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US Education

I do not understand the US educational system. As a silly Euro bugger, can someone explain to me how you can put up with this nonsense.

17.000$ per student in highschool??? http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2003/05/08#a325

There must be even more to this than just having your country enslaved by the lifestyle whims of the 12-28  age bracket, right?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 08, 2003

My high school had some of the best test scores in the country, and it was a public school, averaging $2.13 per student!

S. Gwizdak
Thursday, May 08, 2003

This is just a guess, but it might have something to do with the crazy teacher's union. (It has become very powerful, and is teaching kids to hate the US.) Public school teachers, in some areas, are paid very high salaries, considering they don't have to know much and get long vacations.
I do realize that teaching is a hard job. On the other hand, unions often get out of control here.
I spent some time teaching at a state U. and the quality of the students' writing was unbelievably bad. Many of them don't learn how to write in American high schools. I don't know if the highly paid teachers teach them anything. It's also well known that US students are much worse at math than in other countries.

The Real PC
Thursday, May 08, 2003

There is no good explanation.  Most of the issue is administrative waste.  I am speaking in general terms, not specific to Cambridge. 

At 17k per student and a classroom that is about 400k per classroom.  Assuming even 85k for a teacher and that would be very high, that leaves 315k, per room for overhead. 

What I have seen is an administrative staff where the Superintendent makes 150k, gets all expenses covered, a car (new and usually an SUV), etc. plus a golden parachute.  There will be two dozen "assistants", etc.  So instead of the money be spent on students, teachers or the facilities, it is spent on overhead. 

Teachers are blamed for producing bad results while forced to use 10 year old text books, and facilities that look like Beirut.  Administrators say they need more oversight authority and school boards cry, they need more money.  What they need is leadership and responsibility.  Instead they blame teachers (no I am not a teacher) or the teacher's union or the parents or...

So there is no explanation other than poor management, just like every other business, except it is not a business and we cannot dump the CEO or hope the company gets bought out.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 08, 2003

It does seem a bit high, but you'd have to dig deep into their accounting to figure out what's really going on.  The $17000 figure may include weird anomolies... allocation of capital costs or legal settlements or something over a single year?  Don't know.  I certainly believe that NorteAmericana as a whole gets pretty poor bang for the buck.  Yes, I think the teachers' unions & entrenched bureaucracy are part of the problem.  Lack of clearly defined purpose beyond babysitting is also a major factor.  I think the canadian $avg is about half that per head (after exchange rate adjustments).  Some many years back by little sister attended public school in Conneticut & found that about 95% of student effort was dedicated to social concearns vs about 5% to studies.  In Canada it was more like 90% vs 10%.  In canadian undergrad I'd say 80% were less than serious students (self included), 75% had no purpose being there at all (probably self included).  This is partly an indictment of the system... some started off with high hopes but adjusted to norms & insubstantial academic blather.

John Aitken
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Should have added: 2nd hand comparable info has Scotland at maybe more like 60% social & other vs 20% sporting & 20% academic... but that was at a 'public' (read private) school.

John Aitken
Thursday, May 08, 2003

As I said earlier, I am not a teacher, but I do pay school taxes on my home so knowing where the costs are going is important to me. 

I believe that "The Real PC" stated a common misconception that is driven in the US by politics.  (Not that his comment, the perception).  The teacher's union tends to support democratic candidates and they have a healthy budget to do so.  This makes the GOP take the position that the problems are related to teachers making "terribly high salaries."  They then trot out numbers as teachers making over $110,000 a year.  No wonder your taxes are so high!!!. 

Here is a link to a 1999-2000 study:
http://www.aft.org/research/survey00/salarysurvey00.pdf
Yes it is from the teachers union, but it is in line with the federal government numbers, whose link I could not find.

The bottom line?  Yes, you can find teachers who make over $100,000 a year.  They hold advanced degrees (masters+ or Phd) and they also work on extra activities.  However, the national average is $41, 820 per year, with low average South Dakota at $29, 072 and high average  Connecticut at $52,410.   

Before someone says only "10 months", check with your local school district.  Most teachers are not off the entire summer as they are required (as in must) work toward an advanced degree.  This is done during the summer in many cases.  They must also create their lesson plans for the year, prepare their classrooms, meet district requirements for health and benefits and just about every other meeting your company requires you to attend, except they do it after hours.

If your company tells you that you must get your masters degree within three years and you must pay for it or lose your job and you can only do so outside of business hours, are you doing it in your "free time?"

