You can’t have a school without teachers. Here’s some information about teaching and teachers in Kansas.

Teacher pay

How much do teachers get paid in Kansas? And more importantly, how do they get paid? (originally posted July 22, 2010)

The top 10

Let’s start out with average salaries. Here’s a list of a few districts that top the list of all districts in the state. They are ranked by salary and board-paid benefits:

  1. 512 Shawnee Mission, $66,806
  2. 229 Blue Valley, $61,113
  3. 243 Lebo-Waverly, $59,705
  4. 248 Girard, $59,556
  5. 259 Wichita, $58,711
  6. 246 Northeast, $58,587
  7. 340 Jefferson West, $58,336
  8. 233 Olathe, $57,805
  9. 265 Goddard, $56,678
  10. 483 Kismet-Plains, 56,102

If you want to see all districts, there’s an Excel file available at KSDE. Go to School Finances Publications, scroll down to the categories list , and then look for “Salaries (Teachers).” You can also, on that list, get a similar file with pay information for principals and superintendents. The list above is the 2009-2010 edition.

Average compensation, $53,041

For the state, the average compensation(*) is $53,041.

As Dale Dennis says in a supplemental file (MS Word), “Please note that there is a wide disparity in years of teaching experience, college hours of personnel, and budget per pupil, which would account for disparities in salaries between school districts.”

“Board paid fringe benefits,” according to the supplemental file, “includes group life, group health, disability income, accidental death and dismemberment, and hospital surgical, and/or medical expense insurance.” (*) They average $4,325 per teacher, for the state as a whole. Taking that number out of the average compensation of $53,041, average cash salary is $48,669.

Retirement benefits not included

Note also that these numbers do not include retirement benefits, which on the employer side are just over 8% of salary.  So the list overstates cash payments but understates total compensation. The list also “does not includes social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and any employee reduction benefits under Section 125 plans.”

You may note, if you look at the original Excel file, that the average pay in some districts went down from the 2008-09 year to the 2009-2010 year. KSDE offers no explanation for that, but I suspect it has to do with teachers near retirement (who get paid more) leaving the workforce, and bringing down the average.

Teacher quality

(published October 10, 2010)

What’s the most important factor in a child’s success in school? The home is the first school, and parents do play a role, but what about a school itself is the most important factor? The number of computers or the size of the library? What sort of curriculum the school has? Whether or not it has new facilities? None of these. It’s the quality of the teachers.

Here’s one summary, from the December 15, 2008 edition of New Yorker. It’s titled “Most Likely to Succeed,” by Malcom Gladwell.

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.

Gladwelll’s piece is an interesting take on the difficulty of predicting success. He looks at both college quarterbacks who might enter the NFL, and prospective teachers. For some critical takes on Gladwell’s article, see this comment thread at the Democratic Underground. One person, presumably a teacher, complains of being “a scapegoat for the nation’s dysfunctions.”

In How to Fix Our Schools, (Washington Post, October 10, 2010), 16 big-city superintendents call for changes in school personnel policies. Here’s an excerpt:

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials. The widespread policy of “last in, first out” (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators and ignores the one thing that should matter most: performance.

Proving that concern about “archaic rules involving seniority and academic credential” aren’t limited to economists (Hanushek) or superintendents (the Post op-ed), the group Putting Kids First Minneapolis describes itself this way:

We’re a progressive, independent, grassroots group of parents, students and ordinary citizens working to change the way teachers are hired, assigned and evaluated in Minneapolis Public Schools.Why? Because research shows the classroom teacher is the single greatest school-based factor in a kid’s academic success. But under our current contract rules, almost all staff decisions are made according to a rigid, industrial-era seniority system that pays no attention to teacher quality, student needs or the public good.

For us, it comes down to a fundamental question of values:

Do our public schools exist first and foremost to provide kids with the best possible education with public dollars? Or to first provide jobs to adults, regardless of their performance or what students need?

Good questions.

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