Monday, May 05, 2008

The EFF Podcast on Posting Teacher Salary Data Online

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation is in a good groove with their Get Free podcasts. The hosts are entertaining, the topics are worthwhile, and the production value is praiseworthy. Even though I’m a liberal (who still finds their video podcast host very easy on the eyes) I can give credit where it's due.

In their most recent podcast there’s a discussion of the EFF’s habit of posting teacher salary data on-line. Sonya Jones, who really comes off as rather bitchy in her blog posts, had gotten a letter from a teacher who didn’t realize that this was the practice and that it was just one of those things that we teachers have to deal with by virtue of being state employees.

The piece from the podcast that’s interesting is the defense that the hosts put up, offering that it’s not about individual teachers, really, but more about giving the public information on the system as a whole.

I think this defense fails. I can see where they’re trying to go, but I don’t think they quite get there.

The biggest flaw is simply in how their spreadsheets on salary data are constructed. As a union guy I’ll freely admit that I’ve used them on more than a couple of occasions to help various causes, and from that perspective I can tell you that the problem with the spreadsheets is that there is no differentiation between various job classes. You can’t look at any one of them and tell what the average teacher makes in district X, because if you aggregate all of the names and data for any individual school district you’ll also pull in the paraprofessionals (artificially lowering the average) and the administration (raising it up, though not by nearly as much a percentage). Even if you have a rote understanding of what the range of a teacher’s salary is, I’m willing to bet that the consumer at large could look at the raw data and pull in custodians (since most of them work a 240 day year) and paraprofessional supervisory staff.

Last year I looked at the same topic and asked whether this data was usable data, and as constructed I don’t know that it is.

If you've accessed the spreadsheets and used them, what did you use them for?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the practice has value in this state of "open government" and populist policies.

Especially given the intense marketing suggesting meager compensation and provision for education.

This marketing appears to be working too:

In fact, at least in Washington one could wonder why the information for state employees is posted by the state, but for school employees a private entity must post it.


11:04 AM  

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