Data for The National Conversation about Teachers’ Salaries

I’m going to post the source first (date: October 2015).

But I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up:

tchr salary

Here at the bottom we see the usual suspects: Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia. Remember this is a ranking of average salary adjusted for the cost of living in the state.

Let’s run the same analysis with starting teachers’ salaries. (Source: In case you’re wondering where they got their data, here are the sources the website cites:


NEA 2016-2017 Average Starting Salaries by State
NCES Estimated average salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state, 2016-2017
NCES Average salaries for full-time teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, 2011-2012, which is the most current data available for both the public and private sector

For comparison, I combined the data for average teacher salary with that for beginning teacher salary. Feast your eyes on this:


Just for funsies, let’s subtract the purchasing power of the beginning salary from that of the average salary to see where one might best invest a teaching career:


My fellow Floridian teachers will not be surprised to learn that our state is one of the worst for potential earnings gains during a teacher career. We start in the middle, but fall to the bottom.

But Georgia, I live in Duval County so Georgia is a ‘meh,’ for getting started, but on the whole, with a some hours devoted to driving … South Florida teachers are not so lucky. They will have to uproot their families to improve their lot.

Do they need to? The devil is in the details as the saying goes. This data needs refinement and a breakdown into school district by school district, something beyond the abilities of one blogger sitting at home while on summer vacation.

Also, I looked for a report of the number of years it would take a beginning teacher to reach the average salary. No luck for that, nor for an attempt to find estimates of where a teacher would maximize career earnings.

But it is clear that Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, and Georgia are the best places for raises despite the starting salary while North Dakota, Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina, and South Dakota are the worst places to expect anything to get better.

A Lack of Candor, Duval Style

So the latest dust-up is the interim superintendent of schools not telling the board or the public that two of the people on the promotion list to principal were relatives: a son and a niece.

But this is nothing new. The last superintendent left us with a budget hole because he spent money he was sure would show up one day. From the wayback machine (only 13 months ago):

Board member Rebecca Couch said that the board approved [expenditures] because they were told that money was available in the budget for the expenditures. Turns out, that wasn’t always true, she said.


Before then, it was EPD laying up the federal largesse under President Obama’s stimulus bill for future needs while telling the board they needed to adopt a very unpopular pay-to-play policy for high school athletics. 

Let’s not get started on Joseph Wise, whose misrepresentations to the Board came to a crashing halt when he published a letter in the newspaper telling a Board member to resign.

Remember that? It was the same Board member who made a habit of writing down everything he said at Board meetings and later calling him out when he tried to deny it.

Oh, people, what is it in the water at 1701 Prudential Drive?

There is a pattern to the superintendent/Board relationship in the county. Let us hope that with new people coming to the board via November elections and the new superintendent, we will have a new beginning and this sorry pattern will be relegated to the dustbin where it belongs.

Seven Deadly Sins in Education: Sloth

Where are our FSA scores? (This post was going to be about politicians and their lack of effort in providing for accountability over public tax dollars they are sending to charter schools and private schools via vouchers, but I got diverted. I will get to it.)

Current speculation is that the Commissioner, Pam Stewart, will not release scores until June 30 under new statutory language enacted with the Florida law known as HB 7069. Here is what the language says (as provided by the legislative staff analysis):

The law requires that state assessment contracts entered into or renewed after April 14, 2015, must provide for a student’s performance on state assessments to be provided to the student’s teachers and parents by the end of the school year, unless the Commissioner of Education determines that extenuating circumstances exist and reports the circumstances to the SBE [State Board of Education]. The law also requires that assessment and reporting schedules must provide the earliest possible reporting of student assessment results to school districts.

Does the Commissioner know that Florida schools end their year weeks before the end of June?

Does the Commissioner know that many of these tests are worth 30% of a student’s course grade and that their report cards cannot be finalized and sent home until FSA scores are reported?

July is too late for students needing to enroll in a summer option because their FSA score caused them to fail a course.

A servant’s heart and a service-oriented attitude in an education commissioner would render these questions moot. She would know and she wouldn’t allow it to happen.

I see you, Pam Stewart, and I name you … SLOTH!

UPDATE: the statutory language gives cover. Thanks to Paula Suzanne, who ran it down for us: 34687254_10204681309868950_5349081428694925312_n

Seven Deadly Sins in Education: Greed

I stand corrected: the love of money is the root of all evil. And oh, how the testing companies and curriculum providers love them some money! By the way, if you haven’t noticed, they are one and the same.

Yep, when a school system is looking to adopt a new curriculum in a tested subject, they should look no further than the company that provides their state’s test. Does your state use PARCC? Then Pearson is the one for you.

Others are using a version of Smarter Balanced, for example, American Institutes of Research. Then the choice is McGraw-Hill.

Money! the fascination it holds on the human psyche. “Money is how we keep score,” said Betsy Devos.

How much money is involved? One estimate for New Jersey is $25.50 per child. In Washington state, it’s $30 per student. Other estimates run around $12 per test and students usually take two or more. Given an estimate of 50 million school-age children in the United States, the pot antes to $1.5 billion.

