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KELO-TV Makes Misleading Graph of Teacher Pay Rankings

The silliest, most misleading chart of the week comes from KELO-TV, which compares teacher pay in South Dakota and five adjoining states by showing lower rankings as higher numbers:

Rae Yost, "Open Teachers' Desks in South Dakota," bar chart on teacher pay, KELO-TV, 2021.07.27.
Rae Yost, “Open Teachers’ Desks in South Dakota,” bar chart on teacher pay, KELO-TV, 2021.07.27.

This graph is visually deceptive, inverting and misstating the information that rankings are supposed to convey. At first glance, the chart suggests South Dakota has the highest teacher pay, even though rankings are meant to convey “higher” amounts with smaller numbers. The bars create the impression that South Dakota’s teacher pay is twice that of Minnesota and Iowa, even though rankings are not meant to convey any information about proportion. Bar charts are for numerical data, showing relative sizes or quantities; rankings are ordinal data, showing the order of data points without showing their actual values or relative magnitude.

KELO-TV constructs a better chart when it shows actual average starting pay and overall average pay for teachers:

Yost, 2021.07.27.
The unlabeled columns likely represent North Dakota’s teacher pay. Yost, 2021.07.27.

Actual dollar figures are numerical data, properly representable in a bar chart. This chart accurately shows that while first-year teachers may find South Dakota’s pay regionally competitive, South Dakota schools don’t offer as much potential salary growth and will ultimately leave them earning $10K less each year than if they move to Iowa, Minnesota, or Wyoming.

5 Comments

  1. M 2021-07-28

    That first graph throws a person off at first. Like looking at a map where south is at the top.

  2. grudznick 2021-07-28

    That’s an amusing chart. I would like to see how the KELO fellows graph out the SILT and the pay of each of the Seven Indisputable Levels of Teachers here in SD, and then in the neighboring states. Exclude Minneapolis, and Lincoln NE, for they are not even normalized within their own states.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-07-28

    Regents made out like bandits according to KELO News.

  4. M 2021-07-29

    If teachers in S.D. were men, the pay would be astronomical, they would have a strong union, and they would have a voice. But this is a red state so what can we expect?

  5. M 2021-07-29

    I know 2 people who attended college together in southern California in the 80’s, became teachers and retired after over 26 years in education. Female retired at $38,000 and the male at $94,000, one taught in S.D. and the other stayed in California.

    Was the cost of living really that much different to warrant such a drastic disparity?

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