Billion-Dollar Masters' Degrees

Earlier this week, the Democrat-affiliated Center On American Progress issued a report describing the rapid increase in costs of graduate degrees for teachers being paid out by school districts under contracts that provide incentives for additional credits and degrees. The number for Illinois are: 55 percent, 4 percent, $11,900, and $900,000. See details below.According to the CAP report, 55 percent of IL teachers have a master's degree (over 80 percent in CT and NY) and the adjusted cost of those degrees makes up more than 4 percent of education expenditures.  The "master's bump" in Illinois averages a whopping $11,900 per teacher, and the single-year amount of money paid out to teachers (statewide) is listed as over $900K.  That's not as much as NY ($1.5B), but it's more than CA ($863K).

Using four year old data, the overall total nationwide approached $15 billion.  This is up 72 percent from four years before.  There's no data on the current cost, though recent reports suggest that online master's programs have proliferated as a way for teachers to get graduate credits.  The 2012 total is probably much higher.

Take a look and let us know what you think.  Do you believe the report?  Do you think that teachers should be paid more for masters' degrees as they are currently?  How could the system work better, in terms of rewarding teachers for adding to their knowledge and skills and yet making sure that schools aren't paying for things that don't help educate kids?  Please indicate in your answer what advanced degrees you have, if any, how much extra you're paid for having attained them, where you got them, and if they've led to better results for your students.




Leave a comment
  • I have a two-year master's degree from Northwestern University. It was an outstanding program and transformed who I am and my effectiveness as a teacher.

    I was paid $3,274 more this year than if I had simply earned a bachelor's degree.

    Over the course of my entire career the additional money I receive for earning this degree will not be enough to cover the cost of the degree itself.

    Though the education I received was outstanding and has had a huge impact on my teaching and on my students, earning a master's from Northwestern was obviously a poor financial choice.

    I learned my lesson. I am beginning another master's program this fall - at Northeastern.

    However, I will not pursue this additional education and training if CPS, as it has indicated in contract negotiations, is unwilling to pay for better trained, more qualified, better educated, more experienced staff.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    That sounds like a worthwhile degree from a fine institution. Does CPS policy discriminate (in the plain sense of the word) between a degree like that and some diploma-mill degree?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Most school districts don't, and that's a problem. I'm sure most of us are all for someone getting a raise for improving their skills and making themselves more valuable to the school and it's students. But right now we have no way of knowing whether we're rewarding improved teaching and learning, or just rewarding some credential, no matter how useful or wasteful. But that's in line with the way we pay teachers overall - one size fits all. Some teachers deserve a huge raise this year, but we can't identify who those folks are and reward them. Instead we find some number that we can apply to everyone, so in effect the best performers are punished for the sake of propping up the lowest performers. That's no way to run an organization, and I believe is at the heart of why there's dwindling support for teacher raises, and, sadly, for teachers in general these days.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    This is why I say that Rahm does not value education - There is no benefit from additional training - no raise, it's not easier to be hired.... He is aying that college has value but he is showing that it has no value. How do we justify that to the students?

  • thanks -- great comment. did you get an education degree or one in your topic area?

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    I have an education degree and a degree in my topic area.

  • I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois University. I borrowed $4,500 and worked. This degree got me certified to teach.

    I earned a Master of Arts degree in Special Education from Northeastern Illinois University. I received a merit scholarship and worked while I went to school. This degree helped me land a job with Chicago Public Schools in Special Education.

    I earned a Doctorate from Loyola University in Curriculum and Instruction. This degree cost me $23,000. I put it on my credit card. I received a $2,000 bump in salary from CPS.

    I have been at the top of the teacher pay scale at CPS for the last ten years. I DO NOT receive step or lane pay increases. To supplement my pay (I have three children) I teach at a variety of Colleges and Universities in the Chicago area and Online.

    I believe that teaching in the classroom increases my credibility as a College Professor. There is nothing like having a teacher that can say, “I’ve had that problem too, and this is how I handled it.”

