Across the country, teaching is an overwhelmingly female profession, and in fact has become more so over time. More than three-quarters of all teachers in kindergarten through high school are women, according to Education Department data, up from about two-thirds three decades ago. The disparity is most pronounced in elementary and middle schools, where more than 80 percent of teachers are women. Educators, advocates and lawmakers fight bitterly about tenure, academic standards and the prevalence of testing, but one thing most sides tend to agree on is the importance of raising the status of teaching so the profession will attract the best candidates.
“I was naive. To me, it was little trinkets sold in market stalls, the occasional tusk. But then I realized—it was all connected. That’s when I said, ‘I need to document this as far as I can push it.’ ”