Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Mismeasure of Teaching Time



How Bad Data Produced an International Myth about U.S. Teachers and Misguided Debate about Education Policy

Few matters of international education policy have achieved as much consensus as the claim that teachers in U.S. public schools spend nearly twice as much time leading classes as their counterparts in such high-performing nations as Finland, Japan, and other nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).   Yet this claim is far from true, Samuel E. Abrams explains in a new CBCSE study entitled The Mismeasure of Teaching Time.

Teachers in U.S. public schools work hard, for relatively low pay, and under increasingly stressful conditions because of federally mandated high-stakes tests.  But they do not, as reported annually since 2000 by the OECD in its compendium of educational statistics, Education at a Glance, spend so much more time instructing students than teachers in other OECD nations.

Through repetition by journalists and scholars, this misinformation has become conventional wisdom.  In the process, a myth has evolved misguiding comparative analysis of staffing practices. This myth has moreover obscured telling differences between the structure of the school day in the United States and other OECD nations.  Finally, this myth has overshadowed the critical issue of inferior pay of U.S. teachers in comparison to that of their OECD counterparts. 

Abrams deconstructs the myth by exposing contradictions about teaching time within Education at a Glance; by revealing an error in data collection by the U.S. Department of Education that is behind the figures in Education at a Glance; and by providing detailed documentation of teaching time in the United States from a sample of rural, suburban, and urban school districts.

This study provides readers with a clearer understanding of the workload and challenges of U.S. teachers and refocuses debate about education policy. 
Click here to read the full text of this study. 
CBCSE's mission is to improve the efficiency with which public and private resources are employed in education. We conduct research to determine the costs of educational programs as well as the economic value of program impacts in order to encourage educators, evaluators and policymakers to consider these factors in conjunction with program effectiveness in addressing educational goals.
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