I have been looking into this because I want to freeze the costs in my school district.  Freezing the teacher's salaries, while popular, is not going to save me much money.  I want to start controlling real costs.  That is where it will make a difference.  It may even allow us to keep successful teachers who leave our district for the money of another.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 08, 2003

I found a intresting web site http://www.nces.ed.gov/edfin/search/search_intro.asp
give it a zip code and it will return school districts an  then you can generate a report of per student expenses as of 1999.  I found that my local school district spends $6700 per student, but only about 4000 of it was direct in class room cost. Most of the additional cost food services and other support. 

On a side note: most teachers I know work 50 + hours a week during the school year as well as do learn new skills. You want a life don't go into teaching.

A Software Build Guy
Thursday, May 08, 2003

This is also Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the public schools are pulled to try to service both the poor kids and Harvard/MIT faculty kids.  So they are paying for both full-time art teachers and all sorts of remedial ed, too.

As for teachers pay, I remember an administrator telling me that the good teachers (the 60-hour a week dynamos) are underpaid and burn out and the bad teachers (teach of off xeroxes) have cushy jobs for life.

Contrary Mary
Thursday, May 08, 2003

There is no reward for being a good teacher; the union makes sure all are treated the same.
Yes, superintendants get outrageous salaries but so do some teachers, considering how little some of them do.
Yes, teachers have to get an "advanced" degree on their own time, but it can be a master's in flower arranging.

The Real PC
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Public school teachers are underpaid. Period.

First a note - be wary of the difference between "cost" and "salary" - remember that an employee costs more than they earn, once you take into account pension, medical, taxes, etc. A good rule of thumb is that "pay" is usually 66% of "cost", though it can be as low as 50%.

For example, the principal of my daughter's elementary school "costs" $100k, but only gets about $60k in take-home pay (which is then taxed, of course...)

Now, consider the job that teachers have - they are paid to "manage" 20-30 involuntary, unwilling toddlers, kids, or teenagers. They have to drag these horses to the well and force them to drink. And what happens when a child refuses to learn, or isn't capable of handling the material? The parents yell at you then tell the principal what an awful teacher you are.

On a side note, I see this as the epitome of "what's wrong with America" - nobody is encouraging personal responsibility any more. It's a disease that's pervading every aspect of our society - lawyers won't tell clients "you hurt yourself because you weren't paying attention", managers can't fire employees "because you're lazy and you have no pride", teachers can't tell parents "Johnny can't read because you seem to consider him my problem".

IMHO teachers are underpaid because dammit, they're caught in the middle of this. But even if they weren't, they have the most important job in this nation. And all they ever get is grief. A CEO will happily pay me $50+/hr to make sure their customers can see where their book order is, but then will bitch out his school board because the person who's trying to teach his kid (that he refuses to discipline) is making $14/hr.

Look on the bright side - teachers aren't paid what they're worth, so you're getting people who honestly want to teach, instead of a bunch of VB hackers who are in it for the money. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 08, 2003

A CEO will happily pay me $50+/hr...
teachers aren't paid what they're worth, so you're getting people who honestly want to teach, instead of a bunch of VB hackers who are in it for the money.
--

You should then donate your excess income to the teachers since it seems you are not doing it for the money.


Thursday, May 08, 2003

For a lot of reasons teaching public shool is going to be on the low end of the pay scale for people with college degrees. It's a job with a great deal of job security, substantially more vacation time than other jobs, and is something that people tend to feel good about doing, so people will take less money for it (especially young people or women returning to work after the kids start school). And it's a government job with a lot of visibility and a lot of regulation surrounding it, so there are a lot of external pressures to keep salaries low. Having said that, the numbers Mike gave are pretty near the average American's income, even if they don't look like much to us programmer-types.

Dave Rothgery
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Dear Real PC,
                      Considering the poor return you have so clearly received for your expensive education I quite understand your bitterness :)

                      Nevertheless perfomance related pay for teachers is ferociously opposed by most teachers  because in practise it will result in gross unfairness. Those victimized will not be the poor teachers but the politically unpopular. This is indeed mentioned here with regard to salaries for developers where it is much, much easier to tell what is happening. In the UK they started payment by results with the 1870 Education Act; it was such a mess that they got rid of it in 1882. The head teachers took all the students who were going to pass the exams for themselves, and gave the others to their assistants.                 

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Dave.
          The main reason that teachers jobs will stay only a notch or two above the average income is that teaching is a highly labour intensive job. There are so many of them needed that society simply cannot afford to put them in the top 20%.

        Each individual will use two hours of a teachers' time every week for about fifteen years of his life. Imagine how dentists' or lawyers' salaries would plummet if you had to consult with them that frequently.

