The Private School Advantage for Teachers
Dr. Demuth

Contentment with one’s career is a
blessing to be cherished. Not everyone
enjoys their job, but those who do
seem to sense that they’re “at home,” fulfilling
what they are called to do in a setting
that feels right. Working conditions
contribute a lot to such contentment. If
one feels supported, affirmed, and appreciated,
and perceives the workplace as pleasant,
the contentment factor grows.
New data from the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) show some
significant differences in job satisfaction
and perceived working conditions between
teachers in private schools and their counterparts
in public schools. Despite earning
lower salaries, teachers in private schools
are more satisfied with their careers, feel
more recognized and supported, and are
less stressed about their job setting than
teachers in public schools. They also report
lower rates of problematic student
Teachers Like Being Here
Tables to be published in the 2013
Digest of Education Statistics and based on
data collected in the 2011-12 Schools and
Staffing Survey (SASS) show that private
school teachers tend to enjoy teaching at
their school. Nearly nine in ten private
school teachers (87.5 percent) agreed with
the following statement: “Teachers at this
school like being here; I would describe us
as a satisfied group.” About three-fourths
of public school teachers (75.7 percent)
agreed with that statement.
In other measures of satisfaction, 80
percent of private school teachers said
they liked “the way things are run” at
their school, and 94 percent said they are
“generally satisfied with being a teacher at
this school.” Slightly lower percentages of
public school teachers said they liked how
their school is run (73 percent) and were
satisfied with being a teacher there (90
Workplace stress is often an indicator of
job satisfaction. Fortunately, only 12 percent
of private school teachers and 22 percent
of public school teachers said, “Stress
and disappointments involved in teaching
at this school aren’t really worth it.”
One source of stress can be the fear of
losing a job. Ten percent of private school
teachers and
44 percent of
public school
teachers said, “I
worry about the
security of my
job because of
the performance
of my students
on state or local
If they could get a higher paying job,
would they “leave teaching as soon as possible”?
Only 22 percent of private school
teachers and 30 percent of public school
teachers said they would.
Speaking of higher pay, public school
teachers in 2011-12 did indeed have a
base salary that substantially exceeded
that of private school teachers ($53,070
vs. $40,200), but surprisingly, a slightly
higher share of private school teachers (50
percent) said they were satisfied with their
salary than public school teachers (47 percent).
Relationships with parents can sometimes
be a challenge for teachers, though
apparently less so in private schools.
Eighty-five percent of private school teachers,
compared to 59 percent of public
school teachers, claimed to “receive a great
deal of support from parents” for the work
they do.
Sometimes little things mean a lot
when it comes to creating a satisfying
work environment. More private school
teachers (91 percent) than public school
teachers (79 percent) agreed that necessary
materials were “available as needed by
staff.” And fewer private school teachers
(41 percent) than public school teachers
(69 percent) thought that “routine duties
and paperwork” interfered with their job.
At the root
of some discontent
teachers is the
vexing issue of
student misbehavior.
percentage of
teachers saying
that certain
student behaviors are “serious problems”
in their schools varies considerably by type
of school (see table). Twelve percent of
public school teachers and 4 percent of
private school teachers put student tardiness
in that category. Fourteen percent
of public school teachers and 3 percent of
private school teachers identify student absenteeism
as a “serious problem,” and the
percentages also vary when applying the
label to other behaviors: students cutting
class (5 percent of public school teachers
and 0.7 percent of private school teachers),
student apathy (20 percent and 4 percent),
and students coming unprepared to learn
(30 percent and 4 percent).
Asked if “lack of parental involvement”
is a serious problem in their school, 25
percent of public school teachers, but only
3 percent of private school teachers, said
it was.
When it comes to cooperating with
colleagues, a high proportion of teachers,
public and private, perceived professional
relations in the school in a positive light.
More than four out of five teachers (82

