Smart money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them

SmartMoney_Infographic_resized_424810Districts across the country use wildly different salary scales for compensating teachers – and a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality does the math on what that means for career educators. NCTQ even factors in the cost of living to come up with some eye-popping statistics. For instance: A teacher at the top of the salary scale in Columbus, Ohio has more than four times the earning power of an equally veteran teacher in New York City. The report also finds that it takes teachers 24 years, on average, to reach their maximum pay. That’s a much longer time frame than in other professions. But that average masks a wide variation – it can take as little as seven years (in Boston) or as long as three decades (in Wichita) for teachers to reach an annual salary of $75,000.

Pay-for-performance systems also vary widely, the study found. In the District of Columbia and Pittsburgh, top-notch teachers can quickly race to the top of the salary scale. That’s not the case in several Louisiana districts that use merit pay systems. In Caddo Parish, for example, an exemplary teacher can expect to earn only marginally more than an average teacher over his/her career. The NCTQ’s conclusion: “School district leaders, teachers and policy makers must invest in redesigning salary structures if they want to shape teaching into the sustainable career it deserves to be.”

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