        Moral: if you want a high-paying job find one where people have to use you willy-nilly but not all that often. And make sure that unlike decorating ro being an electrician it is a job where learning it is sufficiently time consuming to make it uneconomic for the punter to do it himself.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 08, 2003

I once did a calculation of how much more teachers vacations in the UK were than those of the average private sector worker.

It worked out as being the equvalent of an extra 15% of salary.

Curiously enough that appeared to be round about what teachers were underpaid on average in comparison to other equivalently qualified workers.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 08, 2003

A large portion of every public school budget goes to "entitlements" such as special teachers and special aids for kids with special needs. Few people can argue that those with special needs should be given every opportunity, but the method of implementation varies widely from state to state. In New York State they beleive in main-streaming, so special kids are kept in "normal" classrooms most often requiring individual staff assignments.

Also in NY, "special" includes kids who have been suspended or expelled. They are sill entitled by law to an education and the school district must provide private tutoring for them while they are kept out of school. Go figure that one out.

old-timer
Thursday, May 08, 2003

[Considering the poor return you have so clearly received for your expensive education I quite understand your bitterness ]

My entire education was free, Stephen. I was never rich or privileged, just smart enough to always get scholarships. So I am grateful for my education, not bitter.

[Nevertheless perfomance related pay for teachers is ferociously opposed by most teachers  because in practise it will result in gross unfairness.]

Oh of course. Why should we care about anyone's performance? We're all equally hard-working after all.

The Real PC
Thursday, May 08, 2003

You're not getting the point about why performance related pay is bad for teachers.

It is simply that it is almost impossible to implement fairly, and would still have a disastrous effect on morale if it were. Remember your rewarding performance not effort

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 08, 2003

PC,
Stephen is assuming that you are making an assumtion that all children learn equally well.  The performance of a teacher can very with number of students, the students ablity to learn, the students learning style and the teachers ablity to adapt lessons to the students learning style and home environment.  The teacher is only in control of one of these varibles.  Is it fair to base pay on factors teacher can not control is what I see Stephen responce is. And is it?

Note:  My wife is a teacher,  getting her masters and working in a School.  So I have a slight bias. But I do see what her work is putting her through.

A Software Build Guy
Thursday, May 08, 2003

The US education system is a huge, old, entrenched system.  Layers upon layers of beauracracy.  Redundancies and inefficiencies galore.

Think of a software system that has grown slowly over the years, never being properly refactored, having more and more new code built on top of old code... eventually, the codebase becomes ossified, impossible to understand.  People are afraid to touch the old code because they don't know what would break.  A dependency chart looks like what a two-year old would produce with a crayon and posterboard.

Hmm.  I seem to have described Microsoft Windows.

The US education system is the Windows of education systems.

-Thomas

Thomas
Thursday, May 08, 2003

And like Windows, the US education system works a lot better than most 'experts' give it credit for.

Dave Rothgery
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Many US schools waste a lot of money and get bad results. I have a friend who teaches a bilingual third grade class. You get extra for teaching the class half in Spanish, and more still for the fact that the school is in the bad part of town. He makes $90,000/year. He gets summers off plus all kinds of other holidays and training days and stuff. and goes home each day by three. There is little homework to grade. Adjusting the days off for a normal worker's year his salary would be $125,000. factor in that he works 6.5 hours a day and it's more still. Also, it's impossible to get laid off or fired, no matter how bad you are.

Nice work if you can get it.

X. J. Scott
Thursday, May 08, 2003

I suspect that the US education system is a little like the British system; excellent for the intellectual elite, and wildly varying in efficiency for everybody else.

There is the grass is greener tendency. There are ens of thousands of westerners now teaching in China and there is an almot universal consensus of opinion that the education system there s among the worst in the world (a position normally reserved for Arab education systems). General consensus of opinion is that the Japanese system merely produces a superior class of mediocrity. And half the population of India doesn't even go to school, and many of those that do find that their teacher never does!

Failure to understand other country's peculiarities can distort research. A few years ago they decided to interfere in the teaching of Math in Primary schools throughout England and Wales because statistics showed that Britain was near the bottom of the league in this respect. It was only a year or so ago that they realized that the statistics were skewed because most of the comparison countries followed the system of keeping back students who failed the exams, so when they tested comparable year groups the other countries had a significant proportion of students a year older who had received one year's more instruction. When they factored that in England and Wales moved up near the top of the league.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 08, 2003

My wife teaches second and third grade in a private school and spends about 8 hours (6.5 hours teaching 1.5 - 3 hrs prep and grading).  This does not count the 3-5 hours on the week end adjusting lesson plans and other prep work for her class.  She earns 32,000 a year.  We live in a larger metro area in the US  (Minneapolis/St Paul)  I do know a few Public school instructors and they earn around 45-50K at the high end.  So my question is where is your friend (I bet you live in NY/ Northeast or Southern California )  I doubt that your friend is working that little during the school year. Or they are really slacking.

