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Scott J. Seregny

Sociologists of the professions have long recognized teaching as one of the least autonomous of professions, indeed a "semiprofession," distinct from medicine or law. Much of this has to do with teachers' ambiguous but decisive relationship to the rise of modern European states and state intervention in popular education, first in many of the German states in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, later in France, and still later and less completely in Great Britain and Russia. The transformation of teaching from a part-time craft lacking formal qualifications to a full-time profession was directly connected to the establishment of state-sponsored mass education systems designed to discipline and integrate populations and maintain political and social order in response to the rapid population growth, economic transformation, and political upheaval (including the dramatic reshaping of state territories) that marked western and central Europe at the end of the eighteenth century and in the early nineteenth century. Teachers' responses to these developments were complex. Most teachers, when given the chance, identified state initiatives as "progressive" and supported state intervention as a means of emancipation from the local interests that had previously controlled schooling. Most supported and helped implement state projects for national integration. For example, French teachers under the Third Republic helped marginalize Breton and regional dialects in favor of the French language. In multinational states, however, teachers sometimes played significant roles in minority national movements seeking autonomy and language rights in schools. In revolutionary crises—1848 in Germany and 1905 in Russia—teachers often played visible leadership roles in popular movements for reform or revolution, although conservatives vastly exaggerated their participation.

Teachers' social and professional status was powerfully shaped by governments and the expectations of elites as to the role teachers and schools should play. To free themselves from community and parental control and to escape the uncertainty of local school financing, teachers often sought the security and status of inclusion in civil service ranks, even if such bureaucratization prevented them from attaining the professional autonomy won by physicians, lawyers, and other higher-status groups. Nevertheless, teachers had some success in shaping state policies to meet their corporate interests. Although teachers in most of Europe saw autonomy from local officials, clergy, and parents as a sine qua non for professional development and the state as a buffer against local pressure, they were not immune to the expectations expressed by local communities and the parents of their pupils. Since most teachers came from the same or similar social milieus, they readily identified with popular aspirations, particularly during revolutionary crises. In such instances, when teachers confronted both official resistance to reasonable professional goals and popular pressure to side with the population they served, they opposed the state.

Teachers' relationship to the communities they served was just as ambivalent. In training, ambition, and self-image, teachers accepted the mission to "civilize" peasants and workers. Teachers fought to detach schooling from communal control, and this struggle was central to their professionalization. In terms of social status and self-image, teachers distanced themselves from "the people." While the majority of teachers, especially men, came from humble origins, they aspired to a middle-class or at least a lower-middle-class status, for which their education, lifestyle, and dress supposedly outfitted them. Middle-class respectability, education, and notability, they assumed, would enhance teachers' authority in the community and facilitate their civilizing mission as role models of modernity, sobriety, and order. Most teachers embraced this professional image. So did states, and teachers' failure to live up to such respectability by frequenting taverns, playing cards, or engaging in improper sexual liaisons was often punished by school officials. Nevertheless, teachers also identified strongly with popular interests, such as pressures to democratize education by facilitating access for lower-class children to secondary and higher education. This in turn reflected teachers' resentment over the limitations placed in the way of their own educational advancement and mobility into the upper reaches of the education bureaucracy. The trajectory of teachers' professionalization was guided by their relations—sometimes marked by cooperation, at other times by conflict—with both the state and the people.


Before the nineteenth century most governments paid little attention to schooling. Nevertheless, after the Renaissance and the Reformation many children (especially boys) in western and parts of central Europe experienced some instruction. Local communities and religious congregations supported a bewildering variety of "schools." In terms of training, certification, remuneration, autonomy, and public expectations, few "professionals" taught in the schools of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. Teachers were "schoolmasters," a term suggesting that both community and teacher considered teaching a craft. Whether teachers were permanent residents in the community or seasonal migrants, teaching was a part-time occupation, and parents sent their children for instruction when they grasped its utility and when economic circumstances allowed.

Teachers' skills varied widely. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Scotland teachers with university training offered instruction in Latin to village boys in church-run parish schools, and a few of these "lads of parts" went on to university. In England and Wales a diversity of charity and voluntary day schools sponsored by religiously affiliated societies, working-class-sponsored private schools, and other schools proliferated by the early nineteenth century. Teachers' qualifications also varied tremendously. By the 1830s, when the British state began offering grants to some of these schools with the requirement that they were subject to a new inspectorate, church organizations began providing teachers with formal training. By contrast, however, as late as 1851 some seven hundred private-school teachers could not sign the census form since they could not write even their own names. Everywhere, teachers were recruited from among marginal men, demobilized soldiers, or artisans who had failed at their chosen occupations.

In France and elsewhere the Catholic revival during the seventeenth century led to a proliferation of religious teaching orders, which offered basic instruction free of charge in communal schools. Removed from education during the revolution, the teaching orders rebounded after 1815. During the 1860s nuns constituted more than a third of all elementary teachers in France. Their formal qualifications often amounted to only a letter of obedience from their superiors, but they provided solid instruction in reading and writing to the increasing numbers of girls attending France's mostly sex-segregated primary schools. In 1870, three-fifths of the girls were taught by sisters who belonged to some five hundred congregations. In most cases teachers' qualifications were even less formal, and educational efforts were less organized. As in other crafts, teachers offered their services at fairs and markets. In the Vaucluse region of southeastern France, teachers from Alpine villages appeared at local markets, where they offered their skills to lowland villages. Migrant teachers sported feathers in their caps advertising their skills. One feather signified their willingness to teach reading and writing, two their ability to offer ciphering, and three their knowledge of Latin. Training, if it occurred, was limited to apprenticeship with a schoolmaster. In England and to some extent in France pupil-monitors worked with groups of younger children under the direction of a master teacher.

Teachers were often hired for a season between harvest and spring planting. Classes and teachers' lodging rotated among peasant homes, and teachers subsisted from the monthly fees they collected from parents, sometimes paid in bread or wine. In Bavaria, Baden, and other German states schools were more formal institutions with their own buildings and formalized financing. Until the mid-nineteenth century, salaries remained low, below those earned by unskilled laborers and petty clerks. In Russia this was still the case fifty years later. Contracts often stipulated that teachers would receive a plot of land that peasants would help work, and such arrangements persisted into the early twentieth century. Many arrangements placed teachers in a dependent and sometimes confrontational relationship with parents and community. Teachers often had to collect the school fees from poor parents, a situation guaranteed to make them unpopular, particularly during a period when peasants did not place a high premium on regular school attendance.

In much of Europe teaching remained a part-time occupation, and those who entered it usually combined it with other work, most commonly as "lay clerics" assisting the local priest or pastor. In France, the German states, and elsewhere teachers served as sacristans or sextons who rang the church bells, lit candles, dug graves, swept the church, and played the organ during services. These duties, enumerated in detail in the contracts local communities offered to teachers, reflected popular expectations. Parents expected teachers to lead their pupils to church, keep them silent during the liturgy, and help prepare them for first Communion. Clergy asserted their prerogative to visit the classroom at any time and report on their observations.

When schools began to proliferate in Russia, especially after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, villages supported communal schools, where retired soldiers, unemployed sons of clergy (in Russia a legal "estate"), and other marginal types offered rudimentary instruction. In this way Russia followed patterns that had long characterized teaching in western Europe. Throughout Europe schools were largely supported and controlled by local communities before the nineteenth century. Teachers' qualifications were informal and uncertified. Where clerical supervision of schools existed, priests were more interested in the moral-religious influence teachers exerted in the classroom and beyond. States were remote from teachers' daily lives, even under Frederick the Great in Prussia, where the government issued decrees on compulsory schooling but lacked the means to implement them effectively. Everywhere teachers remained dependent on local communities and clergy, neither of which supported an image of teaching as a professional vocation dedicated to a transcendent civilizing mission. Local interests and expectations prevailed in defining the teacher as a craftsperson. One teacher recalled his own days as a pupil in early-nineteenth-century Bavaria, remembering that on Shrove Tuesday it was the custom for the teacher to whip all of the children since local peasants believed that such beatings prevented worms in farm animals. Popular attitudes toward schooling, local financial control, and the neglect of schooling by European states meant that teaching remained an occupation of low and uncertain status.


