National Teacher Day Spotlights Key Issues Facing Profession

National Teacher Day Spotlights Key Issues Facing Profession

NEA Addresses Top Five Teaching Trends and Outlines ‘Portrait of American Teacher’


Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–May 2, 2006–The teaching profession has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. The majority of the nation’s 3 million teachers have at least a master’s degree and an average of 15 years of experience. (1) In addition, more than 75 percent of all teachers participate in professional development related to their grade or subject area. (1) As part of its annual National Teacher Day celebration, taking place this year on Tuesday, May 9, the National Education Association is releasing a list of the top five trends in the teaching profession and outlining the main characteristics of a 21st century schoolteacher.

“Today, teachers are more educated and experienced than ever before,” said NEA President Reg Weaver. “It’s extremely reassuring to know that public school students are being taught by the best and brightest educators this nation has seen in more than 40 years. On National Teacher Day, NEA and its 2.8 million members are saluting teachers, America’s heroes, for making public schools great for every child.”

According to NEA’s research and other sources, today’s teachers are primarily white, female, married, religious, and on average are 43 years old.(1) More than half hold at least a master’s degree.(1) Forty-five years ago, in 1961, only 23 percent held advanced degrees.(1) Additionally, 21st century teachers:

— Spend an average of 50 hours per week on all teaching duties, including noncompensated school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty and club advising.(1)

— Teach an average of 21 pupils (elementary).(1) Secondary schoolteachers have an average class size of 28 pupils.(1)

— Spend an average of $443 per year of their own money to meet the needs of their students.(1)

*Elementary teachers spend about $498 per year. Secondary teachers spend about $386.(1)

*Teachers of color spend about $470 per year, more than the $434 spent by white teachers.(1)

— Make an average starting salary of $31,704 per year, not including supplemental pay for extra duties.(2)

— Enter the teaching profession to help shape the next generation. Nearly three out of four (73%) enter teaching because of their desire to work with young people. (1) And nearly seven out of 10 teachers (68%) cite it as the reason for remaining in the profession.(1)

NEA’s research points to five main trends that have emerged over the past five years. These trends highlight the importance of teachers who are highly qualified and dedicated, as well as areas that need continued improvement such as cultural diversity, teacher recruitment and retention.

Trend #1: America’s public schoolteachers are the most educated, most experienced ever.

— They have many years of experience. Nearly half of all public schoolteachers (49%) have been in the classroom 15 years or longer; more than one-third (38%) have 20 or more years of classroom experience.(1)

— The majority of teachers hold one or more advanced degrees. More than half (57%) hold at least a master’s degree.(1) The percentage of teachers with a master’s degree has more than doubled since 1961.(1) Less than half (43%) of public schoolteachers hold only a bachelor’s degree—the smallest percentage in 40 years.(1)

— Public school teachers are highly skilled in the subjects they teach. Nine out of 10 teachers (90%) say they spend no time teaching grades or subjects outside their licensed subject area.(1)

Trend #2: The work of teachers is being transformed.

— Teachers are learning new skills and sharpening the ones they’ve already developed. More than 75 percent of all teachers participate in professional development related to their grade or subject area, using technology in the classroom and curriculum development.(1)

— Seventy-seven percent of all teachers participate in system-sponsored professional development during the school year, up from 59 percent in 1971.(1)

— Thirty-five percent—an all-time high—say they participated in system-sponsored professional development during the summer.(1)

— Teachers are enriching their lessons with technology. For teachers with access to school computers, 73 percent say they use the computer regularly for instructional purposes, and 59 percent use the Web to enhance classroom lessons.(1)

Trend #3: The number of teachers leaving the profession is increasing.

— Working conditions and low salaries are by far the primary reasons cited by individuals who do not plan to continue teaching until retirement. Twenty percent of teachers say unsatisfactory working conditions keep them from wanting to stay in the profession.(1) And 37 percent who do not plan to teach until retirement blame low pay for their decision to quit teaching.(1) The percentages are even greater for minority teachers (50%), for male teachers (43%), and for teachers under 30 (47%).(1)

— Nationwide, more than 3.9 million teachers will be needed by 2014 because of teacher attrition, retirement and increased student enrollment.(3)

— Many new teachers leave after five years. Close to 50 percent of newcomers leave the profession during the first five years of teaching.(4)

— Teacher shortages create shortages in some subjects more than most. The greatest shortages of teachers are in bilingual and special education, mathematics, science, computer science, English as a second language and foreign languages.(5) The teaching profession also is experiencing a shortage of male teachers.(1)

Trend #4: The teaching corps in public schools does not reflect the diversity of the student population.

— More teachers of color are needed. Nearly four out of every 10 students is a minority (40.5 %), yet the teaching profession is overwhelmingly white (90%).(1) Some 40 percent of all public schools have no minority teachers on staff.(3) Additionally, fewer than half of teachers participate in professional development related to managing diversity in the classroom. (1)

— The percentage of African-American teachers is the lowest since 1971 (6%).(1) Only five percent of the nation’s teachers are Hispanics, Asians or are from other ethnic groups.(1)

— Classroom success depends on cultural diversity. Some research suggests students of color perform better—academically, personally and socially—when taught by teachers from their own ethnic groups.(6)

Trend #5: Male teachers are a dwindling breed.

— A few good men. Just 24.9 percent of the nation’s 3 million teachers are men.(2)

— Slow extinction of the male teacher. The percentage of male elementary teachers (9%) and male secondary teachers (35%) has fallen gradually since 1961 and now is at the lowest level in four decades.(1)

— More money, more male teachers. States with higher teacher salaries tend to have the most male teachers. Michigan ranks first in the percentage of male teachers (37%), and ranks in the top five nationally in teacher pay. Mississippi ranks 50th in the percentage of male teachers (18%), and ranks 49th in teacher pay.(2)

In a recent survey, NEA member-teachers cited “working to increase funding for public schools” as the top priority for their state and local association. Parental and family involvement, building community support for teachers, and increasing funding for up-to-date textbooks, technology and classrooms are also listed by member-teachers as very important to the quality of public education.(7) More than half of all elementary, middle and secondary school teachers belong to a union—mainly the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and/or NEA.

“Teachers touch all of our lives,” said Weaver. “But we must face the fact that although our current teachers are the most educated and most experienced ever, there are still too many teachers leaving the profession too early, not enough people becoming teachers and not enough diversity in the profession. It is more important than ever to focus our efforts on retaining teachers by recruiting more people—especially males and minorities, offering more professional development opportunities and improving working conditions and salaries.”

About National Teacher Day

NEA celebrates National Teacher Day each year on Tuesday of the first full week of May. The day celebrates the outstanding work and lifelong dedication of teachers nationwide. This year’s theme is Great Teachers Make Great Public Schools. The theme emphasizes the important role teachers play in making sure every child receives a quality public education. Additionally, the theme celebrates teachers and underscores their importance in making great public schools a reality. For more information on National Teacher Day, visit

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 2.8 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

1. Status of the American Public School Teacher, 2003, National Education Association.

2. Rankings & Estimates, 2004-2005, National Education Association.

3. Condition of Education, 2003, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

4. Darling-Hammond & Schlan, 1996.

5. American Association for Employment in Education, 1998.

6. Assessment of Diversity in America’s Teaching Force—A Call to Action, 2004, The National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force.

7. NEA Member Survey, 2004; NEA Focus Groups, 2004.

National Teacher Day Spotlights Key Issues Facing Profession