There are about 64,000 public school teachers in Washington. Most of them are white women, and above the age of 40.

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(Editor’s note: For the back-to-school season, Education Lab asked readers what is on their minds this time of year. This is the seventh question we’ve answered — find the others at www.seattletimes.com/tag/education-lab-iq.)

When journalists or public officials approach conversations about education — be it discipline, funding or even a new school opening — they often focus on data about students. But what about the folks in front of the classroom? Not so much, noticed Maxine Alloway, a faculty member at the University of Washington’s College of Education.

Alloway, who trains elementary school teachers, thinks information about teachers is too often left out of conversations about education.

“Who are the teachers working with our students?” she asked Education Lab. “Demographics, sex, age, race?”


Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Those are worthwhile questions to ask, especially considering what researchers have found in the past two decades about “teacher match” — the extent to which teachers reflect the racial or socioeconomic backgrounds of their students. A 2017 study, for example, found that low-income African American boys were less likely to drop out of high school if they had at least one black teacher in their late elementary school years.

To answer Maxine’s questions, Education Lab dug through data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here is what we found:

(Unless otherwise noted, this data comes from the 2016-2017 school year.)

Number of teachers: Counting teachers with a teaching certificate (which excludes paraeducators and many emergency teachers) the most current estimate is 64,000. The total student count in Washington, as of May 2017, was 1.1 million.

Gender: As in most other states, Washington’s teaching force is largely female. In 2015-2016, just about 27 percent of full-time teachers in Washington were male.

Race: Around 89 percent of our public school teachers are white, which is about seven percentage points higher than the national average. Around 4 percent identify as Hispanic, 2.7 as Asian, and 1.3 percent as black and 1.4 as multiracial. Fewer than 1 percent of teachers identify as Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Though OSPI and some researchers say educator diversity has improved here in recent years, the teaching force still is overwhelmingly white when compared to students — around 45 percent of whom aren’t white, according to OSPI data.

Age: In an analysis of OSPI’s school personnel database, we found about 60 percent of Washington teachers are above the age of 40.

Geography: Unsurprisingly, the 10 districts with the most teachers are concentrated in the Puget Sound area, with the exception of the Spokane, Evergreen and Vancouver school districts.

Experience: Washington’s teachers, on average, have about 13 years of teaching experience. Sixty-six percent have a master’s degree.

Want to know more? Leave a question in the comments, or check out the resources below to do your own research:

— The “Report Card” page on OSPI’s website has data about the demographics of Washington’s teaching force for the last two school years.

— The Kitsap Sun has a handy tool that gives the age, salary, credit hours and more information about individual school personnel. You can filter by district, school and department.

— If you’re familiar with Microsoft Excel or Access, you can download and browse OSPI’s personnel databases.