Official neglect began to give way at the close of the eighteenth century, and states asserted greater control over schools and teachers during the next century. Ministries of education established staffs of school inspectors who certified teachers' qualifications and supervised their classroom performance. States gradually assumed more of the costs of financing schools and offered teachers minimum salaries, a crucial development that lessened teachers' dependence on local communities and eventually supported a more secure, middle-class existence and professional status. To varying degrees and within limits, governments also supported teachers' efforts to form professional associations that fought for educational reforms and professional goals. The pace and extent of state intervention, however, was uneven. Germany led the way, followed by France, where the Guizot Law of 1833 mandated that local communes provide teachers with a minimum salary of two hundred francs and created an inspectorate that supervised schools and certified teachers' qualifications. Under the Second Empire (1852–1870), officials gained effective control over the hiring, transfer, and firing of teachers. Nevertheless, it was only in the 1880s, under the Ferry Laws, that state intervention was fully realized with the government assuming the cost of teachers' salaries, which significantly freed them from local control and raised their status.

In Russia most of these developments were incomplete before 1914. Not until the eve of World War I did the Russian government assume the cost of teachers' salaries. Elsewhere the minimum salaries that the governments of France, Britain, and Germany provided in the 1830s and later were critical to achieving teacher security (support for a teacher with a family), independence, and the respect that was believed inherent in a middle-class lifestyle. As a minor notable, the teacher's lifestyle had to be distinguished from that of the people. Nevertheless, teacher pay rose slowly and unevenly during the nineteenth century, and at mid-century many teachers still lived on the edge of poverty. When unskilled urban workers in France commanded incomes of 645 francs, three-quarters of the teachers earned between 450 and 500 francs. In Germany, France, Italy, and Britain teaching became materially secure only toward the end of the century. In Russia rural teachers with families still found it difficult on the eve of the war to provide their own children with a secondary education, a source of extreme bitterness and frustration.

Nearly everywhere the first effective state intervention in primary schooling occurred in the area of teacher training. The first normal schools were established in Prussia and other parts of Germany at the end of the eighteenth century. After the mid-nineteenth century, most teachers had received such training. Future teachers typically finished the public primary school at age fourteen, then took classes at a preparatory institution that augmented what they had learned at primary school, and finally at age eighteen entered a normal school, where they spent three years concentrating on pedagogy. Victor Cousin's favorable report on normal schools stimulated their expansion in France. The Guizot Law of 1833 mandated the establishment of a normal school in every department, and their numbers rose from fourteen in 1830 to seventy-four in 1837. Most of these trained men, but beginning in the 1880s a parallel network of women's normal schools was created. By 1869 France had seventy-six normal schools for men and eleven for women; by 1887 ninety and eighty-one respectively. Not all teachers graduated from normal schools. Some passed an examination to receive the teaching certificate that functioned as a kind of advanced degree for those with a primary education and that opened up employment as lower-level bureaucrats for the railroad. Not all normal school graduates remained in teaching, although rates of turnover decreased in the late nineteenth century as teachers' material security improved. Still, state training expanded so rapidly in France that by 1848 some 27 percent of teachers were normal school graduates and by 1863 half were.

In most European countries teachers were recruited from the peasantry, artisans, lower middle class, and working class. When women began to enter teaching in large numbers toward the end of the nineteenth century, they continued to come largely from the families of prosperous peasants, artisans, and minor officials in France, Britain, and other western European countries. In Russia, in light of the much slower development of girls' primary education, women teachers were drawn from the middle class, nobility, and clerical estate, but by the early twentieth century increasing numbers of peasant girls were entering the profession. Nearly everywhere an increasing percentage of teachers, male and female, were children of teachers. For such sons and later daughters of "the people," study in the relatively expensive secondary schools that opened a path to higher education for the children of the bourgeoisie was an unattainable goal. Normal school training, by contrast, offered a more realistic if modest prospect of educational and social advancement, one consistent with the nineteenth-century state's goal of creating schools that would civilize and acculturate the lower classes while maintaining existing social hierarchies. Most normal school students received scholarships covering tuition, room, and board in return for signing a contract that they would teach for a minimum number of years (ten years in France). When they emerged from the normal school, teachers could be counted among the small minority of the population who had received an education through the age of twenty. Nevertheless, in most cases they were not considered part of the educated middle class of nineteenth-century Europe, those who had passed through elite secondary institutions (often with classical curricula) and institutions of higher education.

When in the 1870s the Russian Ministry of Education and noble-dominated local governments, the zemstvos, established "teachers' seminaries" modeled after the Prussian normal school, preference and tuition stipends were given to peasant sons. The assumption was that these recruits would easily accept rural living conditions and would be less subversive than outsiders to the established social and political order. Normal schools were often established in remote areas, far from the temptations of the city, and students lived a rigidly monitored, almost monastic existence with little free time outside dormitory and classroom. Here Russians hewed closely to the model of teacher training developed in Germany and adopted in France earlier in the century.

In all countries normal school education was carefully limited. This was especially so during the decade following the revolutions of 1848, in which some teachers had played visible roles. Conservatives repeatedly warned against the dangers of overeducating future teachers and creating alienated, marginal men who might exercise a negative influence in classrooms and local communities. In Prussia, for example, the Stiehl Regulations (1854) limited normal school curricula and heavily emphasized religion. In France the conservative Falloux Law (1850) temporarily reinforced clerical supervision of teachers. Conservatives in Germany in the mid-nineteenth century and in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century still proposed recruitment of former noncommissioned officers as teachers in place of trained professionals. However, from the 1860s teacher training began to deemphasize religion and to include subjects like pedagogy, science, history, and geography, in line with an expanded primary school curriculum designed to produce citizens and skilled workers. Such reforms left intact the educational caste-line that separated the closed systems of primary and elite secondary schooling, largely preventing teachers from continuing their education beyond the normal school. Teachers were educated, but within well-defined limits designed to keep them within the social orbit from which they came and to keep them in teaching. Their task remained to enlighten and socialize the children of the lower classes, who were expected to remain in their orbit as well.

Despite the limitations, normal schools offering standardized training, closer regulation of teachers' credentials, and the common experience of studying under the mentorship of supportive instructors nurtured an esprit de corps and professional identity among young men who entered teaching during the nineteenth century. A similar development occurred in France and other countries when normal schools were opened in the second half of the century to train women teachers. In both instances the schools instilled a new pride in academic achievement and a sense of mission to enlighten the people. In western and central Europe this professional identity was soon supported by teachers' associations, regular conferences, summer refresher courses, and a professional press. In Russia, due to the state's financial weakness and the vast number of teachers required to achieve universal schooling, the state never gained anything like the monopoly over teacher training that was established in the West. The number of normal schools training women teachers in Russia failed to keep up with the huge demand for teachers from this population, with the result that in the early twentieth century female recruits were still drawn from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, including secondary women's gymnasiums and the diocesan schools (mostly daughters of priests).

As teaching became more "professional," in the limited sense of becoming a full-time career with recognized qualifications, and as European states promoted teaching as vital to their missions of civilizing the lower classes and nation building, future teachers internalized a new ethos that clashed with the depressed realities of their social status and low pay. Consequently they were less willing to accept traditional arrangements of dependence on local community and clergy that had become codified (literally in some contracts of appointment) when their occupation had been defined as a craft. Steady salary increases in the second half of the nineteenth century freed many teachers of the need to accept subsidiary employment that increasingly was perceived as professionally demeaning, in particular the post of lay assistant to the clergy.

From France to Russia teachers' professional self-image was powerfully shaped by conflicts with the clergy, who tried to maintain the dominant position churches had previously held in schooling and who perceived teachers as potential rival figures of authority in the community. Teachers' professional identities included a strong commitment to laicity and a programmatic endorsement of secular education. Professionalization was defined in terms of emancipation from traditional subservience to the clergy, which teachers increasingly considered suffocating and demeaning. Their grievances involved some teachers in protests during the 1848 revolutions, and these resentments continued to smolder in the 1850s, when governments briefly conceded more influence to churches as an antidote to radicalism. In Germany salary increases helped free teachers from dependence. When German teachers created the most powerful professional associations in Europe in the late nineteenth century, they lobbied forcefully for an end to the clergy's continued role in school inspection, further secularization of the curriculum, and introduction of a ladder system that would permit easier access to secondary and higher education for lower-class children. Throughout Germany clerics continued to play a pervasive role in school inspection into the twentieth century. Teachers deeply resented this vestige of their former subservience, and German teachers' associations lobbied forcefully, but until the Weimar period unsuccessfully, for the removal of pastors and priests from the classrooms of the largely religiously segregated schools.

