FastStats 2015: The Independent School Teacher
Monday, April 27, 2015

By: Jeffrey Mitchell, Head of School, Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, TN
Published: April 2015

This FastStats focuses on four market measures for teachers working in independent schools. The trends for salary, benefits, professional development, and teaching load are assessed over a period of 20 years. Moreover, the measures are analyzed after being adjusted for inflation (where applicable).
Figure 1 shows the 20year trend for median faculty salaries and Figure 2 shows the same data, adjusted for inflation. It is clear from Figure 1 that the median salaries for independent school teachers have, in absolute terms, increased significantly. The median teacher salary for NAIS schools 20 years ago was $30,500 and in 20142015 it is $54,077. This reflects a 77% increase. The median teacher salary for SAIS schools 20 years ago was $28,700 and for 20142015 it is $47,127. This reflects a 64% increase.
Figure 2 shows the 20year trend for median faculty salaries, adjusted for inflation. It is clear from Figure 2 that the median salaries for independent school teachers have not, relative to inflation, increased significantly. The median adjusted teacher salary for NAIS schools 20 years ago was $48,688 and for 20142015 it is $54,077. This reflects an 11% increase. The median adjusted teacher salary for SAIS schools 20 years ago was $45,814 and for 20142015 it is $47,127. This reflects a 2.87% increase.
Thus, NAIS teachers' salaries have increased 11% beyond inflation in the past 20 years. SAIS teacher's salaries have increased 2.87% beyond inflation. Clearly, relative to their counterparts across all NAIS schools, SAIS teachers have not received comparable salary increases.
Figure 2 also shows the median U.S. household income over the past 20 years, adjusted for inflation. The median U.S. household income 20 years ago was $49,424 and for 20142015 it is $52,400. This reflects a 6.02% increase, above inflation. Thus, compared with the entire workforce, NAIS teachers (at 11%) are 5% ahead of the workforce as whole. Whereas, SAIS teachers (at 2.87%) are about 3% behind the workforce, as a whole.
Figure 3 shows the per faculty median of all material benefits received, adjusted for inflation. The monetary value of benefits for independent school teachers has increased significantly. The median adjusted benefit for NAIS schools 20 years ago was $9,983 and for 20142015 it is $15,278. This reflects a 53% increase. The median adjusted benefit for SAIS schools 20 years ago was $8,066 and for 20142015 it is $11,197. This reflects a 39% increase. As with salaries, relative to their counterparts across all NAIS schools, SAIS teachers have not received comparable benefit increases.
Comparing the salary data (Figure 2) with the benefits data (Figure 3) indicates that teachers are receiving a greater relative increase in compensation due to increases in benefits. For example, benefits for all NAIS teachers increased 53% beyond inflation over the past 20 years and salaries increased 11% beyond inflation. It is wise, however, to note that even though there's a much larger percentage increase in benefits for teachers, the absolute amount of money is still much less than for salaries.
Figure 4 identifies the professional development allocation per faculty, adjusted for inflation. It is clear from Figure 4 that the monetary value of professional development for independent school teachers has increased significantly. The median adjusted allocation for NAIS schools 16 years ago was $951 and for 20142015 it is $1,269. This reflects a 33% increase. The median adjusted benefit for SAIS schools 16 years ago was $794 and for 20142015 it is $926. This reflects a 17% increase. Thus, NAIS teachers' professional development median allocation has increased 39%, beyond inflation. SAIS teachers' professional development amount has increased 17% beyond inflation. As with salaries and benefits, relative to their counterparts across all NAIS schools, SAIS teachers have not received comparable professional development allocation increases.
Figure 5 indicates the median number of students per class taught by a faculty member. Unlike the other measures, this measure is not a material element of compensation. Nevertheless, it is a very good measure of the overall quality of the teaching experience, all other things being equal. Figure 5 shows that the teacher load for NAIS teachers has increased slightly. The median load for NAIS teachers 16 years ago was 15.67 students and for 20142015 it is 16.33 students. This reflects a 4.67% (less than one student) increase. The median load for SAIS teachers 16 years ago was 11.67 students and for 20142015 it is 16.67 students. This reflects a 43% increase (5 students).
Although there is a very large difference in the increase of SAIS teacher loads versus NAIS teacher loads over the past 16 years, note that the increase has just brought SAIS teachers on par with all NAIS teachers. The bigger question is whether the current teacher load (around 1617 students per teacher, per class) is reasonable. Based on my experience, it is a number that makes sense for the missions of most NAIS independent schools, with LD schools like mine one exception.
In conclusion, the most noticeable statistic in this analysis is the very soft (after adjusting for inflation) increase of SAIS teachers' salaries relative to teachers in NAIS, as a whole. While there are clear regional variations in the cost of living i.e., living in the Southeast is less expensive than living in most other regions around the country. This would not explain this finding, unless it has become even less expensive to live in Southeast relative to other parts of the country over the past 20 years.
Looking at independent school teachers compensation in a larger context, you might see the following. As indicated in Figure 2, an income comparison to the entire workforce placed the median for NAIS teachers in line with the median for the entire workforce. Other elements of teacher compensation might include the fact that vacation time is generous, typically about 12 weeks annually. Often, there are ways to supplement your income as a teacher in an independent school e.g., stipends and tutoring. Also, significant tuition remission is often available to teachers’ children. As with my school, lunch might be free. Finally, it’s been my experience as an employee in four different independent schools that the working environment is hard to beat. On the other hand, teaching is such an emotionally and physically draining profession with tremendously long hours during much of the school year.
Pulling all this together, it seems that independent schools, as a whole, have done a reasonable job of compensating teachers, even after adjusting for inflation. This is, however, not nearly as strong a conclusion for SAIS schools and teachers. As noted, NAIS teachers as a whole, have received increases above the rate of inflation and above the median of the workforce as a whole. Whereas, SAIS teachers have received salary increases above the rate of inflation but below the median increase for the workforce. Beyond salary measures, independent school teachers, especially NAIS teachers, have received aggressive benefit and professional development increases. Finally, although the teaching load for SAIS teachers has increased significantly over the past 20 years, it is aligned with the NAIS, as a whole, and still seems to set the stage for a favorable teaching environment.
