More states slashing pay bumps for teachers with master's degrees

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 9:00 p.m. MDT

Harvard research indicates graduate diplomas generally have no effect on a teacher’s efficacy. (Shutterstock) Harvard research indicates graduate diplomas generally have no effect on a teacher’s efficacy. (Shutterstock)

A recent front-page article in the Wall Street Journal examined a growing movement in public education to diminish or altogether eliminate the practice of raising teacher pay for educators with a master’s degree.

Stephanie Banchero reported for the Journal, “Thomas J. Kane, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director for the Center for Education Policy Research, (said) decades of research has shown that teachers holding master's degrees are no more effective at raising student achievement than those with only bachelor's, except in math. Researchers have also shown that teachers with advanced degrees in science benefit students ….

“Teacher unions aren't necessarily opposed to changing how teachers are paid. But they worry administrators will craft pay schemes too reliant on student test scores, or that they will slash the master's bump and not replace it with other methods to move up the pay scale.”

Per Banchero’s article, states like North Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida, Indiana and Louisiana have already legislated new policies that make automatic raises for teachers with master’s degrees a thing of the past.

Tangentially, Kane’s research has determined that several other seemingly reliable factors like graduate degrees are also “poor predictors” of a teaching aptitude. For instance, in 2006 Kane co-authored a study of New York City schools that explored the relationship between a teacher’s path to certification and her classroom competence.

Regarding that study, in November 2011 Harvard Magazine reported, “Researchers divided (teachers) into three groups: traditionally certified, alternatively certified (by the New York City Teaching Fellows Program or Teach for America), and uncertified at the time of hire. … They found only small differences among the three groups, but large differences in ability among individual teachers ….

“Other academic credentials, such as selectivity of undergraduate institution or grade-point average, also proved to be poor predictors of a teacher’s classroom impact.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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