In France conflict between teachers and priests began in the 1830s, when the church attempted to regain its previous authority over schooling and teachers began to acquire a new sense of identity and competence through state-controlled training, certification, and inspection. Something similar began to occur in Russia at the very end of the century. There an overpopulated clerical estate ensured a ready supply of sacristans and deacons to assist priests, and the teacher-cleric relationship never attained the formal subordination that it did in the West. Nevertheless, Orthodox priests resented teachers' influence, and the competition between church schools and those established by zemstvos heightened tensions at the turn of the century. Well-publicized cases of cleric-inspired denunciations of teachers led to dismissals by police and inspectors. Moreover teachers complained that priests often failed to fulfill their obligation to teach the mandatory catechism classes with the result that teachers had to perform this function because pupils were examined in this subject.

Most historians agree that the price of teachers' emancipation was that in many countries teachers became lower-level bureaucrats by the close of the nineteenth century, never attaining the autonomy possessed by the so-called free or full professions. But with support by European states, teachers gradually achieved the status of lower-level or semiprofessionals, a status reinforced by standardized training, examination, improved pay, and full-time commitment. While state policy and teachers' own aspirations were central to this process, changes in popular attitudes toward schooling played an important role. As lower-class parents accepted regular attendance and longer terms of instruction for their children, they were more receptive to teaching as a full-time occupation deserving of respect.


In the long run two developments proved essential to improving teachers' social status in the communities where they served: popular acceptance of the utility of regular schooling for children and attenuation of the financial control—tyranny in teachers' eyes—that local communities had originally exercised. Teachers' authority in the community increased with their independence and with the respectability of middle-class standards of dress and behavior, which states, parents, and teachers themselves had all come to expect of the profession.

However, this does not mean that teachers isolated themselves from community affairs. In villages throughout Europe teachers pursued a clear strategy of transforming themselves into local notables by providing a range of extracurricular services that were vital to rural folk increasingly confronted with the broader world of bureaucracy, markets, and information. In rural France, where male teachers took advantage of salary improvements to abandon the demeaning post of lay cleric, they eagerly accepted the post of town clerk (or secretary to the mayor). Since it placed them at the strategic point where the village interacted with the official world outside, that position considerably raised teachers' prestige and influence. By 1884 over twenty-five thousand teachers held this post (almost 70 percent of teachers and nearly all male teachers in village schools). In France the Third Republic encouraged such activity, and teachers, men and women, helped organize cooperatives, clubs, and countless other village associations. Many sponsored adult classes in a conscious attempt to enhance their own prestige along with that of learning. As notables, they played an important role in sustaining the homefront during the final years of World War I, and the same was doubtless true in other countries. In the well-documented case of France, teaching had become by the turn of the century a materially secure, prestigious semiprofession, offering an avenue of social mobility, or at least status preservation, for the children of farmers, artisans, minor officials, and teachers, a reality reflected in declining rates of turnover and increasing length of service.

In Russia, by contrast, the government remained suspicious of teachers who attempted to carve out a wider role in peasant communities. Official memories of the participation of a minority of teachers in the revolution of 1905 were still fresh, conservative fears about the corrosive effects of schooling and teachers on the rural order were still salient fifty years after they had waned in western and central Europe, and teachers had yet to achieve the gains in professional association won by their colleagues in the West.


Nearly everywhere in Europe the number of teachers increased dramatically during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. In England and Wales the number of primary schoolteachers increased three times between 1870 and 1880, from 13,729 to 41,426. By 1910 there were 161,804 teachers, ten times the number in 1870, the year Parliament passed the first Education Act that made the British state a substantial actor in the nation's schools. At that date teachers comprised less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the workforce, with eighty-nine teachers for every thousand workers, but by 1911 they accounted for nearly 9 percent. In Italy normal schools enrolled 6,000 students in 1870–1871, 14,200 in 1881–1882, and 20,000 by 1901. In the following decade the number of teachers-in-training more than doubled, with 50,000 attending normal schools by 1912. As was true in other countries, the expansion of schooling and the teaching profession in Italy reflected the liberal government's commitment to nation building, summed up in Massimo d'Azeglio's famous appeal, "Now that we have made Italy, we must make Italians." In Russia the prewar years saw a particularly dramatic expansion of the teaching profession from 105,355 teachers in ministry schools in 1910 to 146,032 in 1914, an increase of nearly 40 percent in in four years. Most of this expansion occurred in rural areas, where teachers constituted the most numerous representatives of an educated intelligentsia, much more visible than doctors and other medical professionals. In terms of education and potential authority, only the village priest rivaled the teacher.

Young men continued to enter the profession, but by the turn of the century new teachers were more likely to be women. Assumptions about gender roles helped legitimize the seemingly inexorable process of feminization. Some educators argued that women's nurturing role made them natural teachers, particularly in dealing with the tender emotions of children. But feminization was primarily a function of economics. In a period of rapid industrialization and state expansion, men with educations comparable to teachers and even some with normal school degrees were attracted to better-paying and physically less isolated clerical positions in administration and business. Educated women had fewer options and would accept lower salaries. Nearly everywhere before World War I, pay scales for women teachers were considerably lower than those for men. Nevertheless, teaching was more attractive to women than domestic, factory, or agricultural labor. In France only the postal service offered comparable civil service careers to women. Inevitably, with the rapid expansion of school systems and the increase in the number of teachers during the final decades of the nineteenth century, women came to dominate the profession in most countries. Teaching was perceived as a woman's occupation, which was a factor in its semiprofessional status.

The process of feminization was universal but uneven. In England, Wales, Italy, and Russia, as in North America, by the early twentieth century 60 to 70 percent of teachers were women. In France the proportions were closer to fifty-fifty, and the number of lay women teachers did not surpass that of men until 1909, with 58,396 women. In Germany, however, teaching earlier became a full-time profession, and the state moved aggressively after unification to improve salaries and pensions and to grant teachers the perquisites of civil service ranking and the privilege of serving as reserve officers in the army. There the profession remained overwhemingly male. Only 21 percent of elementary teachers in Germany were female on the eve of World War I, but the female proportion within the profession was increasing.

The effects of feminization are more difficult to gauge than the numbers. When women first entered the profession, some men resented them as competitors who would work for less and lower the profession's status. In France, where lay women began to move into the profession in the 1880s, male-dominated associations, the Amicales, at first prohibited women members. However, the fact that teachers, whether men or women, faced similar problems and similar enemies fostered solidarity and cooperation. In France conservative and clerical attacks on secular education and lay teachers during the Dreyfus affair induced men to accept women teachers as allies. In 1909 the national Amicale congress endorsed equal pay for women teachers, which was achieved in 1920. Men continued to dominate leadership posts in professional associations, but women established a more visible presence. In Russia, where teachers faced considerable problems of cultural isolation, clerical rivalry, and less support from the government, cooperation across the sexual divide eventually prevailed. The critical difference was that in Russia teachers found less support from the state, which shared some of the same concerns that the church and conservatives had concerning teachers' role.

Contrary to popular assumptions, most women entered teaching to pursue a career, not for a temporary interlude before marriage. In France by 1900 more than half of the women teachers had served for over fifteen years. Normal school graduates signed a ten-year contract to teach, and if they resigned early they had to repay the cost of training. More than half had married and continued to teach. Marriage was encouraged by French education officials, who wanted female teachers, like their male counterparts, to civilize peasants and workers and transform them into citizens. Married women teachers in particular would help socialize girls by inculcating middle-class domestic norms of hygiene and child care.

In the early decades of women entering the profession, they often faced difficulty winning popular acceptance, and many, particularly single women, lived lonely, isolated lives. Some contemporaries believed that feminization lowered the status of teaching, and this probably inhibited some men from entering the profession. Feminization also coincided with the increased subordination of teachers within educational bureaucracies, although the relationship was complex. Some scholars have argued that school administrators enforced marriage bans for women teachers as a way to prevent them from advancing to positions of authority and to keep salaries down. However, these bans were far from universal. Nevertheless, it is clear that from Great Britain to Russia men held positions of power and authority, such as principals and inspectors in the larger urban schools. Everywhere the powerful post of state school inspector, a figure of awesome authority over teachers' professional lives and often over their private lives, was held by men. Isolated but well-publicized cases of sexual harassment of teachers by inspectors underscored the fact that, while teaching was becoming increasingly feminized, power in the educational bureaucracies of European states remained firmly in male hands. In the Third Republic in France the inspectorate was opened to women, but their entry was slow. Evidence also shows that the first generation of women teachers faced more difficulty than men in gaining acceptance and authority in local, particularly rural, communities. This was true in France during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when a large percentage of men teachers also held the influential position of secretary to the mayor. Women did not hold this post, nor could they vote. In Russia men were more involved in community affairs, whether in the rural cooperatives that grew dramatically in the early 1900s or in rural politics during moments of upheaval like the revolution of 1905–1906.


