Today research says advanced degrees don’t improve student learning. But what about tomorrow?

Randy Fair teaches at Centennial High School in Roswell. He holds a doctorate in the philosophy of teaching and learning. (You can read more about him at this Emory site.)

By Randy Fair

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Panel’s recent proposal to no longer pay teachers based on experience and advanced degrees reminds me of my first years teaching in Fulton County. The panel is basing their proposal on “research” that shows that advanced degrees do not necessarily improve results for students.

Twenty-eight years ago when I started teaching at Palmetto High School, we were told all the “research” showed larger school settings were more beneficial for students. Palmetto High was a small, but tremendous school. Most teachers lived in the community, and the faculty, parents and students all knew and cared about each other.

Three years after I started teaching there, despite how well the school was doing, the school had to be closed and consolidated with another school because of all the advanced “research.”  Many tears were shed when Palmetto High closed its doors.

Does a teacher's experience and degrees matter?

Does a teacher’s experience and degrees matter?

Twenty years later when I was teaching at Milton High School, the population of the school had soared to around 2,500 students. We started a process of dividing the school into separate “academies” because all the “research” showed students benefited from being in smaller, community-based settings. These academies were an attempt to simulate what Palmetto High had naturally achieved. Apparently, no one could see the irony in this situation.

If one is only measuring student achievement based on standardized test scores, perhaps the current research regarding advanced degrees is accurate. However, there are intangibles that can’t be measured by standardized tests.

One of these intangibles is the confidence students often gain when they have a teacher with experience and advanced degrees. This past summer, I was in the role of student in two workshops, one an English Language Advanced Placement conference and the other a Holocaust Education seminar at the Breman Museum. As soon as the instructors began, the first thing I wanted to know is how much experience they had and the degrees they held. The credentials of the instructors at both workshops were so impressive that it would have been impossible for anyone to doubt the relevance of the material being delivered.

A more important intangible that can’t be measured with a test score is the example a teacher with an advanced degree brings to the classroom. Students can be confident teachers with advanced degrees have a commitment to and a love of learning. The education and experience my teachers brought to the classroom inspired me to want to someday know as much as they did.

Most likely, these policies will not go into effect until after I am retired, but I fear what these policies will mean for new Georgia teachers. Uncoupling the pay of teachers from education and experience will mean new teachers will be at the mercy of the whims of their supervisors. Administrators may give teachers they personally like better evaluations, and, in turn, these teachers will receive higher compensation.

Now, teachers who teach at schools in affluent areas tend to have higher student scores. These teachers will receive higher pay simply because of the advantages their students already possess.

More importantly, if the past is any guide, it might well be 20 years from now the “research” will show the complete opposite from what it purportedly shows now.

When I was in my doctoral program, people were fond of repeating the adage, “Torture numbers long enough and they will confess to anything.” It might be that the common sense of the people working in the actual school setting is more accurate than the theoreticians and their statistics.

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86 comments
Tom Hal
Tom Hal

I apologize in advance for this rant. I've followed the education and teaching debates in the US since I graduated from college and was offered a funded fast-track into teaching opportunity with the New York City public schools. An engineering major, I was sought out to help address poor math/science skills as assessed by a variety of standardized exams. The school system wanted me to pursue a state-subsidized master's degree in education while I taught full time on a paltry salary requiring me to share a basement apartment with THREE other young teachers a two-hour-commute each way away in another state. During my first semester studying at an education college, and I don't want to offend anyone here, I learned very little, despite winning the praise of both the education faculty and glowing praise from my school and students. The ed school "scholarship" seemed superfluous and relatively unrelated to the day-to-day requirements of teaching physics and math. Like much social studies elsewhere, the so-called scholarship seemed to me pertinent to other people in the field, but minimally productive in the classroom. So in that sense, I agree that advanced degrees in education do not determine teaching efficacy. Where others disagree, I'd propose a confounding mechanism. Very good teachers who continue to teach may be motivated to further their own education. An MEd is a natural choice. The teaching effectiveness these teachers perceive, I suggest, results largely from their native teaching inclinations and capacities that would have led them to explore other interventions to improve their teaching. That, at least, is my experience.


