In one of my posts on how Utah and other states could pursue “exceptional” education in an era of tight budgets, I expressed skepticism about paying teachers more simply for earning a masters degrees in education. (Let me just note that I would not advocate changing this rule retroactively and penalizing teachers who made this investment in good faith. Let me also note that the “masters bump” is smaller in Utah than in most states.)
A recently-published supports this skepticism, and provides some alternative suggestions for changing teacher pay. Here’s the summary from the Fordham Institute’s Education Gadfly:
Here’s a jarring statistic from analysts Raegen Miller and Marguerite Roza: In 2007-08, states spent $14.8 billion on pay bumps for teachers with master’s degrees, which—timeandagain—have proven to be entirely unrelated to instructional effectiveness. In perspective, this equates to $217 per pupil—and marks a 72 percent increase since 2003-04, the last time Miller and Roza crunched these numbers. This “master’s bump” affects states differently: Six states (all with powerful teacher unions, including Illinois, New York, and Ohio) allocate $400-plus per-pupil as a reward for this additional credential (in cost-adjusted dollars). Eight (predominantly right-to-work states like Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah) spend under $100. Interestingly, the size of a master’s bump had no statistical relationship with the percentage of teachers acquiring such degrees. Miller and Roza recommend a two-pronged approach to developing a sleeker, more productive teacher-salary structure. First, scrap policies that automatically confer extra pay for master’s degrees (or that require advanced degrees for full licensure). Second, push master’s programs to compete on merit: Use teacher-assessment data to rate their effectiveness and encourage graduate programs centered on performance assessments (like the Relay Graduate School of Education and the Urban Teacher Center) rather than seat-time requirements. Good ideas both—and even more so when budgets are tight.
Some other interesting points from the report itself (you can find the link at the Education Gadfly site):
“The more nuanced evidence suggests that master’s degrees in math and science do confer an instructional advantage on teachers of those subjects, yet
approximately 90 percent of the master’s degrees held by teachers come from education
programs that tend to be unrelated to or unconcerned with instructional efficacy.
“The first of the traditional drivers of teacher pay is longevity or time on the job. This tradition makes sense insofar as novice teachers face a steep learning curve and early-career teachers rising to the challenge should enjoy pay increases recognizing their success just as do their counterparts in other professions. But teachers’ performance, as measured
by value-added estimates of their impact on student achievement, tends to flatten out after 6 to 10 years. The tradition of experience-based salary increases for veteran teachers is, therefore, indifferent to student achievement.