  • Corporate reimbursement for advanced education requires: a.) employer pre-approval and b.) that the course relate to the employee's job. CPS should adopt the same policy. The current situation is a joke, with teachers able to take any course from any institution for lane credit. For-profit diploma mills have deflated the value of advanced degrees. (See today's Trib about a soldier who used his GI benefits at a for-profit, only to find the credits worthless at the four year institution he later wanted to attend.) BTW, my bachelor's and master's are from Northwestern; another master's is from Dominican (library science).

  • I worked with a doctor and an attorney who were teachers and neither one received any credit -not even a masters' lane designation. I believe when ISBE did the transcript review they did receive a science endorsement (doctor) and the attorney received an endorsement for social studies-(no additional pay involved) For some strange reason CPS does not accept medical nor law degrees but accepts online masters' from questionable colleges.

    I have worked with administrators who received their doctorates from NOVA in education and they were pitiful-could not even answer a question and the writing skills were non-existent.

  • Headache299
    I guess this means that discrediting the American University is, once again, open season.

    We here at CPS want to ensure that “every child is college ready” – ready to have his or her diploma rendered completely meaningless immediately upon graduation!

    So why even earn a bachelors degree? – shouldn’t a five-year ‘projected’ high school diploma be enough? Using this scale, a high-school drop-out could qualify for National Board Certification.

    Teachers should probably work for free, anyways. Advanced degrees are just a hobby. Rewarding people for continuing education is just stupid. The only degree worth it’s salt is a Business degree. It’s the only one that directly contributes to the economy. At least, those are the conclusions of Eric Hanushek, and he knows what he’s talking about!

    Hanushek’s research conclusions and policy proposals have done wonders to improve educational outcomes, haven’t they? especially for minority students of poverty, and fortunately, the effects of his influence are moving their way into schools of the middle-class.

    Wisely, Hanushek dodges the effect of poverty, as the implementation thereof, exacerbates it, and that’s good for America. Poverty is good for competition. And good for Penny Pritker’s subprime mortgage business, too!

    On the subject of mortgage, under Emanuel and friends, we now have more homeless kids in Chicago than we have had in years…this helps reduce those stupid tax credits that go to greedy parents with dependent-children and will raise the value of your existing home – obviously, you don’t need an advanced degree to see that this is a great boon for the housing market.

    At the local level, Hanushek’s vision of value-added evaluations will help put thousands of even more teachers out on the street. New teachers can pay off at least a part of their college loan, and the banks will be happy. After a couple years, fire them too! Many of them are young enough to work in strip clubs, so they won’t contribute to the unemployment rate! It’s a win-win for Emanuel, the children, and bullet riddled future of Chicago.

  • That is a brillant response! You are a Phi Beta Kappa. Yes, I am too old for the strip clubs. Darn it! What a great way to make a living.

  • fb_avatar

    I have a Masters +45. Every bit of education I have received has been to improve my teaching skills. Masters in Special Education, post-master graduate classes in Reading. Every dime spent, my own. In no way do have the small jumps in "lanes" repaid me for the money spent on the degrees. Perhaps now they never will. BTW, all from local brick and mortar universities. No diploma mills. It feels surreal that we are even discussing whether teachers getting more education, becoming more critical thinkers, and improving their practice is worthy of some compensation for the money spent.

  • In reply to FairHair:

    In what other profession is education, training, and experience devalued as it is now in the education reform movement and in the Chicago Public Schools?

    If education and training don't matter, if they don't positively correlate to increased student outcomes, if they don't improve how we teach and the way we teach, if they don't make us more effective, valuable professionals why do we need a bachelor's degree at all? Why do we need any ongoing professional development at all?

    If these reformy types really believe education and training don't matter, then open the flood gates: Do not require a bachelor's degree to teach. Do not test teachers for certification. Do not offer state and district mandated PD on an annual basis. Do not link PD certification renewal. Heck, eliminate certification of teachers entirely.

    After all, how can we possibly link education and training to higher scores on high stakes bubble tests?

  • no one's suggesting that additional training be eliminated -- just that it's worth a look to make sure kids, teachers and taxpayers are being helped by the system of encouraging additional training.

    should master's in education, and online master's receive the same treatment as a master's in a subject area? or should the system remain the same as it is now?

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Actually, I am suggesting that additional training be eliminated. If there is no proven causal link between education/training and higher test scores then that professional development is not worth the investment of teacher time or taxpayer money.

