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Liberal Think Tank says Advanced Degrees Don't Make Better Teachers

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Cleveland science teacher Gregory Dore has his master's degree, but the Center for American Progress says advanced degrees shouldn't be rewarded with financial incentives because they don't make for better teachers.

A new report from the Center for American Progress argues that teachers with master’s degrees do not do a better job educating their students than their peers without advanced degrees.

The report goes on to say that states waste money by giving salary increases to teachers as a reward for getting a master’s degree, spending nearly $15 billion annually on such pay hikes.

According to the report, Ohio is worse on this front than many other states. This is from a press release sent out

Teachers with advanced degrees are generally compensated with additional salary or stipends, known as the master’s degree bump, but some states are paying far more into this inefficient and unwise policy than others. In Ohio, for instance, the state spends more than $430 per student each year on its master’s degree bump. In others states, such as Utah, that number is $39 per student each year, illustrating the tremendous range in values.

The report blames the advanced-degree programs, arguing that they don’t do a very good job furthering a teacher’s education. According to the report, master's programs do not spend enough time on how to actually improve instruction skills in the classroom.

From the report:

Instructional efficacy is not the focus of many master’s degree programs in education. Approximately 10 percent of the master’s degrees held by teachers are geared toward educational administration. Further, some master’s programs double as teacher education programs with curricula that are a “confusing patchwork” lacking in rigor and often absent coursework that a reasonable person might imagine fundamental.

In fact, the National Council on Teacher Quality has raised the ire of many colleges and universities lately by questioning their efficacy.

The center is proposing a couple solutions to the situation. First is to encourage teachers to get a master’s in their area of expertise. So, for example, a science teacher would do better to get an advanced degree in science rather than a master’s of education degree. That’s how it’s done in Finland, the center argues, and the U.S. does tend to look up to Finland’s education model.

The report contends that states would be better off rewarding teachers who take on challenging subjects, like math, or are willing to teach in particularly troubled schools. Overall, the center favors a “more complex teacher compensation system, in which higher pay goes to teachers in shortage subject areas, to effective teachers who support novices or tackle the most challenging assignments, and to teachers with extraordinary instructional impact.”

Performance pay has been a key part of education initiatives from the Department of Education lately. It should be noted here that the Center for American Progress is a liberal think tank with ties to both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Tell us what you think; should teachers get pay increases for getting advanced degrees?

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