A Software Build Guy
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Thomas - please explain your direct experience with your local public education system. Anything starting with "I've read" doesn't count.

I've been a member of our local elementary school's advisory council and our county's superintendent's advisory council for three years, so I have direct exposure to a significant amount of this "bureaucracy," including reviewing budgets every year.

Mind you, I'm all for removing redundant layers - I wholeheartedly advocate the elimination of the US Department of Education. :-)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Teachers have the hardest jobs in America, due to the laziness and failure of the American parent.

When parents come home and collapse on the sofa at night to watch TV -- this is what 90% of American adults do in the evening -- their children suffer for it.

They aren't supervising their kids' homework -- the kids are running wild -- the kids are glued to their Playstation video hames -- the kids learn no respect for adults or authority.

So, as a result of the American parent's infernal selfishness, the kids are out of control, and the teachers have to deal with it.  So the teachers spend most of the day trying to keep order, and get very little teaching done.

This is what is wrong with American education.  The parents.  Not the schools, not the teachers.

It's a shame.

Anyway, I agree with all of you who say that teachers are underpaid.  Given the stress, abuse, and disrespect they receive, as well as long hours, they deserve higher salaries than any programmer.

James
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Oh, yeah --

This is a fascinating, real-life horror story about U.S. public education today.  It doesn't speak well about administration or parents:

http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_1_how_i_joined.html

James
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Hi Build Guy,

Yes, he teaches in So. Cal. I understand him to be a good teacher - he does spend a couple evenings a week visiting students' homes and helping out parents, many of whom do not speak English.  I am not sure he is worth 90k though. He did think it all out in advance though -- he targetted bilingual education in an underprivledged area so he could maximize his earning potential. Of formal education, he has only an associate's in elementary education. I don't make as much as he does of course and work more than twice as many hours per year with fewer benefits and less job stability, so I have to agree with him that he's the wiser one between us as far as quality of life goes -- he spends his down time travelling and sculpting. Being a teacher is one of the few professions that allows him to earn a good living and have the time to be a serious artist.

X. J. Scott
Thursday, May 08, 2003

There was a great bit on Letterman a while back, in which a teacher wrote in to say that Dave would probably be well-suited for teaching grade school.  Letterman says he thought he'd try it out, and we see a few clips of him teaching school, charming the children, having a great time, etc.  The last shot is of the principal coming into the class to hand him his first paycheck.  He opens the envelope and looks at the check, then puts on his coat, says, "Bye kids.  Don't do drugs," and leaves.

If teachers are overpaid, there should be a large number of IT admins, programmers, and engineers who willingly make the switch to primary and secondary education.  Start voting with your feet, folks.

Hardware Guy
Thursday, May 08, 2003

Back to the original point, yes $17,000 is a lot to pay per student.  If it weren't they wouldn't have written an article about it.  I'm sure that's EXTREMELY atypical of costs around the country.  Yeah, the US education system isn't efficient, but it's not THAT inefficient.

People have brought up several good points about why it might be that high.  Special education can be extremely expensive - schools are require to provide almost anything a parent asks for.  Administrative costs are also high (big government bureaucracy).  Construction and plant costs can be huge.  Here in NC, the population is growing way too fast for the schools to handle it.  New schools are built yearly (millions of $ per) and it's not enough.

Anyone who claims though that schools are expensive because teachers are overpaid is an idiot.

David
Friday, May 09, 2003

Dear XJ,
              I am damm sure that your friend is not worth 90K, and I'm highly dubious that he does earn it. Are you sure you're not exaggerating? The figure is on a par with a professor at an Ivy League University.

              Third Grade is the easiest to teach. The kids are still young enough to be easily terrorized but are old enough to understand what is said to them. Also they can't write very fast so the real bummer for the correcting is just the Math. I taught it for four years in Riyadh; I was hired to teach high school English but they found they needed a Grade 2 teacher so I got co-opted in (I was told "it will be good practice for when you have children" when I complained I had lttle experience of the age level). I know a good thing when I see one so I stayed with it for four years.

            I really doubt if you are doing double the hours though. That makes about 14 to 15 hours a day and even if you take away the extra 15-20% maximum for the holidays that still leaves about 11 hours a day, every Monday to Friday every year. A Grade 3 teacher can get by with working 6.5  - 7 hours a day, but he will be working every minute of that. I've found that if I extend my working day by 2 hours I only actually do half-an-hour's more work. Short bursts before a deadline are one thing but mid to long term it is difficult to do more than 40-45 hours work a week. I would say that each hour you're doing after that only produces about twenty minutes productivity, if that.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 09, 2003

[your friend is not worth 90K, and I'm highly dubious that he does earn it. Are you sure you're not exaggerating? The figure is on a par with a professor at an Ivy League University.]