Wait a minute, you cry! Not all children take these tests. Depending upon the state, it’s grades 3 through 8, plus additional high school tests. True, but then there are AP exams, SAT, PSAT, ACT, exams that colleges are in increasing numbers deciding irrelevant to their admission process, but are marketed heavily to school systems. Millions for the College Board

Florida ditches low cost alternatives for pricey exams: Goodbye, PERT; Hello, PSAT.

How to run all the numbers down? Maybe you can figure how to Google it; I haven’t had any luck. But millions here, billions there, it has to add up to a very lucrative market.

Let’s go with a couple billion. What does that mean for a company like Pearson? Their sales ran roughly $4 billion dollars in 2017 from the North American Market. So the U.S. public school testing market represents 50% of revenue, although it must be said that they don’t have a monopoly and did not get the entire amount of testing dollars states are spending.

In 2017, American Institute of Research garnered $474 million in revenue. So the U.S. testing market, at 400% of that number, represents a huge market opportunity.

What happens when a testing company fails to live up to its contract? Pbbt, no, they don’t lose the contract. They pay fines. This is known as ‘a cost of doing business.’

And what a business indeed! Tests that don’t align with state standards (only 65%, less than two-thirds), unreliable testing platforms, and incomprehensible questions … none of that matters because the ‘cost of doing business’ is minuscule next to the profits being gathered.

And for the children frustrated by these tests? Those who think it means they are stupid?

Money! You know, I’m going to disagree with those quibblers who told me I didn’t get the quote right. In education, it’s not the love of money, it’s the money itself, that huge, sweet pot of taxpayer dollars that attracts the worst sort of profiteers … money itself that brings out the greed that would grind children’s lives into dust … because, well, money!

I see you, test companies, and I name you … LOCUSTS.

Seven Deadly Sins in Education: Gluttony

We’re still talking about money, as a famous prophet once said, “Money is the root of all evil,” and now we turn to the second deadly sin in education, which is gluttony.

Otherwise known as charter schools, for whom the money is never enough. They always demand more.

Yes, they can do the job of education better, for less, but they need more. KIPP is one of the worst hogs: At the trough, K-I-P-P. If KIPP really outperforms traditional public schools and that is a debatable proposition, then all it has proved is that every school needs its state to give it $2,000,000 more in funding.

In fact, the KIPP program in Jacksonville has an uneven level of school performance as measured by Florida’s school grade process. Good years are followed by bad years as I documented in an earlier blog.

After the passage of HB 7069 in Florida, which allowed charter schools to demand a share of the capital dollars local school boards raise through local school taxes, the Speaker Richard Corcoran lamented months later that they had given the charter operators everything they demanded and wondered why none had yet applied to be a “School of Hope,” a designation that would allow a Florida charter operation to bypass local school board authorization and control.

It’s never enough.

Florida charter scandals have been well chronicled over the years. School Operators Exploit Weak Laws Pay us $600 or your daughter won’t graduate Another day, Another Charter School Scandal Worse and worser (sic) Never Enough ‘Cause Related Party Dealing, That’s Why

Want more? Google ‘Florida charter school scandals.’

Outright fraud, for-profit management companies charging fees way beyond the value of services provided, real-estate companies to build charter facilities and charge rents high above market prices, hell, legislators passing legislation that benefit their wives, in-laws, and themselves through consulting contracts … it’s never enough.

You know, your local, traditional public school is really the best choice you have.

As for the charters, I see thee and name you … PIG!

Seven Deadly Sins in Education: Lust

Money is at the bottom of all the deadly sins. How to make beaucoup bucks out of education taxes has become the concern of too many during a time when we should be thinking of true philanthropy to support our schools with their needs.

But it is a necessary starting point. The seven deadly sins begin with lust, a lust for data, with the goal of monetizing the databases that result.

I have a parody of that song, but my Facebook friends haven’t seen it yet–I need a partner. It will take two to do it justice, but it starts like this:

  • Data makes the school go around, the school go around
  • Data makes the school go around, the clicking, clacking sound
  • Of mouses pounding down
  • Data, data, data, data … data, data, data, data …

The first deadly sin is the lust for children’s data by companies and governments that have no right to it. Oh, they’ll claim it’s in their contract, but the school system that bargained away your child’s right to privacy had no right to do that.

Anyone know a good attorney? Or even a junkyard dog attorney because the smell of a class-action lawsuit permeates the steaming pile of data being collected everytime a child uses an online learning program, takes a test, or uses a purportedly beneficial program like Khan Academy.

(I once was a fan of Khan Academy, but ever since it repurposed itself as an SAT preparation site rather than making itself available for teachers to deploy as needed to further student learning, I have little use for it.)

Data makes the world go around. The marketeers of data-gathering sites promise our privacy will be secure, but then we get Facebook. They guaranteed our privacy and took such efforts to secure it by asking a firm like Cambridge Analytica to please, pretty please, pretty pretty please, delete the data they harvested because they weren’t supposed to.