Where did I notice a failing in math/science education in one of the country's largest school systems? The teachers themselves. Yes, many were enthusiastic graduates of education colleges, but very few were actual science or math grads--or high-ranking math/sci grads, and so were fundamentally limited in WHAT they could teach or HOW deeply they could teach. Teaching physics effectively requires a very deep understanding of physics theory--far, far more so than an understanding of education theory. And yet many math/science teachers struggle to pass the state certification subject tests, even though these test are at a very low knowledge domain level. That should be extremely alarming. 


Studies show it is extremely hard to attract to teaching physical science and math major teachers, especially those from exceptionally strong programs and those who've done exceptionally well. The "why" is obvious to a math/physical-sci graduate. We are not interested in the ephemera of education colleges--all the social studies readings; if we had been, we would have majored in social studies, not physical sciences/engineering/math. We don't want to spend two years of our lives learning about hundreds of educational approaches, methods, and techniques that ought to be taught far more functionally in novice-teaching settings. And we certainly don't want to sacrifice our studies in the sciences to study education for the paltry pay and poor social treatment of being a secondary school teacher. 


I know many will be offended by my confession. I really don't mean to be offensive. But if schools want to attract people who're in love with the sciences, have a predilection for HOW their science field(s) work, and easily infect students with their love for their fields, (a) hire scientists, not social studies/education enthusiasts, and quickly (months, not years) equip them with field-proven techniques for teaching they can use while in the classroom. (b) Increase pay. A lot. Most scientists are not going to accept a 50%+ pay cut to be overburdened with mind-numbing paperwork, threatened by unruly teenagers, and required to work nights and weekends without additional compensation--all while paying for supplies out of teachers' minuscule pay.


The person above who wrote that we're destroying the profession of teaching is right. But administrators know exactly what they're doing. They don't want to pay teachers as if they're professionals, and they heap paperwork on teachers as if teachers were secretaries. In doing so, administrators tell teachers they're replaceable and non-essential. Just as bad, the public disregards teachers, too. Teachers are seen as unskilled babysitters for adolescents. 


During my one year working in the NYC public school system, I noticed the best math/science teachers didn't stick around. Many, like me, never completed training. They left because they had far better options. I returned to grad school to finish a PhD in computer engineering and now teach and do research full time for a university. (By the way, if education theory is so critical to learning, why don't non-research/teaching-focused universities require faculty to have education degrees? And why are the most effective faculty nationally at the university level research scholars in their fields who happen to love teaching and so do a phenomenal job at it?) At least in the sciences, if you want to entice people who're obviously deeply skilled in their fields--and who have a proven track record of teaching effectiveness (teaching undergraduate classes so that year after year students master knowledge as assessed by valid and reliable field-specific exams, giving paper presentations internationally that are then voluntarily used in schools and by students themselves, publishing and popularizing critical research...), then you can't devalue them financially and professionally. If they have other options, and the good ones will, very many will do what more and more experienced science/engineering teachers do now: leave.



carlylp
carlylp

As a veteran high school English teacher, I agree wholeheartedly with Fair's statements.


This will be my thirteenth year teaching high school English in Metro Atlanta.  I always wanted to teach English since I was seven years old due to my love for reading, writing,and learning.  I also faced tough times as a nerdy, overweight kid in middle school; my middle school teachers really made that patch of my life better.  I desired to do the same for other adolescents.  I never entertained the idea of other professions.  I didn't go into teaching for the money; however, I did not expect to have my pay frozen for seven years either.  


Over the course of my career, I have witnessed education become more and more micromanaged.  What was once a very creative craft and centered on the "whole student" is now centered virtually on numbers.  Teachers are forced to teach exactly as the colleague down the hall. Yet we are told to "differentiate", come up with "innovative" lessons, all while "teaching to the test" to class sizes busting at the seams.Overall, "data"--i.e. tests scores--are the centerpiece--NOT students and teachers. It eerily feels like a dystopian novel.


To tie this to teacher pay is a disgrace.  I have had students tell me that they were going to "Christmas tree" some of these aforementioned tests when they discovered they would not count toward their grade. Therefore, this year's data is skewed. We are also required to have students take surveys as part of our TKES evaluation.  I am pretty sure these teenagers do not understand the education jargon in the questions--but I received lower student survey scores this year versus extremely high ones the last.  However, I received several handwritten notes and cards from scholars at the end of the school year thanking me for making reading and learning enjoyable.  Hmm.... Yet, no one is going to look at those notes when the "data" is what really "matters."  And all this will supposedly be tied to teacher pay.  


