Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond Teachers: Who Else Is Your District Employing?

Credit: Flickr/ecastro

You may know that teachers make up roughly half of the education staff in school districts, but who are the other employees on the rolls? To provide a clearer picture, I broke down data from the U.S. Department of Education on district staffing to visualize this often-overlooked slice of the workforce.

I found that the numbers of principals, administrators and instructional coordinators per pupil have jumped considerably in the past decade. Who are these employees and what role do they play in ensuring U.S. students receive a good education? 

That’s a question that’s ripe for more reporting. As a starting point, explore the interactive charts to see trends nationally and in individual states.  

The first visual illustrates the shifts in the number of teachers as a share of the total public school workforce. While the national average has stayed relatively flat at roughly 50 percent, big swings have occurred in individual states. 

  • In Virginia, only about a third of the school system employees are teachers.
  • In South Carolina, the share is nearly seven out of 10.
  • In 2000, Wyoming’s share of teachers was more than 48 percent, but by 2010 it had dropped to 43 percent.
  • Then again, Nevada shifted from just under 59 percent to more than 65 percent from 2000 to 2010.
  • California’s share  shrank over the decade, from 54 percent to 49 percent.
  • And Illinois – another large state — experienced a big jump, from slightly more than half to three-fifths in those years.

The grid below is organized by years. For each year, the U.S. average is at the top left corner. Hover over each state and spot the changes in trends year to year. 

Some story threads to pull from this: Has your state teacher corps grown or decreased as a share of school system staff? What were the reasons? Smaller schools? More administrators? A raw decline in teachers? 

The next chart goes deeper. It captures Education Department data on the growth rate of administrative staff at the national level since 1995. It shows that while the teacher workforce dwarfs administration, the numbers of district-level officials and administrators have grown at a much faster clip over the past two decades. 

For reporters, it’s worth asking whether your district has expanded its administrative ranks. If so, what explains the growth? Were teachers laid off to make room in the budget for senior staff? What reforms are being implemented, if any, that require more administrative workers? 

One group in particular, what the National Center for Education Statistics calls instruction coordinators, has doubled in size in less than 20 years. Instruction coordinators supervise instructional programs at the school district or sub-district level. The growing popularity of these district employees appears to correspond with a spate of recent research highlighting the effects principals have on teachers when they engage in instructional coaching.

There’s plenty more to explore at the NCES site, including the 1.9 million staffers who play support roles. Though the above charts took some time, they’re just scratching at the surface of what’s available on NCES or your state’s data sites. If you’ve built a data viz you’re proud of, post a link in the comments below or email me. And if you need help building a data visualization tool, shoot me a line!


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