    I do not think it matters whether a degree comes from an online school or a brick and mortar school. If education training is so valuable, track the teachers who go through each program. If a program results in provably higher test scores, the program should retain accreditation. If one cannot show higher test scores, it should lose accreditation. Whatever strengths and weaknesses exist among online or traditional schools will work themselves out if we tie the existence of these programs to the causal, provable results they achieve instead of some mumbo jumbo about "creative thinkers" and "compassionate teachers" with "multi-modal instructional techniques".

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Why do we care so much about test scores? We're your test scores the most valuable part of your education?

    Everyone thinks they are an expert on education and teaching because they went to school. Am I an expert on architecture because I look at the buildings downtown? Am I an expert in medicine because I've gone to the doctor and looked up an ailment on the Internet?

    Teachers who take the time and effort to get advanced degrees are in general vastly better teachers than those who do not.

    The problem with education is not teachers. The problem is a lack of equity in the system.

  • In reply to BillyTurtle:

    It's not that test scores are so important, but that test scores actually prove something rather than relying on intuition and guesswork.

    You think teachers with advanced degrees are generally vastly better than those without? Prove it. Enough with the philosophical support for creative problem solvers and feel-good theories about master's degrees and how much they know about childhood development. How do we KNOW those teachers are better? I don't want to know what leads us to believe or think they might be better. How do we KNOW they are better?

    We don't. So it is a waste of taxpayer money.

    If we can't articulate the reasons why we know (not think) teachers with advanced degrees are better, if we can't get reliable peer reviewed studies with replicable results to show those teachers are better, if we can't duplicate those results (if they are proven to exist, which they are not) on a large scale then we are throwing taxpayer money down the drain.

    Professional development and advanced degrees are a waste of time and money until someone shows with real, factual, provable evidence that they actually help students in the classroom.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I think this contributor has a very good point, but does not go far enough. Where is the real, factual, provable evidence that schools actually help students? Why are we wasting all this money on school reform--which is the institutional equivalent of professional development--when schools themselves are the problem. Teachers are the problem with schools and no amount of education can help them to improve, as the genius above points out so more-or-less eloquently. Similarly, schools are the problem with education. And, to take this to the next and inevitable level, education is the problem with society. Let's just go straight to bestiality. Then people who hate teachers can just kill them instead of making idiotic arguments about test scores. And people who hate school can just rampage through them instead of passing tricky laws and playing at school reform. And people who hate education altogether can go the Khmer Rouge route and slaughter whole sections of the population--Did anyone see The Colbert Report on "a plank from the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas which, astonishingly enough, reads as follows: "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."" (

    It's strange that in my own lifetime society has come to be little more than the last, flimsy obstacle to the unleashing of righteous animal rage. Thank god at least people like the previous writer at least pretend to be interested in "real, factual, provable evidence". Though I notice that the writer merely presumed the lack of existence of evidence against his view, not bothering to cite any " real, factual, provable evidence" of his own.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Your comment is a symptom of the terrible disease that is plaguing education today. "If it can't be measured in numbers then it doesn't exist." You want "real, actually, provable, evidence"...that would be instead of all those other kinds of evidence. I thought evidence would be evidence. But according to you, I guess only numbers can be "real" evidence.

    As a science teacher I am ashamed that education has been highjacked by folks in the name of science. First, thinking that test scores are the only way to measure educational outcomes is a fundamental misunderstanding of the science of educational research. In every scientific discipline researchers use different tools to address their chosen problem. The methods used in medical research is totally different that that of a paleontologist, a physicist, or a psychologist. This doesn't mean that any of their methods are inherently better than the other, just that different problems require different tools.

