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New York Daily News

 

A Degree Teachers Can Do Without

August 30, 2012

By Marcus A. Winters

It is well known that we must improve public school outcomes if we are to compete in the global economy.

Yet the combined effects of the housing crisis, the pension bomb and runaway government spending have made it difficult to substantially increase our financial investment in public schools. Lawmakers in Albany and other state capitals are left to think of ways to improve public schools without tapping into additional revenue streams.

It’s not an impossible task. There are many policies that make the current system remarkably inefficient.

Here’s one tough truth: Schools don’t need more money to improve. They need to be smarter with the money they have. Reforming the salary schedule for public school teachers is a great place to start.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, New York is one of eight states that require its teachers to obtain an advanced degree to earn a full professional license (you can teach without an advanced degree, as long as you’re working toward one).

Teachers get a pay bump when they earn what is, in effect, a required credential. Teachers in New York State receive, on average, a salary increase of about $7,426 for obtaining a master’s degree; 88% of the teachers in the state have one.

Paying additional salaries when teachers earn a master’s degree is costly. According to an analysis of federal data by Raegen Miller and Marguerite Roza for the Center for American Progress, New York taxpayers spent just under $1.5 billion paying for master’s bumps to teachers during the 2007-08 school year.

That’s $540 per student in the state (the highest such figure nationwide) and accounts for about 3.2% of New York’s total educational expenditures.

Quite simply, that 3.2% of the education budget was wasted.

A wide body of research demonstrates that there is no relationship between an advanced degree and classroom performance. For instance, not one of the 34 studies identified in a review of the research by economists Eric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin found a positive relationship between a teacher having a master’s degree and student achievement.

Perhaps the lack of relationship between credentials and effectiveness isn’t as surprising as it first appears. The quality of master’s programs varies considerably — and yet the salary bump one receives for a degree doesn’t depend on the program that granted the diploma.

Further, what makes a great teacher might be innate attributes such as patience, kindness and consistency. Those qualities, obviously enough, might not be shared by everyone who gets a master’s.

Schools should repurpose the dollars spent on rewarding teachers for meaningless credentials to more productive uses. They should keep those dollars in teacher salaries. But schools should target that money to the school system’s most effective teachers instead.

A system that paid teachers based on their performance would motivate teachers to give their best in the classroom. But perhaps even more importantly, by directing higher salaries to the best teachers — as measured by contribution to student test scores and meaningful subjective evaluations — schools would be better able to keep their most talented teachers from leaving the profession.

Albany can address this issue by removing the unnecessary requirement that teachers obtain an advanced degree. School districts set their own salary schedules, but the state can encourage them to remove the master’s salary bump.

By adopting policies that better use existing school resources, lawmakers can improve public school outcomes without spending another dime. Removing the financial incentive for teachers to acquire master’s degrees would be a big step in that direction.

Winters is senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Original Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/a-degree-teachers-article-1.1147404#ixzz252318a2v

 

 
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