2017’s Best & Worst States for Teachers
Teaching can be a profoundly rewarding career, considering the critical role educators play in shaping young minds. But many teachers find themselves overworked and underpaid. Education jobs are among the lowest-paying occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, and teacher salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the law demands better student performance, but some critics argue that it deprives educators of guidance and positive incentive to improve their own effectiveness in the classroom.
This combination of job pressures, low pay and lack of mobility forces many teachers to quit soon after they start, a pattern that has led to a perpetual attrition problem in America’s public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public-school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year, and nearly half never last more than five. Many teachers, especially novices, transfer to other schools or abandon the profession altogether “as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,” according to ASCD, a nonprofit focused on improving the education community.
In some states, however, teachers are more fairly paid and treated than in others and therefore less likely to face a revolving door of teacher turnover. To help America’s educators find the best opportunities and teaching environments, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 21 key indicators of teacher-friendliness. Our data set ranges from teachers’ income growth potential to pupil-teacher ratio to teacher safety. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Best & Worst States for Teachers
‘Opportunity & Competition’ Rank
‘Academic & Work Environment’ Rank
|36||District of Columbia||48.59||30||40|
Like any professional seeking work-life balance, educators are no exception. They must be able to make a reasonable living in order to meet the challenges of their profession. For more insight into the issues plaguing teachers and possible solutions for overcoming them, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on with their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What are the biggest issues teachers face today?
- How can local officials attract and retain the best teachers?
- What tips can you offer young teachers looking for a place to settle?
- In evaluating the best states for teachers, what are the top five indicators?
- Do you think performance-based compensation (e.g., providing teachers a bonus when their students meet or exceed expectations) is a promising strategy for improving student outcomes?
- Are unions beneficial to teachers? What about to students?
In order to determine the teacher-friendliest states in the U.S., WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, including “Opportunity & Competition” and “Academic & Work Environment.” Because competitive salaries and job security are integral to a well-balanced personal and professional life, we assigned a heavier weight to the first category.
We evaluated the two dimensions using 21 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for living and working as a teacher.
Finally, we determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Opportunity & Competition - Total Points: 70
- Average Starting Salary for Teachers: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Average Annual Salary for Teachers: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Teachers’ Income Growth Potential: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
- 10-Year Change in Teacher Salaries: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the change in constant dollars for teacher salaries between the 2005–2006 and the 2015–2016 academic years.
- Average Teacher Pension: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the local cost of living.
- Share of New Teachers with Inadequate Pensions: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of new teachers who will not break even on their pensions. In other words, the amount of their future pension benefits will be less than the contributions they made to the state pension plan during their career.
- Projected Teacher Competition in Year 2024: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the projected number of teachers per 1,000 students by year 2024.
- Public-School Enrollment Growth: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: “Growth” was measured by comparing public-school enrollment in fall 2016 versus fall 2015.
- Teacher Tenure Protections: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the strength of the state law, if any, protecting teachers’ tenure.
- Share of Uncertified Teachers: Full Weight (~7.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of teachers who have not met state certification requirements. Teachers counted in this metric include those who are “teaching while still finishing their preparation, or teaching with an emergency-style credential,” according to the Learning Policy Institute.
Academic & Work Environment - Total Points: 30
- Quality of School System: Triple Weight (~7.83 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” ranking.
- Pupil-Teacher Ratio: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
- Public-School Spending per Student: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This metric measures the annual state and local expenditures for K–12 public schools per capita.
- Presence of Annual Teacher-Evaluation Requirement: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of an annual evaluation requirement for all teachers in the state.
- Presence of Teacher-Effectiveness Requirement: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a state requirement for “objective student growth as part of teacher evaluation system,” as described by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
- Projected Share of Teacher Turnover: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of teachers “planning to leave the teaching profession as soon as possible or as soon as a more desirable job opportunity arises,” according to the Leaning Policy Institute.
- Teacher Union Strength: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s state-by-state comparison of U.S. teacher unions.
- Teacher Safety: Full Weight (~2.61 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of public-school teachers who reported being threatened with injury by a student from school during the previous 12 months.
- Average Commute Time: Half Weight (~1.30 Points)
- Prevalence of Childhood Disadvantage: Half Weight (~1.30 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Most Underprivileged Children” ranking.
- Working Mom-Friendliness: Half Weight (~1.30 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Working Moms” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Education Association, National Center for Education Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research, TeacherPensions.org, National Council on Teacher Quality, Projections Central - State Ocuppational Projections, Learning Policy Institute, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and WalletHub research.
Was this article helpful?