    Second, to say that a theoretical argument or qualitative measure is *not* a way of knowing is just not true (and marginalizes whole disciplines and scientists like Stephen Hawking for one). What matters is the quality of the work. A theoretical argument that is flawed is just as bad as a bunch of numbers that have been analyzed poorly. Likewise, a quality qualitative study can have just as much impact as a set of carefully analyzed numbers. Yes, science requires skepticism but it also requires imagination, an open mind, and a deep understanding of the particular discipline within which one is working. Folks who say that test scores are the only way of knowing in an educational setting show none of these things.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    Very well put. I'd only add that quantitative measures in education are not at all like quantitative measures in physical or in biological sciences. Rather than being reflections (however flawed or mediated) of the natural world, they are reflections of artifacts created by humans- tests. Analysis of test results are of course only as good as the test itself, and to reduce the knowledge we have about student learning to p-values or any other statistical measure totally misses the substance of what constitutes knowledge of student learning. That substance is- "what did they learn and how do we know they learned it?". The answer to this question require deep analysis of every single question posed to a student, and the students' answer. If this analysis doesn't happen, it's never really clear that a teacher didn't simply program students to beat tests.

    The other critique that hasn't been full flushed out by either of us, I think, is the dubiousness of statistical analysis generally, even of NATURAL phenomena, in the absence of theoretical explanation. But I'm not going to get into it now, before I read the below comments. Suffice it to say that the evidence from the comments of the district299reader above lead me to seriously question the education that he or she has received in both scientific and statistical analysis.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I like your logic; so let’s apply it to the current reforms:

    “Actually, I am suggesting that additional reform be eliminated. If there is no proven causal link between education/reform and higher test scores then the reform is not worth the investment.

    I do not think in matters whether a reform comes from out of state (Brizard, Cheatham, EdisonLearning) or from within (Rahm Emanuel). If one cannot show higher test scores, they should lose accreditation, position title and office.

    Whatever strengths and weaknesses exist among reform advocates will work themselves out if we tie the existence of these reforms to the causal, provable results (spike in child homelessness, escalation of teen shootings, increasing Chicago homicides, widening racial and socioeconomic segregation, flat-line test results, shrinking middle class, devaluation of the teaching profession, income disparities not seen since the 20s, City of Chicago rating of ‘most corrupt city in the nation’, increasing urban teacher attrition, data massaging, conflict of interest ethics violations etc.,) instead of this mumbo jumbo about “longer school day” “thinking outside the box”, “stand for children”, “Common Core”, “Next Generation Teacher Evaluations”, “differentiated merit pay” “Charter Schools ARE public schools” “vouchers” “re-branding”, “Quality Seats” with “multi-model instructional techniques””

  • Unions Make the Middle Class
    Without Unions, the Middle Class Withers

  • Evan and Chicago,

    Both eloquent statements. But I'd like you to address the fundamental question here: What evidence exists to prove that additional education and graduate work improve student outcomes?

    I did not intend to turn this into a conversation about test scores. So, let me try another way.

    Taxpayer money is spent to have our trash collected. The benefits of that trash collection are obvious, numerous, and, most importantly, provable. The results of trash collection (how it improves the daily health and lives of residents) can be duplicated and replicated in any number of types of tests and/or studies.

    But should we pay our trash collectors more because they have received additional training in mathematics, kinesthetics, and science? Each of those subject areas could potentially impact how trash collectors go about their work and improve outcomes. Potential benefits include efficiency, injury reduction, rat population control, etc.

    Is that additional money trash collectors might receive for this education a wise government investment? Should we throw money at workers for this training without any proof that it actually improves trash collection outcomes?

    No, we shouldn't. The issue should be studied and tested and analyzed and explored. We should KNOW that it is helpful before we shell out that extra cash based on intuition and good feelings.

    Shouldn't we KNOW a master's degree or graduate work or training or professional development improves student outcomes before we pay so much more money for it?

    That's all I'm asking for. How do you KNOW these things improve student outcomes? Are there peer reviewed studies that have been replicated and duplicated that show more and better and advanced learning based on these classes and trainings?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    This is a hotly contested topic in the literature. There are people like Eric Hanushek who believe that teacher characteristics have little impact on student outcomes. He would probably have districts hire TFAers for as small a salary as possible. This ( is a nice paper explaining some flaws in his research.

