Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teacher Pay and Master's Degrees

A column in the Huffington Post notes several shots taken at "teacher pay," notably criticism from Bill Gates that the linkage of teacher pay to graduate degrees is a waste of time and money, as tests have disproved any link between a Master's degree and better performance. While I agree with much of that sentiment, Gates does have a tendency to miss the mark through over-generalization when it comes to education. To be a truly accurate criticism, there should be criticism between the type of degree.

Master's degrees in content areas - English Language and Literature, Biology, American, European, & World History, Mathematics - are certainly going to inform teachers in a much more meaningful way than one in Education or Administration or IT, or any of a number of other nonsense degrees. The College of Education on most university campuses are mostly to blame - that and teaching associations - and don't even get me started on the University of Phoenix. For years, I have been annoyed and dismayed by colleagues who got the Master's in Education "just for the pay raise," and they are the worst in complaining about what a waste of time and money it was.

Scholarship is what truly guides a growth in education, and a program that lacks one is destined to be mediocre. To start with, the lack of a Master's Thesis, or the substitution of a "shorter" assignment of "three long papers" or a few "projects" is anathema to intellectual growth. If states want to clean up the system - and their payrolls - they ought to start with the Master's in Education.


Krista said...

I have to agree with you on this one. As a teacher in New York (the state, not the city), it is required to have a Master's Degree. I received mine in Secondary Education as I was not previously certified. (My Bachelor's is in English).

What a joke that program was! Not only did it not require a thesis, but some classes were "taught" (and by taught I mean we watched and discussed "The Breakfast Club" for almost the whole semester-in a Curriculum and Development class, mind you!) by professors who had admittedly never even stepped foot in a high school classroom.

I learned more from my 10+ years experience as a substitute teacher than I did in this Master's program. It would have been a better experience had we taken courses that were content specific, that taught us the best approaches to teaching our subject areas.

mazenko said...

It's a shame you had to waste your time - though at least you have a Bachelor's in English. Too many high school teachers have a Bachelor's in Secondary Ed - with a focus on content ... and then they get a teaching Master's as well. These teachers have so little content knowledge it's almost negligible.