That kind of salary for public school teachers is not unusual where I live (NY area). A lot of IT workers probably would switch to teaching if it weren't so hard to get a teaching job.

By the way, many University professors are over-paid slackers also. Once you get tenure you can just put your feet up. Maybe that partly explains why college in the US now costs a fortune.

The Real PC
Friday, May 09, 2003

"You're not getting the point about why performance related pay is bad for teachers."

Of course its bad for teachers...Bad Teachers, that is...

Performance based pay would imply that there are good teachers and bad teachers. If there isn't performance based pay then all the teachers are treated equal, allowing the slackers to slide through; ultimately its the children who suffer.

apw
Friday, May 09, 2003

Firstly, not for a single moment do I believe that teacher overcompensation is the problem here.
Secondly, I do believe that a teacher should be the professional that is most respected in our society. It should be a job that would imply the person entiteled to it has superior knowledge compined with excellent pedagogical skills.
In a capitalist society it is usually believed that setting up above average financial and secondary benefits will increase the supply of candidates competing for those positions and therefore improve quality.
This however only holds when the quality is something that can be more or less objectively measured and is directly related to the desired outcome. In this case we need something that judges how good a teacher a certain person is/will be. This is a very hard problem.

e.g. One can not simply look at the results of the classes taking (even standardized and externaly administered) exams, since this takes no account of the "natural" ability differences that exist in the classes in the first place.
Joe can be a lousy teacher, but sice he teaches to very bright students, he still comes out on top.

In absence of a rational metric that is alligened with an explicitly stated goal, performance related compensation quickly deteriorates into social engineering games, producing outcomes fully unrelated and even deterimental to the stated goals.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 09, 2003

In college they have students rate their professors every semester (these ratings only matter for junior, non-tenured professors).
The problem is that teachers who don't give everyone an A might get lower student ratings.
What you need is a measure of how much the students learned, plus ratings of the teachers by the students. If the students like and respect the teacher, and also learn, then the teacher deserves a raise.

The Real PC
Friday, May 09, 2003

----" In absence of a rational metric that is alligened with an explicitly stated goal, performance related compensation quickly deteriorates into social engineering games, producing outcomes fully unrelated and even deterimental to the stated goals. "----

Dear Just me,
                    If we ever have performance payments for clarity in posting to the fourm you deserve one.

Dear Real PC,
                   
--"That kind of salary for public school teachers is not unusual where I live (NY area).-----

It's actually double the average if you check the figures given hihger up. That means for every teacher paid the salary you mention there should be one teacher getting $5 a day living in a dumpster and teaching for the love of it.

Teaching in NYC is so in demand that they go to Spain and South Africa to try and find teachers. And although the salary figures in both courntries are less than a quarter of those you mention the Spanish and South Africans stay put. The same happened in Ohio recently.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 09, 2003

I said NY area, not NYC. In NYC everyone except poor people send their kids to private school, bc the public schools are so bad.
In the expensive suburbs the public schools are ok and teachers get high salaries.

The Real PC
Friday, May 09, 2003

"If we ever have performance payments for clarity in posting to the fourm you deserve one"

Yeah yeh.
Oh well, remember these postings are more like core-dumps. I have no time to do the consider/spelling check/reread/correct etc. This is off the cuff, shoot ask questions later, style scribbeling.
Anyways, us foreign rifraf have to put up with casting these spells in a language not our fathers, remember.
My humbelest apologies to all offended . 

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 09, 2003

[In the expensive suburbs the public schools are ok and teachers get high salaries.]

I didn't mean to imply the high salaries make the schools ok.

The Real PC
Friday, May 09, 2003

"I really doubt if you are doing double the hours though."

Thatnks for your feedback. I called Tony this afternoon and asked him - he says he put in around 1400 hours last year, including the continuing education and conferences bits.

Checking my log sheet, it looks like over the last 365 days period, I have put in 3721 hours. That includes programming, design, marketing, customer service and so forth. I would say it is hard work and not the slacking you propose -- of the programming in particular when I calibrated my metrics last  month I was averaging 37,000 lines of non-blank, non-comment code per year.

