Advance degree confusion

Well I’m a bit confused about an article I’ve just finished reading that I found while surfing the News Journals Education section this evening. The article is actually found at Title is “Economists want to stop teachers’ degree bonuses” By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP of the ASSOCIATED PRESS.
The reason I’m confused is that these business folks are pointing out that…
Every year, American schools pay more than $8.6 billion in bonuses to teachers with master’s degrees, even though the idea that a higher degree makes a teacher more effective has been mostly debunked.
Then we have so called Education experts such as US Education Secretary Arne Duncan stating
The economy has given the nation an opportunity to make dramatic improvements in the productivity of its education system and to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master’s degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn’t work.
Finally, billionaire business man, Bill Gates, took aim at school budgets and the master’s degree bonus.
My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master's degree – and more than half of our teachers get it. That's more than $300 million every year that doesn't help kids," he said. "And that's one state," said Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a speech Friday in Louisville to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gates also took aim at pensions and seniority. "Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive," he acknowledged. The author goes on to present research from many collegiate economics folks who present their findings that students of teachers with master’s degrees show no better progress in student achievement than their peers taught by teachers without advanced degrees. The problem then is that state governments see this and know that…
more than 2 percent of total education spending in 13 states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio and South Carolina, plus Washington and Nebraska, where the dollars topped 3 percent – went to masters degree bonuses.
So what is the first thing that is put on the chopping block? The problem here is that in any other professional career pay is based on education, and Mr. Gates himself pays very well those folks with higher educations that work for him! In almost all private endeavors today that are the size of most school districts the pay is based on both level of education and performance.
So the key to my confusion is that we are looking to state that the advanced work our teachers are doing is not adding to the education of our children, or improving the education system but is only adding to the teacher’s wallets! So using that same thinking my question is why business leaders, like Rodel, would spend money on MBA programs, Lean Six Sigma degrees, and other business programs if it’s only going to put money in the pockets of the individuals and not improve the organization. Folks, I don’t know if I believe an advanced degree helps the students in our schools, but until we can find a way to reward good teachers and remove bad teachers the pay scales we have are all we have to get students to even consider being a teacher. One thing from the article that I understood and agreed with was if teachers are going to be allowed to get these degrees and be reimbursed for them then let them be in something more specific then Education! By the way, Delaware Legislators you have some say in our states Higher Education Institutions so being as most teachers attend these in state institutions you could possibly influence what tax payers are supporting as to advanced degrees!
Debating a change could be more controversial and unpopular than cutting chocolate milk from the school cafeteria menu.


About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
This entry was posted in Delaware Politics, Education. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Advance degree confusion

  1. fsjenner says:

    I teach 6th grade science. This is my 39th year of teaching. I hold a Master’s Degree in Instruction, plus 45+ hours of college work above and beyond that degree–much of it in science content classes. I graduated in 1972 from Goucher College in Baltimore with a B. A. in Elementary Education , meaning that I was trained and prepared to teach all of the coursework required in elementary school: reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, English, handwriting, science, social studies, art, music, and P.E. Which I did for 17 years. In 1981, I completed a Masters of Instruction program at the University of Delaware–a program especially designed for working teachers, where we actually were able to tailor some of the coursework to the work we did every day and that focused on improving classroom instruction. It was revolutionary for me. It made all the difference in exposing me to new ideas and practices in teaching, effective methods of classroom management (finally), information and practice in diagnosing student learning problems and deficiencies, and so much more.

    To imagine that teachers could choose to go back to school, to sit through hours of classes, complete all of the required assignments, pass all of the tests, and pass classes with “A” or “B” grades and NOT get something out of the classes that had an impact on the quality of their instruction is absurd. Perhaps, if I were a mannequin or a zombie,… But, who in their right mind is going to work full-time in a clssroom, plus go through all of this again and again, for 30 hours of coursework (3 credit hours per class = 10 classes) to complete a degree program, take the comprehensive final, or complete the final projects or thesis, AND pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the privilege–yes, they actually charge money to take classes at the universities–all for a $1000 bump on the pay scale. I completed my master’s program in my 10th year of teaching. If that were today, then I would make about 5700 more for haing done all of that work. At the time, my bump was worth about $1000.

    Delaware has never had a requirement for teachers to complete advanced degrees. I never understood why this was missing when all the neighboring states require a master’s degree within 5-10 years of starting to teach.

    Bill Gates is a fool– a very wealthy and powerful fool, but a fool none the less.

  2. Pingback: Jack of All Trades, Master of None | Does Experience Count?

  3. Maryland Teacher says:

    I am an elementary teacher looking to leave Maryland primarily because they force you to get a masters degree within 10 years or you’re fired. The school systems here expect too much without anything given in return and I’m also supposed to come up with $3,000 out of my own pocket for inital courses on top of the 70+ hours a week I work!? The cheapest masters I found was $19,000 and it would take 6 to 7 years to complete if I took the maximum classes that the county would reimburse per year. My ten years will be well up by time I get it, so I have no choice but to leave now. After all that time and stress, my pay would increase an average of $20 a paycheck. Not worth my time in the slightest. Especially since I went to college for 5 years, hold a dual degree for my major, and 3 certifications on top of that – I learned nothing in college that was of value in the classroom. You only learn to teach by being in the classroom actually doing it. Sitting in a college class having ‘experts’ who only studied one area of education telling you what’s right and wrong is a waste of time and money. You want to improve classroom instruction – the fact is differentiation, mainstreaming, overly paid school boards and administration officials, and ideas like No Child and Race to the Top need to be abolished and teachers need to be able to punish students in the ways of the 50s and 60s without consequence. Any good teacher will tell you this.
    An article by CNN once said it best. Current students who become teachers only remain in the profession 3 to 5 years before leaving due to our broken systems.

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