Of Poverty and Teacher Pay

Recently, I wrote about the correlation between poverty, investment in schools, and student achievement test scores.

To summarize, wealthier districts with lower levels of poverty tended to both invest more in their schools AND get higher scores on achievement tests.

On the flip side, school districts with higher levels of poverty had less money to invest in schools and also saw lower student achievement scores.

Now, I’ve broken down the top and bottom 10 districts from those posts and I’m highlighting their average teacher salaries. Here’s the data:

TOP 10

District                                    2014 Average Teacher Salary

Franklin Special                   $52,080

Rogersville                             $44,906

Newport                                $42,962

Maryville                               $52,076

Oak Ridge                             $54,039

Williamson                           $48,471

Greeneville                          $45,386

Johnson City                       $52,222

Kingsport                             $51,425

Shelby County                   $56,180

Average for Top 10 Districts: $49,974


Bottom 10

District                                   2014 Average Salary

Lake Co.                                 $42,547

Union Co.                               $42,027

Madison Co.                          $45,282

Campbell Co.                        $41,563

Haywood Co.                        $43,318

Hardeman Co.                      $43,556

Hancock Co.                          $39,777

Memphis                               $56,000 (Shelby Co. number, as Memphis is now part of SCS)

Fayette Co.                            $41,565

Humboldt                             $42,072

Average for Bottom 10: $43,770

The salary disparity among the top 10 and bottom 10 districts in terms of academic performance is $6204 — or 14.2%.

These numbers roughly correlate with the districts most able to pay and with the greatest investment over the BEP.

It’s important to note that high pay alone does not represent high student achievement. It is also important to note, though, that those districts with the most consistent high performance on student achievement indicators also consistently pay more than districts that are lower-performing.

Wealthier districts invest more funds in their schools, invest more in their teachers, and see better overall outcomes than low-income districts. Teacher pay is a part of that overall equation.

MORE on Teacher Pay:

A 4% Raise for Tennessee Teachers?

Do Your Job, Get Less Money

Pay Teachers More … A Lot More

Why is TN 40th in Teacher Pay?

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


5 thoughts on “Of Poverty and Teacher Pay

  1. I’m not sure where you got these numbers from, but I teach in Williamson County, and have been for 6 years (before that 13 years in private schools and 3 years in Jr. College). I don’t make the “average” salary according to your figures. In fact, because WillCo has such low tax rates, I would be making much more in other districts, notably Metro, which doesn’t appear on your list. But they wouldn’t hire me when I tried. I’m pretty sure your data is flawed. Please site sources. I mean, it’s what we teach our students, isn’t it?

    • Brian,
      All data comes from the Tennessee Department of Education. The averages are just that, an average. A system’s average may be impacted by having more experienced teachers or a greater number of teachers with advanced degrees. Metro pays significantly more than most other districts in middle Tennessee – it’s an outlier in that regard.

  2. What is the average pay in Davidson County? Brian- stay in Williamson County. You may make less money, but I bet kids are better behaved. Discipline is a huge problem in metro than no one wants to talk about.

  3. I’m glad this was looked at. It is funny, like Brian Popovich said, even with his experience, he didn’t make that salary. The state gives the rose colored glasses version when it comes to pay among other things. I wonder if administration salaries are included in the states figures. That might skew the data. From what I saw, this was based on a teacher with a BS/BA with 15 years experience.

    I was curious what starting pay for a teacher with a BS/BA degree was. I used the TEA website and granted, some of the salary schedules are a year or two old. The website is http://teateachers.org/salary-schedules

    Starting pay at Top ten average: $36,799
    Starting pay at Bottom ten average: $34,469
    Looking at this, starting pay is lower and the gap only widens in the lower performing systems. Of course, this doesn’t take into account insurance and other benefits, so that may change things if the system pays more. Also, many of the the higher performing systems are city systems. Would they get to use the county allocation with the city allocation to pay more to teachers and more funding for students?

    • Thanks for that update. It is alarming that the starting pay is not too far apart, but the gap grows over time. Someone looking at pay scales and planning where to build a future would certainly want to build where they have the best earning potential. I find it disturbing, however, that the teachers in the most challenging districts also face the most financial challenges.

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