I haven't taught elementary school but I have taught high school. And I do talk to Tony about his work. Elementary schools in the US are not the same as elementary schools in Saudi Arabia I suspect. No corporal punishment is allowed. When third graders attack each other with knives, teachers can not use any physical force to separate the attacker and victim, but must call for professionals. Violent third graders, mentally deranged from the abuse they suffer at home and their parent's crack and meth abuse during pregnancy, run wild. Little instruction if any can take place. The way schools are, I wouldn't do what he does for any price. Tony is tough and knows how to work the system so it's a good fit for him, whether or not he's worth the 90k. I suppose he could be exageratting his pay but I sort of doubt it.

X. J. Scott
Friday, May 09, 2003

Dear Just me,
                      I hope you weren't taking me as being sarcastic. I was expressing my true opinion.

Dear XJ,
              If you really are working 72 hours a week 52 weeks a year (as opposed to billing it or logging it) I hope you're enjoying life because at that rate you're not likely to have much of it left.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 09, 2003

Seriously -- you're claiming you work 10 hours a day, every day of the year. EVERY DAY.

Maybe I'm a lazy slumbitch, but I find that incredibly hard to swallow -- at the very least, you should no more consider yourself to be the average than you do your friend tony.

Incidentally, 1400 hours for 36 weeks (approximately what most schools do) is working 7 hours a day, which may be a bit low but I suspect does not cover weekend/night work that I know many teachers put in.

And until and unless you can produce proof (which, to be fair, I don't really expect you to be able to do for a variety of reasons) I will take your friend's $90k salary with a gigantic grain of salt.

Steven C.
Friday, May 09, 2003

Steve,

i don't know what to tell you abou Tony. I looked at the pdf of teacher's salaries surveys that was posted and it has maxium salaries well below Tony's claims. I'll see what he says about it when I talk to him next.

I don't think my on hours are out of line with what a lot of people work -- plenty of people have two full times jobs to make ends meet, although typically one will be a night  shift as guard or such that's not too demanding. The other categories of high-hour workers beyond the working poor are farmer and small business owner.

I take Saturdays off from development although I do often read technical manuals and trade books on Saturday. Other days a typical schedule is something like:

6:30-7 Get up, milk the goats, eat breakfast.
7:00-8 farming
8:00-11 home school the kids
11-11:30 dinner (called lunch in some parts)
11:30-5:30 business - coding, sales, customer support, etc
5:30-6 supper
6-6:30 playtime
6:30 milk the goats
6:30-2am coding

I don't think this is so different (hour wise) from the hours a lot of small business owners put in. 12 hrs a day I think is a bit of a minimum in that regard. And 12 hours 6 days a week is a pretty typical schedule in a lot of the world, I vaguely recall that's the hours that the Ticos in Costa Rica work, and probably a lot of other latin countries as well.

Getting rid of the TV is one secret to doing this. TV just saps your energy.

X. J. Scott
Saturday, May 10, 2003

Dear XJ Scott,
                      You have allowed yourself four hours sleep. Certian people do appear to be able to make do with less than normal sleep (Mrs. Thatcher was notoriously one of them) but most people who try to do that end up with severe psycho-somatic problems and the quality of their decision making and interpersonal reactions suffers long before that. Thje vast majority of the population require between seven and nine hours sleep. A much smaller proportion can get by on six hours, and there are really very few people who need less. When you are young you don't notice the effects so much but they pile up.

                      It is notoriously difficult to give accurate statistics on working hours since there is the question of overtime and part-time workers, and scheduled and unscheduled working hours but in general working hours decline the more developed the country. It is no coincidence that average working hours in the industralized world were about 3,000 in 1870 to 1,500 to 2,000 in 1990. This trend appears to have stopped of late (Japan is the exception where working hours declined as a result ot deliberate government policy and are now down to 1,734 scheduled hours and 1,868 actual hours) but the only courntries where there has been a significant actual increase are the US (a result of increased overtime) and Sweden, as a result of increased hours by part-time workers. At present the only country that keeps 19th century hours is Korea with an average of 2,500 hours per year, though the States would go over the 2,000 hour limit if part-time workers were taken out of the equation.

The general rule appears to be the richer the country the less the working hours. This makes sense. If you are employing an Indian domestic at $2 a day then you don't try and save money by cutting down on his hours. You tell him to hang around all the time; this does not mean he is being productive.

If you look at your teacher hours you will see the figure of 1,400 is not too far off the 1,850 that appears to be the average in the OECD. Bear in mind that nearly all of that 1,400 will be worked. Overr 1,000 hours will be contact hours of some kind or another, and the marking and bureaucracy and meetings and  minimal preparaton will take up a large chunk of those remaining, so even the slackers are working near that figure. And of course the vocationaliists will be working a lot more. And the teachers hours are hours worked. Once your teaching is done you want to get everything else over asap. If you're given a certain number of hours presence, as happens in some countries for teaching and in most office jobs then you stretch the time out. When I've got the work done I go home and surf "Joel on Software". Well over two-thirds of the posters on these forums surf from their ioffice in office hours exclusively; indeed I suspect home-based consultants are the only ones that post at weekends.