When you couple lack of curricular freedom with constantly blaming the teacher, you feel worthless. Going years without a pay raise when the cost of living has risen only adds more grim.


I would like for those who are not in the educational field responding to this article to put yourselves in our shoes.  Your boss in the corporate sector tells you tomorrow: "We are going to decide what the average pay is for a (your profession here) in the field, and give everyone the same pay".  Say you worked 10 years and you make $75k.  You are now told the base pay is $50k and that your experience did not matter.  Wouldn't you feel slighted? What adjustments would you make to support your family? Basically, this is what Georgia is proposing to teachers.


I recently read an article that almost 1,000 teachers resigned from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina due to low teacher salaries.  Some moved to Texas or South Carolina because they could make more money.  If Georgia follows suit, we could also lose highly qualified educators.


I disagree with the comments noting that advanced degrees are meaningless, that they are just "pay bumps" for teachers.  After my first year of teaching, I pursued my masters degree at UGA while living and teaching in Atlanta.  I felt that to go further in my career, additional education was vital.  I studied under @Peter_Smagorinsky and Dr. Elizabeth St. Pierre for my undergrad and was willing to make sacrifices to work under such scholars. I was a teacher AND a student.  The perspective humbled me.  It broadened my lens to continue to immerse myself in the latest research in my field so I can do what's best for students. When I finished my masters in 2005, I had two years teaching under my belt and the advanced degree.  I felt well-prepared and confident due to both factors. According to the 2014 UGA College of Education Annual report, six of UGA COE's "specialty programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally".  Wouldn't you want your child to have a teacher who's credentials are from a nationally-ranked program?  I know in the community where I teach--a community where parents vie for their child to gain admission to UGA--parents and students DO value experience and advanced degrees. Overall, they hope their child can have those opportunities as well. 


As long as value is placed on numbers--"data"--and not substantial learning opportunities, students, parents, and teachers are doomed.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Thanks Maureen for the Research and Policy Brief link(below).

“Overall, studies that examine the use of teacher effectiveness ratings consistently indicate that the majority of variation in teachers’ effectiveness at raising student achievement scores is due to “unobserved” variables. That is, the changes cannot be specifically attributed to the influence of teacher qualifications, teacher characteristics, or teacher practices”

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED520769.pdf

Looks like there is not a good way to identify exactly what makes a teacher effective at producing standardized test score gains. Some research shows that even the most effective teachers impact performance by only 1-15%.

Soooo – Teaching is a profession. But, if all you are after is standardized test score improvement, you can do that with highly trained technicians. You can use scripted lessons that will improve performance of reasonably motivated students and you can train high school graduates to deliver these. Example – an educational technician trains for 1 year to deliver scripted 3rd grade only, reading lessons to reading groups. You hire an administrative person to keep up with data, testing, ongoing assessment etc. for many groups.  Your child only attends school for 3 hours per day – 1.5 hours for reading and 1.5 hours for math – you figure out lunch and child care for the rest of the day. As they get older, you add in only the standardized tested classes for a max of 4 hours per day.

Voila. You have simultaneously destroyed teaching as a profession, cut all unnecessary classes, saved the taxpayers billions and put the burden of all day child care, sports, clubs, art, music, career training, etc. back where it belongs- on the parent. What's not to like? 

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

@AvgGeorgian What you've described is similar to an online charter school in my district.  The textbook and worksheets of old have been replaced by a computer screen and online quizzes.  It's just a jazzed up version of the old "drill 'n kill" model.  Students learn enough to pass the EOC in the subject.  From the outside this looks like a successful education model.


Is it?  I guess that depends on the type of educational experience you'd prefer for your own child.


I prefer hands-on science labs where my child actually manipulates variables in an experiment.  I prefer an AP class focused on inquiry-based learning, rather than concentrating on finding the “right” answer.  I prefer my child learn to ask questions that encourage creative and interdisciplinary thought. I want classes that develop a restless, curious, and critically-informed mindset.


I was lucky.  My child experienced all of the above in our local district in classrooms where the teacher had an advanced degree.  His teachers did not develop those classroom skills in their undergraduate work, those skills are the direct result of advanced degrees.


He could have cruised through the online program but would he truly walk away with the skills needed for a successful college and career?  I don't think so.