We know how well that worked out.

Data, data, data … DATA, DATA, DATA … DATA!!

In the West, our online habits, the websites we visit, the ads we click on, the products we look at … all is recorded. What companies like Amazon and Facebook do is use our browsing habits to sell us to advertisers who seek to narrow their efforts to those most likely to buy.

As adults, we may find that okay. After all, as a man, I’m not interested in wearing women’s dresses and, if Amazon is using my browsing habits to keep those ads away from me, I’m okay with that.

On the other hand, I like the unexpected. Going way back into the Compuserve/preWWW days, I never subscribed to news feeds that would only show me what stories I marked as important. I like having an open feed whereby stories I don’t know about and don’t think would interest me, but are important, show up. Something new comes along and I find I am interested.

That is why we will always need an independent fourth estate, that is, media. I need somebody to put news in front of my face as important because I might have missed it.

Data, data, data, data. It has its place, but it cannot replace human judgment.

Put kids in front of computers and say in a very authoritative voice, “LEARN.”

They rebel. Visit any school doing Achieve 3000 or iReady or the like and look at the student laptops. Many of them have the keys pried off. Laptops are not like desktops; you cannot merely push the key back onto the keyboard. When a laptop key is off, the soldered connection is broken and it cannot be fixed. We call this passive-aggressive behavior. The students cannot say, “We hate this and we won’t do it,” but they have ways to make their opinions count.

Data, data, data, data … coming to you in sheep’s clothing, also known as personalized learning. Data, data, data … I see thee and name you, WOLF!

Because Silicon Valley believes they can gather data on a child from birth and predict the best course for their life. They know best; individual choice be damned.

They make grand speeches, but they seek to end human freedom and return us to the status of serfs.

Born to the estate, we will live and die on the estate doing the work that our lord decided we would do.

That this is being done by means of a silicon chip doesn’t mean it is any less wrong.

The first deadly sin in education: Lust for Data.

Standardized Education

Not the sexiest of titles. Bear with me.

There is a place in education for standards. Not all would agree, but it is actually true. We have expectations for things that every human should know, for example, toilet training. We expect everyone to be able to control their bowels.

Language. Everyone learns how to talk. No matter the circumstances, everyone learns the vocal sounds to put together into words to communicate with others in their communities.

Dress. Everyone learns how to put on their clothes.

Motion. Everyone learns how to control their muscles so they can run without falling on their face.

It is reasonable, then, to posit academic standards that we think every child should reach. The problem comes when we push too hard, too fast, and violate the developmental norms that are written in the human DNA of children. (Looking at you, Common Core.) A bigger problem erupts when we focus only on academic skills and not the entire human developmental agenda that children have. (Still looking at you, Common Core, with your insistence on kindergarten standards that deny children recess so they can sit at tables to do math worksheets. Because if children learn to multiply at age 5, they have no need to know how to get along with others, how to play fair, and how to share. [Sarcasm alert, if you need it.])

Another problem comes when the standards themselves are inappropriate to guide the education of children. I could write more, but many have said it better than I could. Start with Peter Greene of Curmudgucation fame, who ably criticizes the stupidity of context-free reading standards. (Reading cannot be taught, how much less tested, as a set of skills free of the content of what people are reading.)

A third problem comes when the standards are so broad and vague and poorly match the actual learning expectations we have. Now I come to the point of my screed. The high school Common Core standards for mathematics are atrocious. Bad, Very bad. Very, very bad.

I’m not a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ person to the party. But this year, as I have worked to develop a set of notes for Geometry lessons, the essential ‘what you must know,’ and to frame a set of master lesson plans for them, including a citation of the standard, I realize how poorly the Common Core has promulgated standards for high school mathematics.

Some are too vague; some miss the point. For some content we expect children to know, because they will be tested on it, there is no standard at all to match. To say nothing of knowledge children get tested on that are simply not in the standards. (For example, Florida Geometry students were asked to calculate the surface area of a sphere. You will search in vain to find that in the standards. Oh, I need to add a disclaimer here. I did not deliberately look at the test, But I have to watch the screens to make sure students are not cheating. Sometimes I can’t help but gain a sense of what a question is about even though I did not look at the specific question.)

This should not be. We were told that the Common Core backward mapped, that is, it started with what kids needed to enter college and worked down through the years to decide what they should learn in each grade level beginning with kindergarten. But later, the Common Core architects admitted that the high school mathematics standards were an afterthought, something they threw together as the grant dollars ran out and they didn’t have time to do it properly.

They wanted to backward map? That is the problem with Common Core; the writers did the job exactly backward. They should have started with what is developmentally appropriate and ended with what colleges should expect matriculating freshman to bring to the university.

As for me, sigh, one more job to add to my summer pile of work to do for next year. A long summer vacation, teachers have it great? Bah, don’t make me cynically laugh. In addition to everything else, I now have to write my own set of realistic standards for the course I teach.

I will share.