In many ways teaching was the most politically sensitive of the professions. Governments and elites recruited and trained teachers to integrate the masses into the evolving social and political order. At the same time they remained wary of teachers' potential to disrupt that order. Given teachers' position as marginal and often poverty-stricken intellectuals whose work placed them in close contact with peasants and workers, official attitudes toward the emerging profession were often ambivalent, and they fluctuated over time.

In Germany, after the 1848 revolution, official discourse characterized the schoolteacher as a subversive pariah, but a mere twenty years later Otto von Bismarck and other architects of German unification extolled the Prussian teacher as the real victor at the Battles of Königgrätz and Sedan. Nevertheless, officials remained wary of teachers' loyalty in subsequent decades, even as they moved aggressively to meet teachers' professional goals to inculcate that loyalty. The same official suspicion existed in France, at least until the 1880s, when the Third Republic embraced lay teachers, men and women, as republican missionaries—the famous "black hussars"—who would civilize the peasantry and combat clerical and conservative political influence in the countryside. However, official suspicion then turned against the large numbers of women in religious teaching orders who still educated a large percentage of children, especially girls, in French primary schools. The Russian government remained extremely suspicious of teachers' potential to radicalize the masses until the very end of the tsarist regime. An activist minority of teachers had been involved in revolutionary movements from the 1870s through the revolution of 1905. Because of financial constraints and the nature of the Russian autocracy, the government was never willing to adequately meet Russian teachers' demands for the material security, emancipation from local interests, or rights of professional association won by their colleagues in the West. In addition the Russian state failed to achieve the kind of monopoly over teacher training established elsewhere. Active opposition by teachers to the existing order was much less pronounced in western and central Europe by the end of the nineteenth century. However, teachers were not completely coopted by governments, and they were unable to shape state initiatives when these were viewed as inimical to their professional goals.

Imperial Germany provides a case in point. In 1889 Emperor William II issued a cabinet order that called upon teachers to combat the socialist movement in the classroom. Historians of German education once argued that teachers, coopted by civil service status, higher pay and pensions, and privileges like the coveted right to serve as reserve officers in the army, became subalterns, excessively subservient to the state, and helped indoctrinate pupils with a chauvinistic, antidemocratic ethos that contributed to Germany's political course during the twentieth century. Research has shown, however, that while German teachers were patriotic like most teachers elsewhere by World War I, they resisted the call to struggle against the Social Democrats out of concern about alienating working-class parents. Instead, through their powerful national teachers' association of 125,000 members, they supported a program of education reform designed to democratize schooling (the ladder system), secularize the curriculum, and remove clerics from their traditional role in school inspection.


With the spread of schooling in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, teaching became one of the most numerous professions. With support from states and growing popular acceptance of schooling, teachers' status changed dramatically in the course of the nineteenth century. While some teachers continued to perform supplemental work for economic or tactical reasons, like the secretary to the mayor in France, the prevailing trend was toward full-time teaching. Improved and standardized qualifications, relative material security, and emancipation from local control enhanced teachers' social and professional status. In a world where states and masses placed increased value on literacy and basic schooling, teaching offered the prospect of social mobility for the ambitious children of the lower class. However, this improvement often came at the the price of incorporation into the lower rungs of the state bureaucracy, and teachers consequently enjoyed considerably less autonomy than higher-status professions. In addition and paradoxically, the very success and spread of schooling ensured that teaching remained a semiprofession. With the rise of mass education, the services provided by teachers lost whatever mystique or esoteric quality they previously had. In contrast to doctors or lawyers, the knowledge and skills teachers possessed were generally within the competency of all who passed through the schools.

See alsoThe Liberal State (volume 2);Church and Society (in this volume); and other articles in this section.


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Maynes, Mary Jo, ed. Schooling for the People: Comparative Local Studies of SchoolingHistory in France and Germany, 1750–1850. New York, 1985.

Meyers, Peter V. "From Conflict to Cooperation: Men and Women Teachers in the Belle Epoque." Historical Reflections 7 (1980): 493–505.

Meyers, Peter V. "Primary Schoolteachers in Nineteenth-Century France: A Study of Professionalization through Conflict." History of Education Quarterly 25, nos. 1–2 (spring–summer 1985): 21–40.

Meyers, Peter V. "Professionalization and Societal Change: Rural Teachers in Nineteenth-Century France." Journal of Social History 9 (1976): 542–558.

Quartararo, Anne T. Women Teachers and Popular Education in Nineteenth-CenturyFrance: Social Values and Corporate Identity at the Normal School Institution. Newark, Del., 1995.

Ruane, Christine. Gender, Class, and the Professionalization of Russian City Teachers,1860–1914. Pittsburgh, Pa., 1994.

Schleunes, Karl A. Schooling and Society: The Politics of Education in Prussia andBavaria, 1750–1900. New York, 1989.

Seregny, Scott J. Russian Teachers and Peasant Revolution: The Politics of Education in 1905. Bloomington, Ind., 1989.

Singer, Barnett. Village Notables in Nineteenth-Century France: Priests, Mayors,Schoolmasters. Albany, N.Y., 1983.

Stephens, W. B. Education in Britain, 1750–1914. New York, 1998.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Chapter 8

Teachers are the foundation of the education process. A well-designed, challenging curriculum, a first-class facility, and state-of-the-art equipment need motivated and well-trained teachers to complete the equation. Teachers are usually the first to come under fire when test scores and achievement do not meet expectations, and are among the last to be rewarded when things go well. Overall their salaries are considerably lower than those of similarly educated professionals.

A growing number of teachers face situations that would have been inconceivable a generation ago, ranging from lack of respect from students to outright physical attacks. Teachers in inner-city schools particularly bear the brunt of many "school" problems that are often a reflection of society's problems. Despite these challenges, however, the number of teachers is increasing, and a clear majority of teachers are pleased with what they do.


According to Is There Really a Teacher Shortage? (Richard M. Ingersoll, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, Seattle, WA, September 2003), in 2002 teachers made up about 4% of the civilian workforce in the United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of classroom teachers in elementary and secondary schools has increased steadily, reaching 3.4 million in 2001, an increase of 36% from 1980. There were nearly three million teachers in public schools in 2001, and 390,000 private school teachers. By 2013 the National Center for Education Statistics projects the number of classroom teachers to increase to 3.6 million—3.2 million public and 411,000 private school teachers.

A Teacher Shortage?

Impacts on teacher supply and demand include: teacher retirement, the region of the country, student enrollment, class size, subject area shortages, turnover rates, the reserve pool of teachers who have already been trained, and school reform efforts. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reported in Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2002 (F. Howard Nelson and Rachel Drown, Washington, DC, 2003) that in general fewer school districts were experiencing considerable shortages than in the past.

According to Is There Really a Teacher Shortage?, teacher turnover has been an important factor that impacts the perception of shortages. Between 40% and 50% of new teachers leave the field after five years. Turnover also varies based on the subject. Mathematics, science, and elementary special education teachers have higher rates of turnover than do English and social studies teachers. The type of school impacts turnover as well. Schools with high proportions of impoverished students have higher teacher turnover rates than do schools in wealthier districts. Urban schools have more teacher turnover than suburban or rural schools, and private schools experience more turnover than public schools.

One consequence of teacher shortages is the increased hiring of teachers who are not certified to teach the subject they are assigned. According to Out-of-Field Teaching and the Limits of Teacher Policy (Richard M. Ingersoll, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, Seattle, WA, September 2003), in 1999–2000 about 38% of seventh- to twelfth-grade mathematics teachers did not have a college major in mathematics, mathematics education, or a related discipline. About one-third of all secondary school English teachers did not have a major or minor in English or a related subject, and more than one-quarter of science teachers did not have a major or minor in one of the sciences or science education.

Most public elementary and secondary teachers (94%) have state-approved teaching certificates. High-poverty schools have fewer certified teachers (90%) than low-poverty schools (96%). Schools with higher levels of minority enrollment have fewer certified teachers (89%) than schools with low-minority enrollment (96%), and urban schools have fewer certified teachers (92%) than suburban (96%) or rural (95%) schools. Schools that are poor and urban with high minority enrollment have fewer certified teachers (85%) than those that are suburban, serve white students, and are not poor (96%).

According to Out-of-Field Teaching and the Limits of Teacher Policy, small schools have more out-of-field teaching than larger schools, and there are more grade seven and eight teachers who are assigned to teach out of field than teachers in grades nine through twelve.