The move to destroy teaching as a profession is gaining momentum.  Folks like Gov. Deal and Erin Hames will find research to back up their claims that advanced degrees do not improve learning because test scores show little to no improvement.


This has nothing to do with school reform or school improvement.  This is simply a back door approach to reduce teacher salaries and cut the education budgets.



BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@AvgGeorgian @teacherandmom @class80olddog  Two of my children are long time public school teachers in the metro area, one in elementary school and the other in middle school. The elementary teacher finished an on-line master's degree over 5 years ago and the middle school teacher is about to begin the same. Both freely admit their primary purpose is to increase their TRS pension by at least $5,000 per year and their secondary purposes are (1)  to increase their pay now and (2) perhaps learn something useful in the classroom.

Both have discussed the matter at length with their peers and the priorities listed above are a consensus. None of the peers felt that a master's degree automatically made them better teachers.

SuperCelebrity
SuperCelebrity

@BurroughstonBroch @AvgGeorgian @teacherandmom @class80olddog Having gone through a Master's Degree straight from my Bachelor's and then a Specialist's years later, I will say that money was a motivation to get the degrees. But another motivation was to learn to become better at my craft. Why on earth would I pay thousands of dollars for another degree if I weren't going to be able to be compensated for it in some manner? Did I become better at my craft? I did. I learned things that I could do while I was teaching that most certainly helped me and became cornerstones of my routines. Those were things that I did not understand while in the Bachelor's program, because I did not have a class of my own. Did test scores increase because of my degrees. No. Did my capability and confidence increase due to the degrees? Yes. But if not for the pay increase, I would not have gone to get more educated because it simply would not have been worth it. 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@SuperCelebrity @BurroughstonBroch @AvgGeorgian @teacherandmom @class80olddog  Thanks for your reply. No matter how one spins the tale, the primary motivation is increased educator monetary income, not increased instructional ability.


Other professions parallel this situation. I am an engineer with a bachelor's degree and 45 years of experience, and I practice in a specialty area. Had I remained at university 2 to 4 years longer to earn post-graduate degrees, I would have been less successful than I have been without them. The additional academic training would have brought no value to my clients or to me.

teacherandmom
teacherandmom


@BurroughstonBroch  Would you take away the opportunity for them to increase their pay through an advanced degree?  Are your children comfortable with pay raises that are solely dependent on annual test scores?  


A teacher with a bachelor's degree will never make more than $50, 300 on the current salary scale.  He/she will "top" out at 20 years and never get another raise.  Is that fair?


Does anyone ever return to graduate school for purely philosophical reasons?  If I were to stand outside any graduate school and poll students, I suspect most students would indicate they return to graduate school to increase their chances for a higher salary and/or promotion...which would lead to a higher salary.  In some professions an advanced degree does result in a salary increase.


If I'm a nurse and I return to school for my master's, I'm going to get a pay raise and a promotion.  


If GA truly wants to attract and retain the best, there needs to be salary scale that includes raises for advanced degrees, endorsements (gifted, special education, reading, etc). and bonuses for student growth.


TKES is the new instrument to evaluate teachers and the GaDOE has explicitly told evaluators in trainings that exemplary ratings are meant to be rare.  So does that mean the opportunity for pay raises will be only for a few?  That is the fear...and it is not an unjustified fear.



BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@teacherandmom @BurroughstonBroch 

"Would you take away the opportunity for them to increase their pay through an advanced degree?" Yes, unless they can prove the advanced degree will increase their classroom performance.

I consider the educational bureaucrats and the state legislators who encourage this tomfoolery to be no friends of the taxpayers.

Intteach
Intteach

So we are hoping to achieve a better education for Georgia's future by educating their teachers less. Teachers will go into classrooms with bachelor degrees only and will never have an incentive to increase their content knowledge or skills. Pay for all teachers will be reduced to BA pay with ominous and subjective pay for performance opportunities. It does not make sense to me to teach our educators less and expect that that will increase performance among our students. Very few are choosing the profession now - it will get worse after this nonsense is implemented. The teaching profession offers basically no promotion opportunities or pay increases anymore. Who is enthusiastic enough to exist on 40K for a lifetime?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One thing we have to ask is, WHO sponsors this research?  Hard to believe, but which group is paying for the research has a big influence, including on what questions are asked, and on what the findings "turn out" to be.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

I think the advanced degree is valuable if it is earned in the area that is taught.  As a teacher with a master's degree, I sought long and hard to find a master's degree that wasn't focused on non-classes such as "learning strategies" and "differentiation."  I wanted a master's that focused on history.  I located such a program at a state university.  As I went through the program (7 content courses and 3 "education" courses), I found the content courses were much more valuable to me in the classroom.  I'm a better teacher because of these enriched courses.  

