By the Numbers

(page 5 of 8)

PERCENTAGE OF TEACHERS WITH MASTER'S DEGREES OR BETTER 
Median: 54.9

This figure indicates the academic strength of a high-school's faculty—not to mention a teacher's eagerness to ascend a salary ladder that tends to reward people who have earned advanced degrees. There appears to be a loose correlation between highly educated teachers and higher test scores visible on our chart, although it cannot be demonstrated that one necessarily influences the other. Lincoln-Way's District 210 and Plainfield's District 202, both in the growing southwest region, take decidedly different approaches to hiring new teachers. Administrators at both districts hire relatively young and inexpensive teachers, but at Lincoln-Way, more of the savings this practice generates go into hiring teachers with advanced degrees: Of that district's teachers, 60.2 percent have master's degrees or better; in Plainfield, that figure is 39.8 percent.

MINORITY TEACHERS
Median: 13.7

Although the racial mix of its faculty is laid out on a school's report card (showing the precise racial and ethnic breakdown of the teaching staff), we have condensed the information on the chart to show only what proportion of a district's teachers are not white. As with the race of students, the racial makeup of the teacher population is a snapshot of the school, not an indicator of its quality.

AVERAGE TEACHER SALARY
Median: $63,509

Teacher salaries are the talk of many communities—particularly after a chart like this one appears—and with good reason. Teachers are public employees entrusted with a vitally important job. What we pay them matters. Ten percent of all the high schools on the chart pay their teachers an average of more than $80,000 annually; in District 113, serving Highland Park and Deerfield, they are paid an average of $86,814, the most of any district in the region. (The same district topped salaries in Chicago's 2002 chart.) Even CPS teachers do pretty well, averaging $63,509.

But teachers have been losing ground financially for about a decade, according to a 2005 study by the American Federation of Teachers. It showed that although teachers' salaries shot up in the late 1980s, putting them well above national averages for all workers, the gap has narrowed dramatically since the mid-1990s, with teacher salaries growing only a little while everyone else's rose steadily. By 2005, teachers were just a bit above the national average.