Detroit Third-Best City for Teachers Ranking Leaves Them Puzzled


The latest in a string of national education rankings has some education professionals shaking their heads. A New York-based research and analytics company, Value Penguin, said that troubled Detroit ranked third among large cities and sixth nationally in the best cities in which to be a teacher.

Ann Zaniewski of the Detroit Free Press writes that the rankings were based on salary, cost of living, number of teaching jobs in the city, and “location quotient,” meaning the concentration of teachers in an area as a percentage of all occupations. The information used to establish the rankings came from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said Andrew Pentis an associate editor at Value Penguin.

But Tracy Arneau, a Detroit Public Schools teacher, laughed.

“I’m not sure how that could be,” she said, “when so many teachers don’t have supplies, (and with) the environment in terms of financial compensation and the proposed health care changes [in such trouble].”

She believes that Value Penguin did not consider factors like large class sizes, safety concerns, and the nervousness over the governor’s proposed education reforms.

For more than six years, Detroit Public Schools have been under emergency management. Pentis says Value Penguin forgot to factor in the “human element” and concentrated more on data. Pentis also said that his company was looking at certain metrics and added that feedback from teachers was sought. Quotes from several teachers found online at the Value Penguin site, however, were from teachers outside of Detroit.

Two other cities in Michigan made the Top 30 list: Warren ranked #10 and Kalamazoo came in at #11.

In Detroit, health care costs for district employees have increased significantly and salary step increases for teachers have been frozen since 2012. Value Penguin published the average salary for a Detroit teacher at $54,290, while the state budget office says the average salary for a Detroit teacher in 2013-2014 was $62,112. Kimberly Gill, a reporter for WDIV-TV, writes that Executive Vice President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, upon hearing of the Value Penguin ranking, said:

I’m not sure who they’re talking about but it should not be Detroit Public Schools.”

The study explains more about the “location quotient” by stating that it measures the concentration of teachers in an area as a percentage of all occupations and then compares that to the national average.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has suggested breaking the struggling school system into two entities in order to improve management of the almost $500 million debt in operating costs.  Detroit Federation of Teachers former President Steve Conn said in an interview on WWJ Newsradio 950′s Greg Bowman that teachers want to lower class size, want pay raises, and want to attract and retain more teachers. He added that the system needs books and supplies and that the system needs public schools, not charters.

Eric Owens of The Daily Caller writes that Value Penguin normally rates things like credit cards and health insurance plans.

Reductions to teachers’ overall benefits packages could also soon be made. Although Value Penguin missed the mark on reporting the correct average teacher salary in Detroit, the actual average salary, at $62,112, not including the benefits package, is over 230% of the average household income in Detroit.