Having worked both in schools and industry, I would say that teachers in general work as hard a week as most other workers; the perk they have is the holidays, and that is reflected in the lower pay.

On the subject of pay the salary per teaching hour in the US is $35 for primary school education and $38 for secondary education (for what it is worth the figures for the Czech Republic are $13 and 16$ and for South Korea $64 and $90 respectively) . That is per teaching hour, so you would probably have to take off a third to get the rate for per hour worked (on the reasonalbe presumption that a teacher does one hours other work for every two hours teaching), and that would still be the hour really worked and not the hours presence. Perhaps Real PC, and others who think teachers are grossly overpaid should compare that with what they are billing. The figures are from the National Science Foundation, and are here http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/c1/c1s7.htm#c1s7l3

Going back to your particular case. Your hours are not normal, even for a self-employed person in the States, and the United States is not normal in its ever increasing number of working hours and short number of holidays. People who try to work those hours for more than a limited period of time end up with burn-out at best, and divorce or suicide at worst.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, May 11, 2003

Thanks for the links Stephen, they are interesting. I don't really understand what a statutory hourly wage is though - does that mean that the total cost for a teacher in OECD countries is $35/hr? Or that they are recieving that much in salary and benefits?

Regarding national averages, as I understand it those averages have been calculated to include part time jobs. Most full time workers in the US work more than 2000 hrs per year. Also, the statistics are totalled by job and not by individual. So a person who works one 8 hr job and one 4 hr job is counted as two persons with an average of 6 hours. Also, they include workers who are on hourly wages but not salaried employees whosoe hours are not kept track of in the same way.

I have never seen a official analysis of hours worked by small business owners. I still think my hours are typical, based on what I know of other small business owners.

X. J. Scott
Sunday, May 11, 2003

OK, a quick google ... the US census bureau monitors this stuff using "a mail-out/mail-back survey of some 125,000 selected minority and nonminority owners":

http://www.census.gov/econ/overview/mu0300.html

However, they do not make any of the results available there it seems, perhaps it's their little secret... there is some mention of 'making a purchase'. So I have to pay for them to gather this info and then pay to see it? Where is computer software development? Am I a manufacturer? Who designed this awful us census "helping you make informed decisions" website?

OK, moving on now, the wall Street Journal has REAL information, saying that 52 hours is *average*:

http://www.startupjournal.com/columnists/startuplifestyle/20020627-lifestyle.html

(Great article there, WSJ is a fantastic newspaper...)

It does say:

> "Entrepreneurs who work fewer hours than the average employee tend to have low overhead costs, are in fields where their knowledge is highly valued, or both, says Andrew Zacharakis, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass. "They are usually home-based businesses or consulting businesses," he says. "If you want to start a more traditional venture, such as a retail store, the idea that you will work fewer hours is probably a myth."

So  it seems I *am* doing something wrong since I should be in this fewer hours category!

--

BTW, a friend of our family informed us yesterday that she is quitting her job teaching math at the high school and will now work full time at Walmart instead of part-time like she was before. She's a good teacher but she says the students are too violent and disrespectful and the administration gives hor no support.

X. J. Scott
Sunday, May 11, 2003

The statutory teaching hour refers to the fact that in each country teachers are required to teach a certain number of class hours. This can be decided by stipulating the number of hours a teacher will teach (for example in Spain an elementary school teacher will teach 25 hours and a secondary school teacher 18 hours) or the number of hours a student must be in class with adjustments for the proportion of time a teacher will be in class (in the UK schools must provide between four hours and five and a half hours instruction not counting lunctime) or in accordance with national agreements.  As I said before teachers are all required to do other hours about from the teaching hours ( one hour of other work for every two teaching hours would be a conservative estimation) so it should give you some way of comparing your billing rate with what a teacher gets.

The OECD gives figures for average working both for all workers and for "dependent" workers for the USA. There is almost NO DIFFERENCE in the number of hours worked. I didn't give you the link because I assumed you were working too many hours to ever have time to read it :)

This is what you would expect. In general the small business owner will work all the hours god sends while he is setting up his business and after a few years settle down and do less than his workers.