Reasons for Teacher Turnover

Teachers who move to other schools do not represent a loss to the profession, but they are a loss to the schools from which they move. Their departures often require that a replacement be found to fulfill set staffing levels. Overall, Ingersoll found that teachers leave for a variety of reasons, including personal issues (such as caring for family members), school staffing actions (layoffs, school closings, and reorganization), dissatisfaction with teaching, job change (to nonteaching jobs in education or to jobs outside the field of education), and retirement.

Personal reasons, such as departures for family moves, pregnancy and child rearing, or health problems, accounted for 36% of migration (that is, "movers" leaving a teaching job at one school for another) and 44% of attrition ("leavers" giving up the teaching profession entirely).

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Educators prefer a low ratio of students per teacher, which allows teachers to spend more time with each pupil. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1980 to 2001 the pupil-teacher ratio in elementary and secondary schools declined from 18.6 to 15.8 students per teacher. For public schools, the ratios were 18.7 in 1980 and 15.9 in 2001; in private schools, the ratios were 17.7 and 15.2, respectively. Thus the overall supply of teachers relative to the number of students increased during that time period. This does not mean, however, that all schools were able to find as many well-qualified teachers as they needed.

In fall 2000 Maine, Vermont, and Virginia reported the lowest average pupil-teacher ratio (12.5, 12.1, and 12.5, respectively), while Utah and California reported the highest (21.9 and 20.6, respectively). Some states have laws limiting class sizes, especially in elementary schools. Several other states are involved in developing or are considering similar laws.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in Occupational Outlook 2004–05, excellent job opportunities will be available over the next decade as many current elementary and secondary teachers reach retirement age. The BLS noted that secondary teachers will be particularly in demand, and opportunities at all levels will be plentiful in states with fast-growing populations, including California, Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska, and New Mexico. According to the BLS, many urban school districts offer good prospects for teachers because of the high turnover experienced in districts with high rates of poverty and overcrowded classrooms. However, rural areas, too, experience high turnover due to their remote locations and low salaries, and offer numerous opportunities for teaching professionals. Subject areas that are considered promising for new teachers include mathematics, chemistry, physics, bilingual education, and foreign languages. In most states, teachers are unionized and have relatively good job security through state tenure laws. Teachers who satisfactorily complete a probationary period are eligible for tenure, which protects them from being fired without a full investigation and due process procedures.


The National Center for Education Statistics' Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) collected cycles of data starting in 1987–88, and then in 1990–91, 1993–94, and 1999–2000. In the 2003 Condition of Education (U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC, June 2003), the 1999–2000 SASS data was used. During the 1999–2000 school year, 16% of public school teachers had three or fewer years of experience. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of teachers in private schools had three or fewer years of experience. At public schools with more than 75% minority enrollment, 21% of the teachers had three or fewer years of experience. At public schools with less than 10% minority enrollment, 14% of teachers had three or fewer years of experience. More than one-quarter (28%) of teachers had three or fewer years of experience at private schools with more than 75% minority enrollment. For private schools with less than 10% minority enrollment, 20% of teachers had three or fewer years of experience.


Since the mid-1980s there have been great fluctuations in teachers' salaries. As school enrollments fell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, average teachers' salaries (in constant 2002–03 dollars, adjusted for inflation) also declined. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1980–81, teachers' salaries averaged $37,094. From 1982–83 to 1990–91, salaries rose steadily to $44,992, a 21% increase. From 1990–91 to 2002–03, salaries remained comparatively stable. In 2002–03 the average teacher salary was $45,822, a 48% increase over 1959–60 (in constant dollars). Elementary teachers earn slightly less than secondary teachers. (See Table 8.1.) Private schools tend to pay their teachers less than public schools.

Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, 1959–60 to 2002–03
School yearCurrent dollarsConstant 2002–03 dollars
All teachersElementary teachersSecondary teachersEarnings per full-time employee working for wages or salary∗Ratio of average teachers' salary to earnings per full-time employeeAll teachersElementary teachersSecondary teachers
—Not available.
∗Calendar-year data from the U.S. Department of Commerce have been converted to a school-year basis by averaging the two appropriate calendar years in each case. Beginning in 1992–93, data are wage and salary accruals per full-time-equivalent employee.
Note: Constant 2002–03 dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
Source: Thomas D. Snyder, Alexandra G. Tan, and Charlene M. Hoffman, "Table 77. Estimated Average Annual Salary of Teachers in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1959–60 to 2002–03," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2003, NCES 2005-025, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC, December 2004, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d03/tables/dt077.asp (accessed July 26, 2005)

According to the American Federation of Teachers, California had the highest average teachers' salary in 2002–03, at $55,693, followed by Michigan ($54,020), Connecticut ($53,962), New Jersey ($53,872) and the District of Columbia ($53,194). In 2002–03 South Dakota had the lowest average salary ($32,414), followed by Montana ($35,754), Mississippi ($35,135), North Dakota ($33,869) and Oklahoma ($33,277).

Alaska had the highest average beginning salary in 2002–03 ($37,401), followed by New Jersey ($35,673), the District of Columbia ($35,260), New York ($35,259), and California ($34,805). Montana had the lowest average beginning salary ($23,052), followed by Maine ($24,631), South Dakota ($24,311), North Dakota ($23,591) and Arizona ($23,548).

Comparisons to Selected Other Professionals

According to the BLS in National Compensation Survey: Occupational Wages in the United States, 2004 (http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/sp/ncbl0727.pdf), the mean hourly earnings (half earned more and half earned less) of full-time elementary school teachers was $32.53, a penny more than full-time secondary teachers in the same survey. The mean number of hours worked per week by full-time elementary school teachers was 36.5 hours, compared with thirty-seven hours for full-time secondary teachers.

Teachers made less per hour than full-time lawyers ($48.63), financial managers ($37.24), and computer systems analysts ($35.17), but also worked fewer hours than people in those professions. The mean number of hours worked per week by full-time lawyers was 41.8; the number for financial managers was 40.5 and for computer systems analysts, 40.1, according to the National Compensation Survey 2004. However, teachers earned more per hour in 2004 and worked fewer hours per week than mechanical engineers ($31.68, 40.8 hours), chemists ($30.64, 39.9 hours), or psychologists ($29.00, 38.1 hours).

According to the BLS, the mean hourly earnings of full-time college and university teachers was significantly higher than for elementary and secondary teachers ($41.96) and the workweek longer (39.3 hours). In focused subject areas, college and university teachers were often higher paid than professionals working in those areas. For example, biological sciences teachers at the college level earned $41.76 per hour and worked 40.2 hours per week, while biological and life scientists had mean hourly earnings of $28.09 and worked 39.2 hours per week.


The No Child Left Behind Act (see Chapter 5) required states to put highly qualified teachers in every public school classroom by 2005–06. Existing grant programs were combined to create the new Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund (Title II). States and local districts are permitted to use these funds for staff development for their public school teachers, principals, and administrators. In addition to funding professional development, states and school districts are allowed to use their grants for reforming teacher certification or licensure requirements; alternative certification; tenure reform; merit-based teacher performance systems; bonus pay for teachers in high-need subject areas and in high-poverty schools and districts; and mentoring programs.

Highly qualified teachers must be certified, hold a bachelor's degree, and have passed a state licensing test. Requirements for middle and secondary school teachers are more rigorous for the specific subject matter taught, and experienced teachers are held to higher standards than new teachers.


The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll (http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k0409pol.htm, 2004) asked if respondents favored awarding extra pay to public school teachers for various reasons. Slightly more than three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed believed that having an advanced degree should be used to determine whether a teacher receives extra pay. The length of teaching experience was favored by 71% of respondents, and nearly as many (70%) believed that high evaluations of the teacher by the school principal or other administrators should be a factor. Nearly two-thirds (65%) favored using high evaluations by other teachers in the school district as a reason to award extra pay, and 64% thought that high evaluations by students should count. Fifty-nine percent of respondents favored high opinions of parents as a reason to award extra pay. (See Table 8.2.)

