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Report Finds that U.S. Teachers Working More Hours Than Counterparts in Other Countries

Jul 26, 2011

A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that United States educators spend more time teaching than those in other countries. But is this a good thing or a sign of problems?

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By Jessica Lyons

Report Findings

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report 'Education at a Glance 2010,' data from 2008 shows that teachers in the U.S. lead for annual hours spent teaching for lower secondary education, primary school education and upper secondary education. The report looks at countries that are members of OECD.

Although the average amount of hours per year for lower secondary education was 703, the United States had the most teaching hours with 1,068. At primary schools, teachers worldwide averaged 786 hours a year while U.S. teachers once again came in with the most hours with 1,097. The U.S. also averaged 1,051 teaching hours for upper secondary education, even though the OECD average was far less at 661 hours.

Are Students Doing Any Better?

These numbers at a glance might look like a positive sign that the United States is spending more time educating its children. However, in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it was noted that U.S. students aren't doing any better than students in other countries and, in some cases, are even doing worse.

In March of 2008, the Alliance for Excellent Education reported how academic achievements by 15-year-old U.S. students compared to students of the same age in the other countries that were OECD members. Out of the 29 countries that were OECD members in 2003, these U.S. students ranked 15th in reading literacy and 24th in problem solving. In 2006, there were 30 member countries and the U.S. ranked 21st in scientific literacy and 25th in mathematical literacy.

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A Good or a Bad Thing?

The OECD report notes that if teachers are devoting an increased amount of hours to actual classroom teaching it could mean that they have less time to spend on other responsibilities, like lesson plan preparation or student assessment. This might result in those areas having to suffer or teachers having to take some of their work home in order to have time to complete it all.

Teachers working longer hours and having to spend more of their personal time to get their work done could cause some teachers to feel overwhelmed and like they have to choose between quality and quantity. A system such as this could also impact the amount of people willing to teach. If there is the impression that teachers will be putting in more hours than they should have to and students still aren't doing well, they might be hesitant to become educators.

Many school districts have faced potential cuts in the amount of teachers they have. With teachers already putting in more hours than the average, the United States most likely can't afford to lose any more teachers. Fewer teachers could just mean even more hours for educators who are already putting in a lot of time.

Even though U.S. teachers are putting in many hours, do high school courses still lack rigor?

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