Now the figures about those working less than the normal number of hours being knowledge workers makes sense. If you are a consultant and your business is starting up you will bill less hours than when you were working part time, but if you are a small shopowner and have few customers you will still keep the shop open tha same number of hours. In fact, you will "work" more hours because you don't have enough customers to afford staff to allow you to have time off.

The figures for average production employee include the part time workers I suspect, which is what will bring their figures down.

In my last post I quoted a figure of about 2,300 hours a year work for the USA. I can't remember where it came from but I think it was an adjusted figure for average hours by full-time workers. I do remember that no country in the EU went over 2000 hours though the UK came close.

Two other things affect the statistics, particulary for small business owners where there is no way of checking up the subjects estimation. Over counting of hours worked; remember that in the States working long hours is considered a virtue by many, whilst in many other cultures it is considered rather to be the result of social maladaption or inefficient time management. You do see this with teachers actually. To believe many teachers or their spouses nearly all teachers work fifty hour weeks; the kindest explanation is that not many of them are good at Math. The second is counting hours as work when the activity involved is anything but work. For example you do not allow any hours in your average day for posting to JOS, but you are probably spending between half-an-hour to an hour every day doing that. I go home and so don't count it as working time, except when we don't have classes and are on a 7.00 to 4.00 timetable when I surf work related forums at work and officially my working hours increase even though I am doing the same or less.

Now I don't know your life and so can't comment on the veracity of your figures. I can say however that they are not in the least typical, although if it gives you a warm sense of belonging to believe they are, fair enough.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, May 11, 2003

"You are probably spending between half-an-hour to an hour every day doing that"

Ah man, I was going to try to contest that but I am embarassed to see that I am the 26th most prolific poster of all time on this board:

http://www.usabilitymustdie.com/jos/WW_All_Members.html

Wow... I've gotta cut back. In rather amazing news on that page, someone has FINALLY busted through Ged Byrne's *tremendous* JOS posting record, claiming top honors for the human citizen who spends more time posting on JOS than any one else on the planet. Who could it be... the page knows the answers.

X. J. Scott
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Hey, that page is a bit unfair though.
Standard short replies such as this one are given the same weight as the average Albert D. Kallal book chapter.
I hereby demand a statistic based on words or characters ;-).
If Joel would grant me permission to pound his site during the off-hours one night, I could do it quite quickly (about 20 lines of C# should do it I guess).

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

It's great to see you #3, glad you could make it!

:-))

X. J. Scott
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dear XJ,
                Guilty as charged, but I don't pretend I'm working 15 hours a day. And you tell me what else there is to do in Saudi Arabia.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

:-)

Sunbathing? Seriously though, don't you have any nice beaches or is it rocky shore lines?

Not sure if you're thinking I'm only pretending to work; seems like hard work pretending and wouldn't seem worth the trouble since I work for myself. Likewise, not much to do here but work... I like JoS since it's a good place to find out what's happening in my field;  there are a lot of great articles posted and debates about new technologies. if I was in an office I'm sure it would be normal to spend just as much time talking up similar subjects with coworkers. Don't you do the same in the teacher's lounge there? Or don't they have that -- here in the US most middle and high school teachers have a free period once a day with an open hours, plus their 30 minutes for lunch and their four 10 minute breaks between the 5 periods they do teach. It's not uncommon for them to spend some of that time talking with other teachers in the lounge, or smoking and drinking coffee, or watching soap operas... what's the schedule like where you're at?

Regarding the time spent on JoS, I count it as work time which it is, and it's productive work time. If I was a doctor, physicist or molecular biologist I wouldn't be following this board as it wouldn't be my field of interest. I think the last ten or fifteen books I've read in the last year have been because of recommendations from the knowledgable folks here, or from links followed and they've all been good recommendations. Not just engineering books either, but business and marketing too. That's one of the nice things about JoS, it's not just a tech board but deals with business and life issues as well. The average person here seems more well-rounded as an individual than on some of the other brand-name tech boards, none of which i follow any more.

X. J. Scott
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Saudi's one of the few places in the world where people only go to the beach at night.

I'm not objecting to your including your JOS as worktime. I would probably be hard pushed to do the same, but I can claim all the time surfing the educational forums as the same.

You're actually conceding my point here though. If I was obliged to be at work a fixed number of hours then some of that would be dead wood. As I am only obliged to be here for the classes and then ten office hours, preparation and other work being flexible, then the tendency is to get as much as possible done in that time so that you can go home asap or so that you have as little as possible to take home with you. So all of the hours counted as working hours are working hours, whereas if a teacher had 8.00 - 5.00 hours he would officially work 40 hours but in practice would work the same, or even less on occasion. Your friend's 1400 hours annually will be 1400 hours solid work; the gaps won't be included in the total.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

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