year—and that’s not what happens.

How suspension rates between black and white students play into race matching

Wright then turns to the question of suspension. As is well known, black students are much more likely to be suspended than are white students. Wright shows that the more times a black student is matched with a black teacher, the less likely that student is to be suspended. Unfortunately, the data does not note the grade in which a suspension happened. It is reasonable to speculate that most suspensions come in later grades and that the finding is due in part to the effect of student-teacher race matching in earlier grades. We can’t be sure of this however, and some part of the finding may also be due to fewer suspensions of black students during years they have black teachers.

The difference in suspension rates is large. Taking these findings at face value, Wright estimates that if we doubled exposure of black students to black teachers, the black-white suspension gap would fall in half. Because of data limitations, it’s not possible to test whether black students’ likelihood of suspension changes when they move from a black teacher to a white teacher. Instead, Wright looks at black students who enter the same school at kindergarten but are exposed to different percentages of black teachers through eighth grade. So the causal interpretations about suspensions are less certain than are the interpretations about behavior reports.

In summary, black teacher perceptions about the behavior of black boys is very different than the perceptions of white teachers. This doesn’t happen for other racial groups. None of this necessarily suggests malice or prejudice or favoritism on anyone’s part. It does suggest one more way that race still matters in our schools.

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Schools, black children, and corporal punishment

Today’s post appeared on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution. A story on the post appears in the Washington Post.

As we approach the annual celebration of Dr. King’s life, it is worth examining the difference in how our schools discipline black and white children. In public schools in the United States, black children are twice as likely as white children to be subject to corporal punishment. Figure 1 shows the comparison, derived from nationwide data reported by schools to the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Education.[1] (All data is for the 2011-2012 school year, the latest year available.) The continuing disproportionate corporal punishment of black children is a reminder that some aspects of the “bad old days” are not fully behind us.

Incidence of corporal punishment per 100 students, annual rate

Figure 1

The 42,000 reported incidents of black boys being beaten, and 15,000 incidents for black girls, by educators in their school reflects two facts. First, black students are more likely to be located in states that use corporal punishment extensively. Second, in many states black students are disproportionately likely to be singled out for corporal punishment. Figure 2 shows the annual incidence of corporal punishment by state, with states where the incidence is less than once per ten thousand students greyed out.

Annual incidents of corporal punishment per 100 students

Figure 2

While corporal punishment is used in almost every state, seven states account for 80 percent of school corporal punishment in the United States: Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. [2] For black students, six of these states (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee) plus Louisiana account for 90 percent of corporal punishment. One reason that black students are subject to more corporal punishment is that they live in those states responsible for most of the corporal punishment of all children.

Where is corporal punishment racially disproportionate? Essentially, and sadly unsurprisingly, the first answer is that black students are disproportionately beaten in parts of the Deep South. Black students are twice as likely to be struck as white students in North Carolina and Georgia, 70 percent more likely in Mississippi, 40 percent more likely in Louisiana, and 40 percent more likely in Arkansas. Figure 3 shows the ratio of the frequency of corporal punishment for black students compared to the frequency for white students, with states where the incidence is less than once per ten thousand students or where the rate is equal or lower for black students greyed out.

States with disproportionate corporal punishment relative probability of punishment black vs white students

Figure 3

Some high corporal punishment states are not particularly racially disproportionate. Texas, notably, uses corporal punishment on black students and white with equal likelihood. Texas shows up on the lists of where black students are hit because it is a large state that administers corporal punishment at a moderately high rate. Alabama—where the rate of corporal punishment is 10 times the national average—also shows equal rates of black and white children experiencing physical violence from educators. In North Carolina, black students are twice as likely to be struck as white students, but North Carolina uses corporal punishment relatively infrequently and so accounts for a small proportion of punishment of black students. Notably, in South Carolina the rate of corporal punishment is below the national average and is not racially disproportionate.

While heavy use of corporal punishment is more common in states of the former Confederacy, racially disproportionate application happens in northern states as well. Schools in Pennsylvania and Michigan are nearly twice as likely to beat black children as white, although both have low overall rates of corporal punishment.

Perhaps most surprisingly, corporal punishment in Maine is wildly disproportionate—with black children being eight times as likely to be hurt as white children. Colorado, Ohio, and California also have rates of corporal punishment for black children that are 70 percent or more higher than for white children.

In Figure 4, I show rates of corporal punishment for white students on the horizontal axis and for black students on the vertical axis. States above the 45° line in Figure 2 have racially disproportionate corporal punishments. The states clustered at the lower left of the graph have relatively lower rates of corporal punishment, sometimes disproportionate and sometimes not.

Mississippi stands alone.

Corporal punishment per 100 students

Figure 4

While the symbolism of continued physical violence against black children is inescapable, the disproportionate application of other forms of discipline may be of even greater concern. Except in Mississippi and Arkansas, the typical black student will probably not be subjected to corporal punishment during his school career. In contrast, school suspensions are much more common. Figure 5 shows rates of suspension by race.