Public opinion on awarding extra pay to public school teachers, 2004
i am going to mention some possible reasons for awarding extra pay to a public school teacher. as i read each reason, would you tell me whether you think it should be used to determine whether or not a teacher receives extra pay?
Should be usedShould not be usedDon't know
Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 37. I am going to mention some possible reasons for awarding extra pay to public school teachers. As I read each reason, would you tell me whether you think it should be used to determine whether or not a teacher receives extra pay?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.
Having an advanced degree such as a master's or a Ph.D.76231
High evaluations of the teacher by his or her principal and other administrators70282
Length of his or her teaching experience71281
High evaluations by other teachers in the teacher's school district65332
High evaluations by his or her students64342
High opinions from the parents of his or her students59392

When asked whether a teacher's ability should be judged on how well his or her students perform on standardized tests, nearly half (49%) responded that it should, and almost as many (47%) believed that it should not. (See Table 8.3.) Applying the same question to school principals in 2004, 47% thought that one measurement of a principal's quality should be based on how well the students in the school perform on standardized tests, and half (50%) responded that this should not be a factor in how the principal's quality is judged. (See Table 8.4.)


As shown in Figure 8.1, the average annual rate of crime against teachers is the sum of teacher victimizations for the five years from 1998 to 2002, divided by the sum of the number of teachers during those five years, multiplied by 1,000. From 1998 to 2002, male teachers were more often the victims of violent crimes, with thirty-four violent crimes per 1,000 male teachers and fifteen violent crimes per 1,000 female teachers. Female teachers were more often the victims of theft, with thirty-four incidents of theft per 1,000 female teachers and twenty-three incidents of theft per 1,000 male teachers. Crimes were more common in middle/junior high schools and high schools than in elementary schools. The average annual crime rate was fifty-nine crimes per 1,000 teachers in middle/junior high school, seventy-one crimes per 1,000 teachers in high school, and thirty-eight crimes per 1,000 teachers in elementary school. More crimes occurred in urban schools (sixty-four crimes per 1,000 teachers) than in suburban schools (forty-two crimes per 1,000 teachers). The fewest crimes occurred in rural schools (thirty-four crimes per 1,000 teachers). (See Figure 8.1.)

Public opinion on whether teachers' abilities should be measured by how their students perform on standardarized tests, 2004
in your opinion, should one of the measurements of a teacher's ability be based on how well his or her students perform on standardized tests or not?
National totalsNo children in schoolPublic school parents
Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 22. In your opinion, should one of the measurements of a teacher's ability be based on how well his or her students perform on standardized tests or not?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.
Yes, should495049
No, should not474549
Don't know452
Public opinion on whether principals' quality should be measured on how students at their schools perform on standardized tests, 2004
how about school principals? in your opinion, should one of the measurements of a principal's quality be based on how well the students in his or her school perform on standardized tests or not?
National totalsNo children in schoolPublic school parents
Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 23. How about school principals? In your opinion, should one of the measurements of a principal's quality be based on how well the students in his or her school perform on standardized tests or not?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.
Yes, should474748
No, should not505051
Don't know331


views updated May 21 2018


The role and responsibilities of elementary and secondary school teachers have undergone a significant evolution since the publication of the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Education. Historically, teachers have been viewed as purveyors of content knowledge and academic skills, but teachers in the early twenty-first century have also become ambassadors to multicultural communities and promulgators of democracy. As expectations for teacher performance have increased, so too has the status of teachingthe term teaching profession has become commonplace.

Conventionally viewed as dispensers of knowledge, teachers are increasingly perceived as facilitators or managers of knowledge. They are often thought to be colearners with their students. Few modern teachers would try to claim intellectual hegemony in the classroom; such a claim would not stand the challenge of increasingly sophisticated students. There is too much to know and too many sources of knowledge outside the classroom that can easily be brought to bear within school walls by students themselves. Teachers teach, of course, but they do not simply dispense information to their students. Teachers are also intellectual leaders who create opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and what they know how to do.

Responsibilities of Elementary and Secondary School Teachers

Public school teachers spend an average of 49.3 hours per week meeting their responsibilities, including 11.2 hours per week on noncompensated duties. Customary responsibilities for teachers include planning and executing instructional lessons, assessing students based on specific objectives derived from a set curricula, and communicating with parents.

This list of seemingly simple tasks belies the complexity of the job. It was once the norm for teachers to address the needs of large groups of students via standard lesson plans and stock practice. This is no longer the case. Teachers of the early twenty-first century must create and modify lessons, fitting them to the diverse instructional needs and abilities of their students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that any student with an identified disability receive a written Individualized Education Program stating the modifications that must be implemented by any teacher working with that particular child. Students' needs run the gamut from learning disabilities to giftednessa broad range that compels teachers to behave in certain ways.

Unlike their predecessors, twenty-first-century teachers expect to deal with the dictates of standardized testing and curricula to match. Signed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, the No Child Left Behind Act is simply one very visible indication of the emphasis on local accountability for student performance. The bill requires that all schools display proof of meeting a minimal set of academic standards, as defined by each state. States must begin implementing annual high-stakes testingtesting upon which important decisions such as passing and failing depend. These tests will concentrate, at least initially, on reading and mathematics in grades three through eight.

As always, teachers are responsible for classroom management and discipline. This aspect of a teacher's job shows no signs of growing easierquite the contrary. According to the U.S. Department of Education, during the period from 1992 to 1996, 1,581,000 teachers were victims of nonfatal crimes that occurred while at school. Recognizing the challenge of student discipline, the No Child Left Behind Act includes steps for providing a safer work environment for teachers as well as students. Opportunities for professional development and training in positive methods of discipline abound.

Teachers are expected to use computer-based technology with increasing frequency and proficiency. The technology boom of the 1990s was accompanied by many efforts to help teachers integrate technology into their teaching and into students' learning. Although there is legitimate concern about the ultimate value of the use of technology in schools, there is little doubt that considerable resources have been expended to advance the digital revolution. The E-rate, for examplea federal program that provides targeted discounts to schools and libraries with the goal of increasing access to the Internet and other telecommunications servicesfunneled $3.65 billion into schools from 1997 to 2002. The federal government spent another $275 million from 1999 to 2002 to train teachers to use technology via the PT 3 program.

Changing societal demographics have forced changes in the practice of teaching. There are, for instance, more than ninety languages spoken in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. Teachers all over the nation work with students and parents from many different cultures. Teachers themselves are students of culture. They create classroom environments to celebrate various ethnic and religious traditions. They are expected to treat children and their families sensitively so as to avoid the proliferation of stereotypical images of races, cultures, or religions.

Teachers continue to exhibit a rich history of participation in educational and political groups, committees, and events. In 1996, 42 percent of public school teachers participated in committees dealing with local curriculum. On the national level, teachers are members of unions that include the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), as well as their local affiliates.

Qualifications of Elementary and Secondary Teachers

State governments determine their own requirements for a teaching license. In addition to a college degree with course work in appropriate areas, more than thirty states require a national teacher examination, such as the Praxis Series. Developed by the Educational Testing Service, the Praxis Series is designed to assess a teacher's knowledge of basic subject matter including reading, writing, and mathematics. Praxis also evaluates a prospective teacher in two other areas: general knowledge of the field of education and knowledge within the teacher's specialty content area.

Many states recognize licenses earned in other states, thus a license earned in one state may be used to work in another state. This process is referred to as "reciprocity" of licensing. Teachers who are interested in pursuing additional endorsementsthat is, approvals to teach other specialtiesdo so most often by taking additional college course work. They can also attempt to acquire national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, but they may still have to gain a state license in order to teach in a public school. In 2001 the NEA estimated that there would be 100,000 National Board Certified teachers by 2005.

Teachers also join professional honorary societies. For example, teachers may be invited to become a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education that seeks to inspire high teaching standards. Kappa Delta Pi and other education honorary societies recognize the actions of individual teachers and through membership distinguish them as exceptional educators.

There were approximately 2.78 million public school teachers working in K12 education during the 19981999 academic year. It was estimated that by 2008 the number of teachers needed to meet the demands of a growing student population would be3.46 million. To address an increasing teacher shortage, the No Child Left Behind Act suggests that state governments and school districts use alternative means of licensing and endorsing teachers, including fast-track teacher education programs for professionals outside education. The act also supports various incentives to keep teachers on the job, including merit pay for practicing educators and performance-based bonuses.

Research on Elementary and Secondary Teachers

Teacher quality has been said to be the number one school-related influence on student achievement. Although research on what constitutes a quality teacher is often the subject of debate, there are some findings on teacher quality that are rarely contested. These suggest that it is what teachers do in classrooms that matters. Research has shown that teachers can improve student achievement when they communicate high expectations, avoid criticism, reward truly praiseworthy behavior, and provide abundant opportunities for success (academic learning time) on material over which students are tested.