    Then there are folks like Linda Darling-Hammond who have taken a closer look at a variety of studies and come to a different conclusion (

    The most recent "news" that Mr. Russo is reporting here says nothing about student outcomes, only that masters degrees are costing states a lot of money. Which, doesn't really add anything meaningful to the conversation it just states something many people have known for a while. I believe both articles I've linked can lead you to the relevant studies and researchers for you to draw your own conclusions if you so desire.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Before I answer this, can you cite any "peer reviewed studies that have been replicated and duplicated" about the effectiveness of trash collectors? I never thought about it, but now you have me curious. Why is it that both guys on the truck that picks up my neighbors' trash (my trash is picked up by a charter school, I mean a private company, because I live in a condominium building) get paid on the same scale? Wouldn't we get more effective trash collection, better value for the tax payer, if we did some peer reviewed, replicated and duplicated studies of trash collection techniques? Of course, those unionized trash collectors would probably say that each trash can is different, and you can't compare measure the performance of trash collectors in, say, Lincoln Park with that of trash collectors on, say, the West Side. We'd need to respond with a state law preventing trash collectors from negotiating on anything except wages.

    What if your imaginary pseudo-scientific world-view didn't, after all, accurately weed out the best teachers from the worst, the good performances from the bad, the effective professional development enhancements from the ineffective? It's not effectiveness you are really after; it's control. Why someone who is merely blogging about education in July (when no one but me is reading you) would be trying to feel like they have control of teachers through blog posts is exactly why I fear for our world.

  • In reply to chicago:

    There is an important study going on right now about trash collection efficiency in Chicago. It is the pilot program that uses a grid system for garbage pickup rather than the current method that relies on ridiculously shaped ward boundaries. Notice that before deciding to convert the entire city to a grid system, there is a test in place to see if this new strategy might improve trash collection for the residents of Chicago.

    If this pilot does not improved trash pickup thenthere's no reason to change the current system. But it does show improvement, then we have evidence that converting the system to this new strategy would be beneficial.

    That's what should happen if we teachers want more money for more training and education. Test it out, determine the results, and then actually make an informed decision based on the evidence. But right now we just do it the way we've always done it because that's the way we've always done it. That's not good for taxpayers.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I'm not sure why you don't think this has been tested in education and is "just the way we've done things". It has been tested over the past few decades with a variety of data sets and researchers. The results are contentious but the data is available. I've linked two articles above that demonstrate the issues quite well. The Linda Darling-Hammond article is particularly good and lays out both sides pretty well.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    If the results are so contentious then why do we pay so much for something that does not have clearly defined results?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I wonder if there are any policies about paying teachers that are not contentious? Pay for seniority, degrees, etc. and merit pay both have supporters and detractors. At a certain point I'm not sure any policy could have near 100% backing of the scientific community.

    When thinking of how to pay teachers policy makers should take into account much more than short-term educational outcomes. For example, a pretty clear down-side of merit pay is the competition (not collaboration) that it would create between teachers. It would take some time for this to become evident in the data and would probably be dismissed as a concern because of that.

    The issue of pay is not one that can be distilled into what works and what doesn't work. Finding clearly defined results is not something that is easy to come by in the educational world. The trash collecting analogy falls apart, to me, because of this very reason. The effectiveness of trash collection is much easier to measure than learning. Teaching and learning are vastly complex and difficult to measure and analyze. Not to mention, making policies from this research is even less of a science. So, we're left back where we started...looks like you're going to have to just make a decision about where you stand based on the evidence at hand.

  • In reply to chicago:

    So you're still comparing teachers to garbage collectors? So that makes our students trash? Logic fail.

  • In reply to BillyTurtle:

    Billy, don't be silly. Of course I'm not comparing teachers to garbage collectors and students to trash.

    But I am comparing the process of determining whether or not something is effective before paying for it versus paying teachers more for master's degrees when the evidence is, apparently, inconclusive, highly contentious and controversial.

    How do we come to the decision to pay people more or not? By following research that gives a clear indication of value or lack thereof. It's pretty simple really.

    Evan has been very helpful in this discussion (thank you). Do you have anything constructive to contribute to the back and forth or do you feel so insulted by rationality that it's just not possible?

    You don't seem interested in determining the efficacy of teacher graduate studies as they relate to student performance and simple cost benefit.

    So I'm trying to figure out what you're really getting at. Are you opposed to studying cost and benefit in general?

    Or are you opposed to any thoughtful consideration of how teachers should or should not be paid?

