How many hours do public school teachers really work?

Article Highlights

  • Teachers report a median work week of 43.7 hours versus 44.8 hours for non-teachers with college degrees

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  • Do teachers work dramatically longer hours than other white collar professions? No

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  • While teachers put in more work time at home than other professions, they don't work more hours total

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One of the (many) responses that Jason Richwine and I have heard regarding our paper showing that public school teachers are overpaid is that we underestimate the hours that teachers actually work. We regularly receive emails detailing the long hours teachers put in on the job. If so, our study—which found that teachers receive salaries roughly on par with other professionals, but with far more generous benefits—could be in error.

For instance, Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University claimed that we generated our conclusions only “by underestimating the actual hours that teachers work—using ‘contract hours’ rather than the 50-plus hours a week teachers actually spend preparing for classes, grading papers, and communicating with students and parents outside of school hours.”

Had Darling-Hammond actually read our report before commenting on it, she would know that we relied on teachers’ own reports of the hours they work, recorded in the Census Bureau’s Current Population (CPS) survey, not their shorter contract hours. Teachers themselves report a mean work week of 43.7 hours, versus 44.8 hours for non-teachers with a college degree. Some teachers work more, some less, but overall their hours aren’t dramatically different than other professionals. And if a teacher did report that he or she worked 60 hours per week, as many claim to, we counted it.

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