Governor McCrory surprised officials at the State Board of Education today when he announced that the state will continue to award extra pay to teachers who hold advanced degrees. The extra pay was eliminated in the most recent budget, but the governor “found” enough money – over $10 million – in the state budget to fund it anyway.
But here’s the problem: there is absolutely no conclusive evidence to show that master’s degrees and other advanced degrees have any demonstrable effect on teacher effectiveness. That is exactly the reason why the extra pay was cut in the first place: at this point, it is an accepted fact that there is no link between advanced degrees and teacher performance. Even the left-of-center Brookings Institute has concluded: “In the area of teacher preparation, substantial evidence suggests that general graduate preparation does little to improve student performance.”
In other words, there is no clear link between advanced degrees and student performance. There is one exception: “Subject matter pedagogy may improve student achievement, but no evidence exists on most other aspects of pedagogy.” So, if a history teacher goes and gets a master’s degree in history, he or she might become a more effective educator. That makes sense – teachers who are subject matter experts are probably more passionate and knowledgeable about their subject than teachers who are not. More often than not, however, teachers obtain advanced degrees in education – not their specific subject area. As a result, state funds are effectively wasted.
Teachers work hard, and they should be compensated accordingly. But paying extra for teachers with advanced degrees is foolish: It will not translate to better results in the classroom. Instead of clinging to old, ineffective incentive programs, teachers should push for performance-based bonuses. Only by introducing competition is it possible to improve student outcomes and provide fairer teacher compensation at the same time.
Let’s be fair and think through this. No two teacher’s classes are the same, so how would there be correct evidence to show that there is no correlation that teachers with advanced degrees have better student performance? There are different factors that account for student performance such as: make-up of the classroom, years of experience of the teacher, teaching style, location of the school. These are all things to be considered. Wouldn’t we all want to be compensated for our extra schooling to better perform our jobs, regardless of exterior factors over which we have no control?
Harold Luttman says
Lets face it, we “need” better teachers not more educated teachers. Better building’s don’t make better teachers. Public schools don’t get the best teachers anymore, private schools do. Their not limited in what they can teach and do.
Hopefully Pat will make the same due diligence to “find” some funds to keep drug addicts off of welfare. With all the pork floating in the state government there has to be a couple million to support this reasonable law.
If McCory can find money to give pay raises to his cabinet I don’t see the problem with him also finding money to reward teachers in the state.
You said there was “no conclusive evidence” and “no clear links” that advanced degrees in education can make a difference in performance outcomes for students. That does not translate into “fact.” It instead suggests that there hasn’t been enough research done on the topic yet and we need to pursue some conclusive evidence before we start jumping to conclusions.
At the very least, if you’re correct, we should definitely invest in the professors with graduate degrees in their special topics.
More importantly, if we choose not to pay a competitive rate for people with advanced degrees we’re pushing teachers to move to a location that “will” reward them for their advanced degree. States have to keep up with industry competitive rates too. It drives people with advanced degrees away and some of those people may already be great educators.
In addition, we’re sending the message that we don’t want future teachers to invest in their own education. And since you wont make a lot in this field, we’re telling some with promise to avoid this field if they want to make a good wage. This could backfire in attracting unskilled educators effectively passing on the disadvantage.
And if you’re wrong about advanced degrees making the difference in level of teaching, NC will fall behind for our decision to forgo this investment, despite the lack of conclusive evidence either way. If a link is later found we will have hurt our prospects because we were afraid to take a common sense risk and invest in people who invest in themselves.
I do like to think that performance based incentives are a great idea. Although given your reliance on “conclusive evidence” I expect we’d need the study which supports the effectiveness of that idea before we waste our tax dollars on it. After all, maybe it could unfold differently in this field and too much competition can lead to more pressure and worse performance.
I have no problem paying teachers more when they earn advanced degrees in their chosen fields. Otherwise, I agree… there’s no indication that we get better results (ie, better student achievement) when their advanced degrees are general education or administrative oriented ones. $10 million bucks should be directed to something 1) the legislature actually directed money to and 2) something we can have more confidence is actually effective.
I do have a hard time wrapping my head around the economics of it though… an advanced degree usually costs a great deal – hard to believe a small salary bump could make it an economically viable decision.
Reminds me very much of my own industry – I work in a computer/tech type field, and it’s the same at most every company I’ve worked for. If I earn a certification or want to take a training class or attend a conference…. the business is often perfectly happy to pay for it, as long as it’s related to my job and technical area. Most companies arent all that eager to pay for their DBA to take Cisco classes, or pay for an employee’s Microsoft certification if the company only has Linux servers.
This is a pretty standard problem with government controlled/funded jobs, be it teachers or anything else. There’s inherently little accountability and inadequate performance measures – perhaps strong competition from other sectors could help us achieve better results :)
In such a protected, largely monopolistic field like we have now though, “actual” performance is hardly ever properly recognized and compensated, and people who can truly perform at a higher level, if more salary is the reward/compensation they want… well, they dont generally stay in government jobs.