Starik
Starik

My, Palmetto and Milton have evolved in different directions. In a chemistry class, a PhD in Chemistry would be helpful but wouldn't guarantee a quality teacher.  A EdD would probably not matter much.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

I have worked with scores of teachers over my forty four year career. Fair is correct, neither an advanced degree not Teacher Certification has anything whatsoever to do with student learning. Learning is rarely, if ever, "other" directed. By that I mean that a student's motivation to learn is a function, not of his teachers, but of his own motivation and his parents willingness to help. Any student lacking both those motivations is doomed to fail. You might can get along without your parents of you are inner motivated, but you must at least have one of the two.


By the way, one of the best teachers I ever hired came to us from a professional background where he had been a chemist. This was a private school, so I was not bound by the absolute silliness of Georgia certification rules (he could not have been certified unless he was willing to submit. to an expensive set of college courses which would have done him no good whatever.) He was a natural in the classroom where he taught both AP Chemistry and AP Physics. Public school principals are bound by Georgia certification rules. It hamstrings them.

smithmc
smithmc

The Education Reform Panel is yet another means to undermine the profession of teaching.  Based on ALEC "model legislation," it reduces a noble profession to a mere job, and a lowly job at that. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@smithmc 

And, that phenomena will only get worse as capitalists continue to use tax payer dollars for private profit through education.  Those without money and power, including teachers, to those kinds of sensibilities, do not deserve money nor status in society.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@To all, Some of the research I have seen shows advanced math degrees matter to student learning in upper grades. However, advanced degrees do not seem to impact learning in lower grades.

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED520769.pdf

It is puzzling, though, that we discount the value of more education in the field of education. I agree with posters who point out there are differences in master's and doctoral programs, and the state has tried to discourage teachers from seeking degrees from diploma mills. 

Years ago, when I wrote about the surge of quickie degree programs in ed leadership and how many Georgia teachers were flocking to them because of the automatic raises, then Superintendent Kathy Cox told me:

"These programs are clearly not giving teachers or aspiring leaders or even current leaders the tools that they need to succeed in the classrooms of today, " she says. "They are not learning about data analysis, they are not learning about accountability and standards or standardized testing or being instructional leaders."

However, Cox is not willing to halt the pay raises for the degrees. "These leadership programs have proliferated because, quite frankly, we haven't been able to give teachers any other ways to get raises, " she says. "Until we have a viable alternative, we can't throw the baby out with the bath water."

That changed and now Georgia has much more stringent rules on degrees. 

The state is still trying to figure out how to award raises fairly as yesterday's blog discussion on SLOs reflects. I have been getting some troubling emails from teachers about SLOs and whether teachers measured by SLOs have an edge over teachers measured by standardized state exams. Some teachers told me their colleagues who gave SLOs just told kids in the pre-tests to not worry about getting the answers right -- that way the improvement shown in the post-test would be starker.

However, contrary to that scenario, the AJC reported recently: Student growth ratings for teachers of areas not covered by state tests tend to be lower than those for teachers of state-tested subjects, according to a 2014 University of Georgia research report.

Nora50
Nora50

@MaureenDowney Student growth is lower because the SLO test are terrible tests. The tests are poorly written and not developmentally appropriate. The wording of the questions are confusing for the students. We even found numerous errors on the tests, such as incorrect answer choices! I have been teaching for 26 years and have never encountered such nonsense. There was nothing wrong with the CRCT. I teach in a very transient, low income area. This is a huge waste of money in my opinion.

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

@MaureenDowney  SLOs are written by teachers. Teachers who were not given much direction at all. There are no study guides or even workshops to prepare teachers on giving the tests. Not to mention that in performance based classes (music,art, PE, theater) students are simply memorizing vocabulary or facts rather than demonstrating what they've learned in a meaningful way. The way they've been rolled out is an embarrassment. This is the field of education, yet we have no idea how to handle testing.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@ATLPeach @MaureenDowney I agree -- these new tests were rushed and probably violate every rule of how to develop, field test, improve and roll out new assessments. 