According to the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Education, the average salary in 1969 for a public school teacher was $8,320 at the elementary level and $8,840 at the secondary level. The average salary for a male secondary public school teacher was $9,160, and the average for a female public school secondary teacher was $8,670. While the average salaries have increased, the differences in salaries between elementary and secondary teachers as well as the disparity in salary between male and female educators have diminished. These changes in salaries reflect changes in attitudes about equal pay for equal work and the increasing responsibilities of female educators. The current public school teacher workforce is approximately 74 percent female.

A survey performed in 19951996 by the NEA found elementary and secondary public school teachers with a mean salary of $35,549. The range of salaries, however, is quite remarkable. Connecticut consistently ranks number one; in 19992000 its average teacher salary was $52,401. South Dakota falls on the opposite end of the spectrum, with an average salary that year of $29,072.

With approximately 90 percent of public school teachers classified as white in 2001, the racial demographics of teachers have not changed as noticeably as the student populations they serve. What has changed significantly is the number of advanced degrees obtained by teachers. In 1970, 25 percent of public school teachers received an advanced degree. The NEA reported in 1997 that this number had more than doubled to 56 percent54 percent with master's degrees and 2 percent with doctoral degrees.

See also: American Federation of Teachers; International Teachers Associations; National Education Association; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001; Teacher Education; Teacher Employment; Teacher Evaluation; Teacher Learning Communities; Teacher Unions.


Brophy, Jere E., and Good, Thomas L. 1986. "Teacher Behavior and Student Achievement." In Handbook of Research on Teaching, 3rd edition, ed. Merlin C. Wittrock. New York: Macmillan.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. U.S. Public Law 105-17. U.S. Code. Vol. 20, secs. 1400 et seq.

National Center for Education Statistics. 1998. Indicators of School Crime and Safety:2001. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

National Education Association. 1997. Status of the American Public School Teacher, 199596: Highlights. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

National Education Association. Research Division. 1970. NEA Research Bulletin. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

Solmon, Lewis C., and Firetag, Kimberly. 2002. "The Road to Teacher Quality." Education Week 21 (27):48.

internet resources

American Federation of Teachers. 2000. "Teacher Salaries Fail to Keep Up with Inflation: AFT Releases Annual State-by-State Teacher Salary Survey." <www.aft.org/research/salary/home.htm>.

Cuban, Larry. 1998. "Cuban Speech." Tapped In. <www.tappedin.org/info/teachers/debate2.html>.

National Education Association. 2001. "Teachers and Students Excelling Together: Ensuring the Quality Teachers America Needs." <www.nea.org/lac/bluebook/execsum.html>.

Kimberly B. Waid

Robert F. McNergney


views updated May 18 2018





Psychologists and other social scientists since the early twentieth century have been concerned with learning and effective teaching. A century ago, education in the United States was a troubled institution. School curricula were seen as outdated and irrelevant, teachers were often illprepared, and students often displayed low levels of motivation. In light of these circumstances, social scientists began to investigate ways to improve the educational system. The move toward more progressive educational policies based on psychological research has continued to the present.

Early questions revolved around the nature of the classroom. That is, what were the relative merits of lectures, classroom discussions, and demonstrations and activities? When the move from prepared lectures to discussion took place, there was initial enthusiasm for discussions as fostering greater learning. Similarly, the introduction of demonstrations and activities engendered considerable enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the research on the different approaches has been inconclusive; students show an aptitude for learning across a wide variety of classroom formats.

Just as educators have tried to restructure classroom dynamics, they have engaged in a constant quest to adopt the latest technologies for their pedagogy. Teachers have made use of radio, television, and even the telephone for delivery of educational information. The adoption of the Internet in education continues the technological innovation. So far, however, different classroom formats and technologies have not led to systematic improvements in pedagogy. Each technology appears to have strengths, but widespread and generalized improvements in learning resist easy development.

One of the earliest, successful pedagogical innovations was the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) developed by the psychologist Fred Keller (18991996). This approach was based on behavioral theory and featured self-pacing geared toward mastery of a task. Keller proposed including lectures and demonstrations only as vehicles of motivation, not as information delivery systems. Even though the approach was thoroughly grounded in behaviorism, Keller stressed the importance of the personal and social aspects of the learning situation.

Empirical research has documented PSI as an effective pedagogical approach. However, teachers never adopted it universally, even at the height of its popularity. Nonetheless, this system still has adherents who use it successfully.

Theories in cognitive psychology prevalent in the early twenty-first century highlight the idea that the creation of cognitive schemas enhances learning. Further, the use of so-called deep processing (e.g., self-reflective thought, integration of ideas, writing to learn) appears to benefit learners. One little-known, but promising, phenomenon that was rediscovered and applied to educational research in the late 1980s, the testing effect, is explicable in cognitive theory results. The act of taking a test can itself foster better retention than actually studying the material. The advantage of testing accrues when learners must generate answers and process multiple concepts in essay-type items. In contrast, recognition tests, such as those featuring multiple-choice items, and repetitive studying do not reliably lead to as complete learning.

The apparent advantage of repetitive studying is evident for tests taken immediately after studying, but this spurious advantage disappears with delayed testing. Theorists speculate that the immediate reinforcement associated with repeated exposure to material to be learned leads to misplaced feelings of confidence and mastery on the part of students. Further, the difficulty associated with generating answers on tests creates in the learner the impression that learning is incomplete and insufficient, even as it actually benefits the person. Researchers have suggested that learning is enhanced when students have to overcome difficulties. The paradox is that when students encounter such difficulties, it facilitates memory for the material but results in the subjective feeling of lack of progress toward the learning goal.

The fundament that unifies the various types of active learning is the creation of a network of interrelated ideas. In the early twenty-first century, cognitive and learning theory takes it as an article of faith that a cognitive schema provides interconnections among related information, a structure that facilitates assimilation of new information and effective retrieval of already-learned material.


Psychologists and educators have adopted the principles of active learning as critical components of classes. Historically, demonstrations by a teacher that illustrated a particular phenomenon constituted the approach to active learning, even though it may have been only the teacher who was active. Engagement on the part of the students is the concept of active learning that prevails in the early twenty-first century, and it can take a variety of forms. Some common types of active learning include writing to learn, cooperative learning, interteaching, and just-in-time teaching.

In writing to learn, the main purpose is not communication; rather, it is learning. Writing about a topic enables a student to ruminate on the ideas and to synthesize information, thereby solidifying learning. When students engage in low-stakes writing, a teacher does not assess the content or the style. The focus is on the development of ideas. Subsequently, high-stakes writing can be a means of assessing the quality of the writing and the knowledge of ideas. In theory, writing to learn involves students evaluating ideas and information, which presumably helps them develop schemas and networks of interrelated ideas.

Cooperative learning involves the creation of a social setting to foster knowledge acquisition and retention. Educators have developed several different variations. The actual classroom process may differ significantly across the different types of cooperative learning. Empirical research has revealed a consistent, sometimes large, effect for cooperative learning compared to either competitive learning or individualistic learning. Investigators have documented the advantages of cooperative learning at all academic levels.

In cooperative learning, several students work together, taking responsibility not only for their own learning but also for that of the other group members. The critical components of cooperative learning include shared responsibility so that all members of the group learn, individual accountability for progress toward learning, face-to-face interaction, development of interpersonal skills, and self-monitoring by the group. Thus, cooperative learning relies on elements of cognitive theory and social psychological theory of group processes.

A development originating in the early 2000s that has its origins in Kellers PSI approach and involves structure, active learning, and cooperation is called interteaching. Interteaching places the responsibility for learning largely on the student, rather than on the teacher disseminating information via a lecture. In this approach, the instructor provides questions to guide students in a focused activity, and students then review the material to be learned and discuss it with fellow students in small groups. Finally, the students can request that the teacher address questions they have regarding the material.

Interteaching, like its predecessors, may not introduce elements that do not already exist in the classroom. What it involves is a rearrangement of behaviors and a redistribution of time devoted to individual and group work, discussion, lecturing, and out-of-class preparation. Like the other types of active learning, interteaching draws on cognitive theory but relies on a significant element of behavioral theory in its application.

Just-in-time teaching (JiTT), whose conceptual basis developed in the 1960s but was made practical through computer technology in the 1990s, involves student learning combined with the use of the Internet. Students take responsibility for learning specified material and for recognizing what aspects of that material they do not understand. JiTT relies on students to begin learning the material before class. Then the student communicates uncertainties to the teacher shortly before class time so the teacher can use class time most effectively to address the weaknesses in student learning. Class can be oriented toward what students do not know. Ideally, JiTT also engenders a spirit of cooperation between the students and the teacher.