DC CAPE Overcomes Odds to Secure Equity for Students
It’s a modern-day illustration of “The Little
Engine That Could,” the classic children’s story
about how resolution and effort can overcome
the odds and result in success. But instead of
pulling a long train over a steep mountain, the
“impossible” challenge was convincing the Committee
on Education of the Council of the District
of Columbia to extend a college scholarship
program to low-income students attending private
schools. And the determined blue engine,
repeating “I think I can” all the way, was the
recently established District of Columbia CAPE,
headed by a resolute president,
Jennifer Daniels.
When first introduced
by Education Committee
Chair David A. Catania, the
DC Promise Establishment
Act of 2013 provided college
grants only to DC students
who graduated from
the District’s public secondary
schools. Excluded were
students from religious and
independent schools. But
a determined DC CAPE
quickly launched a campaign calling on private
school parents to urge councilmembers to amend
the bill to include all the District’s students. Parents
were encouraged to sign a petition stating,
in part, “Parents make tough decisions to select
a school that best fits their child’s academic, social,
and emotional needs. No taxpaying citizen
should be punished for making a choice on behalf
of their child.”
The campaign,which included emails, phone
calls, letters, and even testimony by students and
parents at a committee hearing, achieved success
when Councilmember Catania introduced an
amended version of the bill, which his committee
unanimously approved December 11.
“Given the importance of higher education
in determining employment status and earning
potential, it is critical that the District act to remove
barriers preventing residents from accessing
higher education,” said Catania.
The bill requires grant recipients to attend
an accredited post-secondary institution at least
Grants vary in amount depending on family
income. Students from families with incomes
up to 50 percent of Area Median Income would
receive $12,000 annually up
to a lifetime maximum of
$60,000. A family of four
earning under $54,000 annually
would be eligible for
the maximum award. Students
from families with incomes
between 126 percent
and 200 percent of AMI
(up to $215,000 annually
for a family of four) would
receive $3,000 annually.
TDC also has a Tuition
Assistance Grant (TAG)
program, approved by Congress, which helps
DC residents by paying the difference between
in-state and out-of-state tuition at state universities
across the country. Supporters of the new
grant program note that it differs from the TAG
program in its narrower income-eligibility requirements
(TAG is available to families earning
up to $1 million annually), its applicability to all
accredited post-secondary institutions (TAG is
primarily limited to four-year institutions), and
its limitation to graduates of secondary schools
located within the District (TAG also applies
to DC residents who graduate from secondary
schools located outside the District).

They share a warrior’s zeal for social justice.
They seek not to patch the problem of poverty,
but to break its chains. They provide an excellent
education steeped in faith, love, dignity,
and service—what many would call a foolproof
foundation for happiness and success.
The “they” are leaders of schools that make
up the Episcopal Urban School Alliance
(EUSA), offering low- or no-cost education to
children in need and
bucking the trend of
closings that have beset
inner-city religious
schools for years.
Established in 2009,
the alliance has a noble
mission: “Articulate
and promote a common
interest in serving
the educational needs
of economically disadvantaged
share best practices in
economic models, institutional
and Episcopal identity
among its members and
aspiring members; and
explore the ways the
Holy Spirit may move
the continuing cause
of justice in an educational
The National Association of Episcopal
Schools (NAES), a member of CAPE, recently
released a series of videos that highlight the
heroic work of alliance schools. In inspiring
testimony, various visionary leaders discuss their
schools’ origins, ministry, mission, culture, and
funding models. The Good Samaritan Foundation
in Wilmington, DE, supported the project.
Quotes for this article are extracted from the
According to the Rev. Daniel R. Heischman,
executive director of NAES and president of
CAPE, alliance schools “see education as one of
the key ways that we break the cycles of poverty
in our culture today.” All indications are that
the schools are succeeding in putting children
of significant disadvantage on the path to great
David Kasievich, head of St. James School in
Philadelphia, PA, reports that all of the school’s
students come from low-income households and
most are from “urban schools that are failing—
schools that aren’t meeting their needs.”
“Some of our children have families and
generations of family that have perhaps been
incarcerated or have connections with drugs or
gangs,” says The Rev. Susan Anderson-Smith,
chaplain at the Imago Dei Middle School in
Tucson, AZ. She describes the school as “a stable
container, a safe place for them to be.” Rev.
Anne Sawyer, the school’s head, reports that
students “blossom” and undergo an “amazing
transformation” during their stay at Imago Dei.
“They begin by finding self-confidence, by beginning
to believe in themselves,
and they begin to
excel academically.”
Academic growth at
Trinity Episcopal Day
School in Hartford,
CT, is astounding. According
to Rev. Johan
H. Johnson, who heads
the middle school, “We
usually see our kids entering
testing about the
second-grade level on
average in fifth grade,
but they graduate eighth
grade testing about midtenth
grade in math and
eleventh in reading and
writing.” Johnson says
the school’s formula for
a quality education is
very simple: “It’s about
small class size, small
teacher-to-student ratio.
It’s about students and teachers being invested
in what they are doing, and about a very strong
program that integrates arts, that integrates science,
and that has an extended day.”
Offering an education for little or no tuition
is a financial challenge that relies on donations,
foundation grants, and support from the wider
community. But besides a steady stream of
funding, a higher motivation seems to be sustaining
these schools.
“All of the schools in the Urban Alliance are
schools of faith, so faith is a very, very important
thing,” says The Rev. Canon Preston B. Hannibal,
canon for academic ministries for the Episcopal
Diocese of Washington.
“I think we’re tapping into something very
deep and very important that people are feeling
about what we need to do in education,” says
Rev. Heischman. “The Urban School Alliance
is one of the most exciting witnesses of social
justice in our Church. We hope that through
their work, many of the inequities we see—in
education, in economics, in accessibility—can be
redressed. All you need to do is to go into these
schools and see what miracles are taking place.”