From day 1 of Race to the Top, everyone was aware the timeline was unreasonable with regards to creating new assessments to measure teachers who teach classes or grades that don't have state exams.

BKendall
BKendall

I really want to see the research.


While quality of instruction is always about how many ways a teacher can interact with students. Yes, that is a super-short explanation on a subject that has consumed entire books, but is on track. 


What is not on track, is the measurement of Student Academic Growth. Georgia has no assessments that measures Academic Growth, no matter what Gay-Doe or any of their mouthpieces say or publish.


So how can anyone measure or determine if more knowledge of their discipline makes a better or worse teacher?

BCW1
BCW1

How ridiculous is it to think that experience dose not matter? I for one would hire an experienced teacher over one fresh out of the box most of the time. All of this begins when politicians are on their last term and have no accountability to voters. It just amazes me that everyone is a teacher and everyone has solution to education problems!

RetiredMay31
RetiredMay31

Their 'research' will never see the light of day because it is flawed and biased... it's a tool they'll use to convince the public that the schools are failing and it's the teachers' fault. Deal's plan needs to be exposed for what it is and GA's voters need to insist that all future research used to make decisions about teacher efficacy be independently replicated and subjected to a high level of scrutiny before being implemented. The old adage that there are lies, 'damn' lies then there are statistics applies here. 


Deal's research won't even pass the smell test but since they're voted to put their 'take over' privatization model to a vote in November's general election this 'research' will most likely be believed by voters to be solid evidence... So, unless we can change the course of this runaway train get ready to welcome the Education For Profit Carpetbaggers because Dirty Deal's Scalawags are about to turn over the keys to our tax payer funded kingdom without any credible research that proves they'll do a better job. All this current legislature cares about is lowering the cost of education and giving their contributors a piece of the pie. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@RetiredMay31 

Well said.  I didn't have the patience to say it one more time, but I am very glad that you did.  For those who do not know politics in depth, this switch from public services to private profit is a national agenda, not simply a state plan in Georgia, and is a national political force controlled by billionaires. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"When I was in my doctoral program, people were fond of repeating the adage, 'Torture numbers long enough and they will confess to anything.' It might be that the common sense of the people working in the actual school setting is more accurate than the theoreticians and their statistics."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Great actors have the training and are born with the gift of acting.  Great teachers have the training and are also born with the gift of teaching.

Too much politics is in the educational arena today.  To the readers:  Look deeper and vote accordingly.

sim_namore
sim_namore

Republicans will cite any foolishness that supports their foolishness.   Teachers who know less are just as effective as teachers who know more.  Lunacy.  Georgia has yet to figure out that we get what we pay for.  The lobbyists who pursue Mr. Deal certainly know this.   I wonder if they have advanced degrees?  

morrisonmunro
morrisonmunro

There has been a belief in Georgia and in the South that teachers who "know too much" won't be able to relate to their students; thus instructors who have minimal qualifications will be more successful.  In a 30 year teaching career and as a Department Chair, I found this to be false.  The teachers with more advanced content area degrees--those who knew their  content area very well and were passionate about it--were able to break concepts down into comprehensible chunks and build on these chunks to move students along to higher levels.  Those instructors with minimal content area knowledge many times gave assignments that were extremely difficult, which they themselves didn't understand fully.  Students suffered in those classes and often left disliking the subject.  I have an advanced degree in English, and think my students benefited from my academic experiences.  Based on observing a large number of instructors, I must say that the most creative and passionate teachers were those who cared enough about their subject to stay informed and to obtain advanced degrees.  They were the most successful teachers in terms of engaging and motivating their students.  


Unfortunately, some instructors have gone to "easy" online or even partially residential for-profit schools, and these places are often a disgrace.  People pay a premium for their education, and, yes, they do get the pay raises.  The solution is for the State Department not to accept degrees from such institutions, which may not happen because I suspect that we've got State Department of Education employees who attended such schools.


I would like to see a larger number of educators and parents work to overcome the "anti-intellectualism" that has always been prevalent in the South.

Point
Point

Georgia needs to pay closer attention.  Just like Bill Gates backed off his small schools idea, he is backing off his "value added" model as well.  Maybe the DOE just needs to speak with Mr. Gates on a daily basis to see which way the wind is blowing.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

Once again, both sides are right here.