Psychologists are often on the forefront of adopting new teaching technologies. The Internet and presentation software have become staples of the contemporary classroom. Preliminary evidence suggests that computer-based teaching can lead to greater learning than standard lectures when multimedia presentations are constructed so that the different components of a presentation are pedagogically integrated. The presence of excessive sound and graphics can lead to cognitive overload and reduced learning.

Theorists have speculated that multimedia presentations can enhance learning because the presentations foster multiple dual coding, that is, a combination of visual and verbal learning. This approach can increase student motivation while helping students encode concepts.

Presentation software can produce increased learning, but it has received criticism as being essentially a static medium that reduces teacher creativity and flexibility in the classroom. Some educators have responded to this criticism by noting that the software itself is not the problem; rather, the use of the software can be problematic if it does not lead students to process the material deeply.

Historically, new technologies have emerged and have become widely used in the classroom. Initial research often supports the efficacy of the new approaches, but sometimes it is not clear whether the increased student achievement stems from the new technology or from the additional enthusiasm of the teacher for the innovation.


Bjork, Robert A. 1994. Memory and Metamemory Considerations in the Training of Human Beings. In Metacognition: Knowing about Knowing, eds. Janet Metcalfe and Arthur P. Shimamura, 185205. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Boyce, Thomas E., and Philip N. Hineline. 2002. Interteaching: A Strategy for Enhancing the User-Friendliness of Behavioral Arrangements in the College Classroom. Behavior Analyst 25 (2): 215226.

Novak, Gregor M., Evelyn T. Patterson, Andrew D. Gavrin, and Wolfgang Christian. 1999. Just-In-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bernard C. Beins


views updated May 18 2018


Ideas about teaching and education circa 1750 drew heavily on the cultural and religious heritage of the colonists. The earliest civic legislative call for the compulsory education of all children came in theocratic New England in 1642, and was followed by the organization of compulsory public (though not universal) education in 1647. In the middle colonies, however, denominations tended to establish schooling systems to inculcate pupils in the virtues of the doctrine of the particular faith. Thus, schooling tended to be parochial and in the hands of individual churches rather than the state. In the southern colonies, the upper-class distinction and Anglican faith of the ruling property owners forged a private and philanthropic model for education. The upper class educated their own children through private tutors or tuition schools, and philanthropic efforts provided "pauper schools" to some families without means.

Just as these three models of education varied in the early national period, so did the roles and status of teachers. In New England teachers often were preachers and college-educated. Most teachers, and nearly all of the Latin grammar school instructors, were men. The most important qualification was religious and moral character. Of secondary importance were his skills at reading and writing and, more rarely, ciphering. In towns with at least one hundred families, school law required the instruction of Latin, though compliance was not universal.

Children achieved basic literacy before entering these schools, either at home or sometimes at a petty or dame school. Dame schools provided an arrangement of day care and basic education for younger children, probably under the age of eight. As the name suggests, a woman, typically a widow, earned small fees from parents by taking in young children and teaching the older ones to read and write. By the time of the American Revolution, the practice of having women teach the fundamentals and men the more advanced curriculum was probably quite common.

There is less comprehensive information available about teachers in the middle and southern colonies, but records suggest that many were local clergymen, farmers, or individuals who used teaching to supplement their incomes. Others were indentured servants who worked to pay back their passage from Europe. But some were highly qualified and provided high-quality instruction in a broad array of subjects. Overall, the work and social roles of teachers varied significantly across and within the colonies depending on the role of the state, the size of the community, the education of the instructor, and the preparatory orientation of the school.

As the ideologies of independence and equality came to be seen as central to the new Republic, George Washington, among others, called for the development of institutions that "enlightened" public opinion. Still, free public schools, or "common" schools, did not emerge until the late 1830s. In the early Republic, it was parents' responsibility to pay fees for their children to go to school; sometimes local communities helped them pay for the schoolhouse and some of the materials. During this time, two trends set the direction of education: First, education became increasingly secular, and "Rithmetic" replaced "Religion" as one of the three Rs. Second, education also began to shift its focus from the classics—a curriculum that aimed to prepare students for college—toward practical education. Useful subjects such as bookkeeping and gunnery were common additions to the curricula, and records suggest that pupils learned practical skills such as writing receipts and bills of sale.

Even in the absence of significant government involvement, education grew increasingly important. For men, in this period of high mobility, having an education became increasingly important in obtaining employment off the farm in a new city or new town. For young women, school-keeping became a viable option to escape the drudgery of housework and child rearing. The incomes of these young women often enabled families to send yet more children to school.

Teaching was seasonal and often itinerant work. Teachers traveled far and wide in search of better schools, more supportive communities, and better pay. Nahum Jones (born 1779) used money from teaching to buy a farm near his father's in Massachusetts. After failing to make a living at farming, he returned to teaching, although he complained of having to "walk around" New England. The increasing presence of women as "schoolmarms," the term common for a schoolmistress, in the summer months when men were occupied with agriculture, allowed them to make inroads into teaching in the winter season and, in turn, a more advanced curriculum to older children.

Without a system of teacher certification, the credentials and skills of teachers varied widely, as did teaching conditions and pay. Either out of need or lack of ability to verify teacher credentials, many communities hired young teachers who could read but barely write. A teacher might have been qualified after only a few seasons of formal learning. As time passed, more teachers became trained, and some had studied in the newly emerging "academies," which would have required advanced study of the classics as well as basic skills.

During the early national period, teacher contracts also came to govern the community-teacher relationship. Many specified the number of days to be taught and the methods to be used. Typically, teachers would assign individual lessons and would monitor pupil progress through listening to their recitations. In addition to the single schoolmaster model, the "monitorial" system (as was adopted in New York) became a popular and inexpensive teaching methodology from around 1800. In these schools the oldest and best pupils were responsible for conveying lessons to approximately five hundred to one thousand younger pupils.

In turn, school trustees or parents often provided a schoolhouse, the children's materials, and textbooks, which became increasingly secular and American in character. (Popular at that time were Noah Webster's American Speller and Nicholas Pike's Arithmetic.) Teachers were paid wages and sometimes board. Although compensation was rarely enough to justify teaching as a primary or even permanent vocation, it did offer a way to make a modest living and provided a stepping stone to other careers or marriage.

The common school movement, a public initiative to provide free, universal public education for all, grew over the course of the nineteenth century, and created the need for greater numbers of qualified teachers. This demand was partly met in the establishment of new teacher training schools. Lectures on Schoolteaching, notes on the "art of teaching" by Samuel R. Hall, the founder of a private teacher-training school in Concord, Vermont, constituted the first American professional textbook for teachers in 1829. The demand was also met by a growing teaching force of women. Teaching provided one of the very few jobs in which a woman could use her education. Skilled women not only expanded the supply of teachers, but they reduced the cost at which communities might provide education to local children, thus securing low-cost schools for the future.

See alsoChildhood and Adolescence; Education: Elementary, Grammar, and Secondary Schools; Education: Professional Education; Education: Public Education; Education: Tutors; Women: Professions .


Bayles, Ernest E., and Bruce L. Hood. Growth of American Educational Thought and Practice. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Carter, Susan B. "Occupational Segregation, Teachers' Wages, and American Economic Growth." Journal of Economic History 46, no. 2 (1986): 373–383.

Clifford, Geraldine Joncich. "Home and School in 19th Century America: Some Personal-History Reports from the United States." History of Education Quarterly 18, no. 1 (1978): 3–34.

Cremin, Lawrence A. The American Common School: An Historic Conception. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1951.

——. American Education: The National Experience, 1783–1876. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.

Lemlech, Johanna, and Merle B. Marks. The American Teacher, 1776–1976. Bloomington, Ind.: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1976.

Margo, Robert A., and Joel Perlmann. Women's Work? American Schoolteachers, 1650–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Martha J. Bailey


views updated Jun 27 2018

Teachers ★★ 1984 (R)

A lawsuit is brought against a high school for awarding a diploma to an illiterate student. Comedy-drama starts slowly and seems to condemn the school system, never picking up strength or resolving any issues, though Nolte is fairly intense. Shot in Columbus, Ohio. 106m/C VHS . Nick Nolte, JoBeth Williams, Lee Grant, Judd Hirsch, Ralph Macchio, Richard Mulligan, Royal Dano, Morgan Freeman, Laura Dern, Crispin Glover, Madeline Sherwood, Zohra Lampert; D: Arthur Hiller.


views updated May 29 2018

teach·er / ˈtēchər/ • n. a person who teaches, esp. in a school.DERIVATIVES: teach·er·ly adj.

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