Suspensions per 100 students

Figure 5

Note that an astounding 15 percent of black students receive an out-of-school suspension in a given year, a rate nearly 4 times that of white students; in-school suspensions are more than twice as likely among black students. Figure 5 shows out-of-school suspension rates for black and white students by state.

Out-of-school suspensions per 100 students

Figure 6

Out-of-school suspensions are applied disproportionately in every state—all points are above the red line. And these discipline patterns do not line up with old geographic patterns. The highest suspension rates for black students are in Wisconsin. And the greatest disparities (measured as the ratio of black-to-white suspension rates) are in the District of Columbia.

Every time a child is beaten in school and every time one is suspended and thus loses learning time, something or someone has failed that child along the way, regardless of the “reason” for the punishment. So long as these failures fall disproportionately on black children, we are not yet living up to the dream that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”


Discipline per 100 students
Corporal punishment Out-of-school suspension
Black White Black White
Alabama 3.583033 3.869057 17.90929 5.468595
Alaska NA 0.103160 8.592955 3.645956
Arizona 0.029171 0.050941 12.32562 4.555046
Arkansas 5.897032 4.205989 18.15124 4.832772
California 0.051100 0.029146 14.44344 4.803916
Colorado 0.057981 0.022656 11.12507 3.413624
Connecticut 0.030811 0.025587 12.19697 2.117891
Delaware 0.000000 0.000000 18.50083 5.836653
District of Columbia 0.059520 0.000000 16.31737 0.872663
Florida 0.197324 0.239999 19.85793 8.790211
Georgia 1.125453 0.577535 16.07318 4.434872
Hawaii 0.000000 0.000000 1.538462 1.145156
Idaho NA 0.036444 5.891822 2.945636
Illinois 0.031373 0.038082 15.35005 3.406990
Indiana 0.063847 0.062103 20.57063 5.230889
Iowa 0.022850 0.061744 15.22203 2.656221
Kansas 0.011166 0.013882 12.80741 2.792517
Kentucky 0.048563 0.190368 13.02577 4.424482
Louisiana 0.759494 0.537434 13.41064 5.476110
Maine 0.432043 0.057917 8.010801 3.839565
Maryland 0.000000 NA 8.901257 3.729914
Massachusetts 0.004890 0.015254 10.63718 3.376658
Michigan 0.179947 0.090549 20.77535 5.397792
Minnesota 0.030967 0.028806 13.56956 2.204543
Mississippi 8.059325 4.747161 15.36107 5.419384
Missouri 0.683648 0.553408 20.52077 4.393734
Montana 0.000000 0.043081 5.335968 3.311940
Nebraska 0.019723 0.028463 18.29791 3.194068
Nevada 0.000000 NA 12.38813 4.214409
New Hampshire 0.000000 0.051235 13.11094 5.099147
New Jersey 0.018340 0.016058 11.39809 2.773110
New Mexico 0.088313 0.007161 10.81837 4.902616
New York 0.022768 0.031960 6.698778 3.031192
North Carolina 0.045919 0.022889 16.71766 5.230456
North Dakota NA 0.043300 2.846739 1.343501
Ohio 0.054495 0.028990 18.37799 4.323960
Oklahoma 0.937784 1.650464 15.15327 4.706784
Oregon 0.000000 0.006020 11.93396 4.788382
Pennsylvania 0.199160 0.099676 17.13759 3.469501
Rhode Island NA NA 16.29604 6.434000
South Carolina 0.021752 0.020802 17.06215 6.371353
South Dakota 0.116550 0.121998 8.071096 2.184158
Tennessee 1.020022 1.148149 19.35562 4.376236
Texas 0.825640 0.843602 12.84153 2.717089
Utah NA 0.004343 6.567593 1.978244
Vermont 0.000000 0.030065 6.702997 4.289775
Virginia 0.020342 0.017897 14.10793 4.615755
Washington NA 0.001729 11.65880 4.614335
West Virginia 0.143052 0.133395 17.50681 7.994511
Wisconsin 0.010465 0.027360 25.60784 2.697800
Wyoming 0.000000 0.016005 8.499234 3.295765

Discipline per 100 students is 100 times the ratio of discipline of a particular type reported for all students of a given race to the corresponding overall enrollment figures given by the Office of Civil Rights, for 2011-2012.


[1] The Office of Civil Rights collected data from all U.S. public schools. The data used here is aggregated to the state and national level by the Office of Civil Rights and can be found at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/StateNationalEstimations/Estimations_2011_12. Data is reported either directly by school districts or by states’ education agencies on behalf of the districts. Data on corporal punishment may count multiple incidents for a single student as multiple occurrences. According to the Office of Civil Rights, “Corporal punishment is paddling, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment imposed on a student.” Data for suspensions reports counts of students with multiple out-of-school suspensions as a single incident. Because all data is self-reported, it is not known whether all districts use the same standards in reporting.

[2] According to the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center corporal punishment in schools is banned in most states. While most states do not permit corporal punishment in schools, they nonetheless report that schools beat children. Only Delaware and Hawaii report no corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is also rare in Maryland and Nevada, with fewer than three instances reported.

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