The teacher's advanced degree, IN MOST CASES, has no impact on student learning. In fact student's learning is 100% based on a "caring adult in his/her life."  And that should NOT be the teacher.  

On the other hand, in teaching content at the high school level, the knowledge of the teacher is paramount.  You want good teachers?  Then you have to pay for them.  As another poster on here says, there are no free lunches.  For the sciences, you're going to pay a ton. And you can't do that and keep taxes low.  Anybody who tells you that is simply, read my lips, LYING!

As the RULES CONTINUALLY CHANGE, and what was the "next great teaching style" 10 years ago THAT DIDN'T INCREASE ANYTHING - except in the bank account of the corporations pushing it, the next new thing is now something totally different.  I'm glad I'm retired and out of it.  With everybody just KNOWING what's going to improve "the average, student" (and never will), I'll just shake my head and move on.


Oh, and by the way, the Educational Administrative degrees are worthless to teaching.  The only courses that actually teach information, teach what NOT to do as a "boss" as they are illegal. 

NewName
NewName

@OldPhysicsTeacher - I have 2 advanced degrees and the add-on certificate in Educational Leadership (which is a separate program altogether) was just as useful. ALL teachers should have to take School Law, as well as the Budgeting class required for Educational Leadership. The Leadership course was helpful as well because, regardless of what some have said here, teachers are LEADERS as well. 

straker
straker

"no longer pay teachers based on advanced degrees'


The real question is, if this money no longer goes to teachers, WHERE does it go?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Eventually we will figure out that saving money actually costs us a great deal, and that smaller schools actually provide some of the "family" that so many of our students are missing, and thus keep students engaged rather than just passing through.

fizzixteacher
fizzixteacher

As a 17-year career physics teacher, I feel that both of my graduate degrees (MS in Physics and EdS in Ed Leadership) made me a better teacher- both for the content and the leadership skills that I integrated into my classroom and my interaction with my peers and administrators.  Yes, there are some teachers who get the degrees only for the pay raise, but I believe that the majority of us are actually choosing to further educate ourselves in order to become better teachers.  There are also teachers who already have an undergraduate degree and want to change fields, and in those situations it makes more sense to get a graduate degree in their new field.  And since a graduate degree usually costs at least $20,000, some sort of stipend is reasonable to expect.  

If you eliminate that stipend, not only will you drive many educated, highly-qualified people out of teaching (after all, we have families to feed and bills to pay, too, including grad school loans), but you will then create a workforce of minimally educated teachers.  Is that the role model you want to create for our students?  In addition, please consider the impact on the secondary education system where those teachers obtain their degrees- this could have far-reaching economic consequences, leading to even more increased tuition for undergraduate students.  Since it's not always happening at home, we as teachers, administrators, and policy-makers must show our students that education and is valued and important.
I know that one option being considered is pay for performance, I would assume based on the current (or some revised version) TKES evaluation system.  I would like to share my personal experience with this concept.  This year I was required to give my physics students a "county-developed" SLO assessment that I was not involved in writing.  In giving the test at the end of the year, I found that it was GROSSLY mis-representative of the Georgia state standards as well as had NUMEROUS errors.  Literally, both my students and I were crying when I gave it- them for their grade and me for how I would be rated based on this test.  After all the data was analyzed, all 6 teachers in my county who gave the test were scored a 1 (out of 4) for student growth percentage because this test was so bad, and I was invited by the assessment coordinator to revise the test (which I did).  I've actually left this county (and public education altogether), but if I were remaining, even if my administrator gave me all 4's in my evaluation next year, the highest overall rating I could receive is a 2 (needs improvement) because of this statistically invalid test.  Should this affect my pay?  No, I believe not.

Astropig
Astropig

" Uncoupling the pay of teachers from education and experience will mean new teachers will be at the mercy of the whims of their supervisors. Administrators may give teachers they personally like better evaluations, and, in turn, these teachers will receive higher compensation."


The real crux of this article.


Look, a PHD teaching high school anything (with over half the kids socially promoted and grade inflated to the point of absurdity)is wildly overqualified and probably a better fit in another position higher up the educational food chain.Paying them PHD money to teach essentially half a class (half probably don't want to be there) is a gigantic waste.There must be even more misaligned incentives in the pay structure than we realized.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Some of the best teachers in the past had only a high school diploma.

