Does a master’s degree and, in particular, an M.Ed., really mean that a teacher is a ‘master’ of what he or she does, teach?
In a speech at an American Enterprise Institute forum back in November, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, that state and local governments ought to reconsider their policies of granting pay raises to teachers with master’s degrees ‘because evidence suggests that the degree alone does not improve student achievement.’ Philanthropist Bill Gates has also suggested that bonuses for teachers with master’s degrees are pretty much a waste of money—-just the thing to cut at a time when so many school districts are straining to balance their budgets.
According to a November article in KOMONews (Seattle), 48 percent of public school teachers in the had a master’s degree or above in 2008. Moreover, almost every one of these teachers received a bonus of between $1,423 and $10,777 each year, according to research from the University of Washington. This amounts to more than $8.6 billion in bonuses to teachers with master’s degrees.
90 percent of those degrees are in education, rather than in specific subject areas such as English, according to a study by Marguerite Roza and Raegen Miller for the Center on Reinventing Education at the University of Washington. Research done in 1997 by their colleague Dan Goldhaber has ‘shown that students of teachers with master’s degrees show no better progress in student achievement than their peers taught by teachers without advanced degrees.’ Repeated studies have shown the same results.
Over at EdWeek there’s a discussion going on about whether or not Master’s Degrees matter and also, in a more productive vein, about alternatives for what teachers should get raises for, including limiting bonus pay to getting degrees in specific areas (i.e., not education) and linking pay to evaluations.
Goes without saying that changing the practice of teachers receiving bonus pay for earning a Master’s degree is going to take some doing. KOMONews quotes Erick Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who notes the ‘biggest losers’ will be university education schools who ‘make a lot of money on master’s degrees.’ According to Hanushek,
“There’s a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy,” he said.
Hanushek said the University of Washington estimate of the $8.6 billion annual cost of master’s degree money is low.
“It’s what you would call free money, but not from a political standpoint,” he said.
Seems to me that we have got to reexamine the whole business of teaching teachers to teach—-perhaps it has become too much of a business, indeed.
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