Sometimes I think going to "education" college makes you worse.  For example, the brainwashing about social promotion.

class80olddog
class80olddog

He is right about "studies have shown".  "Research" consistently is disproved.  "Research" has shown that discipline is bad, and that social promotion is good.

But about higher degrees - is a PH. D. going to help you teach multiplication tables to a bunch of third-graders?  Will a Ph. D. allow a teacher to make better discipline decisions without the help of a principal?  Will a Ph, D. magically make kids actually come to school?  Will a Ph. D. give teachers the gonads to actually stand up to their principal when he/she orders them to change a grade or promote a student?

And lastly, are these "Ph.D. s" from a reputable university, or are they a online degree from a diploma mill generated just to get the extra pay that the legislature approved?

WhiteRabbit
WhiteRabbit

@class80olddog Could you please write "Ph.D." a few more times?  If you write it enough it will be like you understand what it is to earn one.

 This whole article is complete nonsense.  The statements are patently ridiculous.

“One of these intangibles is the confidence students often gain when they have a teacher with experience and advanced degrees

“Students can be confidant teachers with advanced degrees have a commitment to and a love of learning.

No elementary school or middle school student has any idea what degrees the teacher has, or even what that means.  I would bet 99.5% of high school students have no idea either.

“Uncoupling the pay of teachers from education and experience will mean new teachers will be at the mercy of the whims of their supervisors. Administrators may give teachers they personally like better evaluations, and, in turn, these teachers will receive higher compensation.

Years of service is not a good indicator of quality teaching, especially since “tenure” makes it difficult to fire  bad teachers, thus allowing them to accrue “experience.”

Teacher pay is important, but teachers need to be rewarded for the job they do in the classroom, not some standardized metric such as degree and years of experience. See the irony? Standardized tests of students is bad.  Standardized evaluations of teachers is good.  

dg417s
dg417s

"Tenure" as you call it is really fair dismissal. I am entitled to a hearing to make sure I'm not being fired so the superintendent's daughter can have a job. It is not a hindrance to getting rid of bad teachers. Bad teachers rarely make it through 3 years to earn fair dismissal anyway.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Sadly much of the "advanced degree:" charade is aimed at one thing....increasing teacher's pay, with no positive impact on the students.  None.  And anyone who teaches knows that.  


For years I've watched teachers do "remote study" programs, where they pay a sizable amount of money, do work from home (or their classroom.....), and once a month (at most) go to an actual college.


There are 4 parties in this - 1) the teachers, who get more money based on bogus degrees, 2) the "colleges" (cough cough), who get money from the teachers, 3) the students, who get nothing out of the "advanced degree", and 4) the taxpayers, who as usual, take it in the shorts.


Gov Deal is 100% spot on to get rid of this B.S,. program.  It is a worthless diversion of financial resources - resources that should be being used to help kids.


It's interesting to note how the same folks who decry the "stealing of public schools funding" by charter schools, turn around and have no problem with teachers stealing money via such a BS program.  I guess it proves once again - the real priority of too much of the eduacracy is the adults - not the students.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@dcdcdc We had a scandal at our local community college when a few instructors were fired after getting online degrees when it was later shown that they paid someone else to do the work.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Georgia cannot get over its anti education tendency, led by our most ignorant and self-serving.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


"Georgia cannot get over its anti education tendency, led by our most ignorant and self-serving."


...But you just read an article (over there on your left) by a PHD teaching in a high school.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady The "anti-education" sentiment is caused by real issues that people have with the education establishment - graduates who can't read and write, cheating on testing, rampant grade inflation resulting in millions lost to potential HOPE scholars, stories of school fights and guns on campus.  The public is tired of it and all we hear from the Meria Carstarphens of the world is a bunch of feel-good platitudes, when it is as obvious as the nose on our face that the real issues are not being addressed.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@Wascatlady 


Schools in our area are consistently ranked as some of the best in the state & nationally ranked.  Maybe if you spent less time on blogs bitching and complaining about everything and more time on your crappy schools, they would indeed be better.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MiltonMan @Wascatlady Perhaps you would understand what others are pointing out if you left your safe little enclave and got out in the real world.

dg417s
dg417s

I bet most of the teachers in miltonman's area have years of experience and advanced degrees. Take those teachers away because you don't want to pay them and see what you get.