    Or both?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Headache 299
    Conclusion From Evaluating the Effects of Teacher Degree level on Educational Performance by Dan D. Goldhaber & Dominic J. Brewer
    “Teachers who are certified in mathematics and have BA and MA degrees in mathematics are associated with higher student mathematics test scores. Likewise, teachers with BA degrees in science are associated with higher student science test scores. Because mathematics and science degrees were not found to influence student outcomes in English and history, we believe that these results suggest that it is the subject-specific training rather than teacher ability that leads to these findings”

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The entire premise of teacher efficacy or student achievement being determined by test scores is a false one. To study cost/benefit one needs somewhat stable variables. Having run many standardized tests in the high schools, you would be absolutely shocked at the number of students who don't try, create pictures or gang signs out of the bubbles, are absent on test day on purpose, or simply refuse to take them. That is in addition to the students who actually want to make a solid effort, but were up listening to mom's loud music/party all night, didn't eat dinner or breakfast, or had a fight on the way to school. How are we supposed to control those variables?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It is impossible for teachers to control for the variables that you listed; and value-added measures can only pretend to measure teacher effects (see Mark Wilson v. Eric Hanushek at )

    That doesn’t stop CPS from masquerading their new and improved Battelle for Kids Value-Added scam.

    How many people have actually seen a value-added formula?
    Take a look at Florida’s 2006 - 2007version at

    incomprehensible, which is just one reason CPS put Battelle for Kids on the payroll.

    And for the benefit of concerned Chicago citizens, Battelle For Kids doesn’t even have their version of VAM internet-accessible. We’re talking about 400,000 kids and nearly 30,000 teachers – I think the public has a right to know something about it.... even if you’re a professor of mathematics, it would still be impossible to measure how you’re kid’s school has been downgraded

    Luckily, you can purchase the Battelle Value-Added Toolkit for only $299. And you can bet that many neighborhood schools will be mandated encouraged to buy a more expensive version.

    However, experimental, quantitative research suggests that teacher experience has a positive and measurable impact on student achievement -

    Teacher Experience and Class Size Effect – Experimental Evidence by Steffen Mueller – University of Erlangen-Nuremberg –
    Research junkies can find the study at

    Mueller’s main finding is this: “only experienced teachers are able to generate a beneficial class size effect.” So there we have it - experienced teachers make a difference, at least with smaller class sizes

    So then, why is CPS so busy firing experienced teachers? …. seems to point to a CPS policy that implements research conclusions to the detriment of student achievement outcomes in order to build a case for increasing market-share of public dollars for the politically connected.

    Lately, there seems to be a whole bunch of pretty informed academics that are beginning to see evidence that cps ‘board actions’ speak louder than Tribune Editorial words;

    Evidence that that Mr. Emanuel and his seven appointed board accomplices,

    David Vitale – Joe Cabot
    Rod Sierra – Nice Guy Eddie
    Jesse Ruiz – Mr. Blonde
    Henry Bienen – Mr. Blue
    Dr. Mahalia Hines – Mr. Brown
    Penny Pritzker – Mr. Pink
    Andrea Zopp – Mr. White

    are intentionally, with malice aforethought, failing thousand of Chicago school children in order to pull off a $500 million heist of charter-school ice.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Don't be silly?

    The fact that you chose garbage collector tells me everything I need to know about your biases against me, my profession, and the students I teach. I think it borders on racist.

    Evan has decided to play your reindeer games. I reject them.

    It blows me away that x number of years ago you were in a classroom and could probably point to a few teachers who helped you become who you are today, and now you want to attack us.

    Maybe you're just some econ student who is enamored with Freakonomics and you want to write your Ph.D. thesis on something controversial.

    I am fine with research. All teachers are researchers. I conduct cost benefit analyses dozens if not hundreds of times a day in my classroom.

    I am opposed to people trying to attack my profession and attack my students. I am opposed to outsiders coming in and trying to redefine my profession once again. What part of what you proposed shows any deference or honor to the profession? You walk in here with your big ideas about what teaching is and how it works and you demand PROOF. DATA. PEER REVIEW. Let's have a courageous conversation. Let's go on a deep dive into the data.

    You think you know how to improve a K-12 classroom because you have a K-12 education. Rather than listening to a TEACHER who KNOWS his profession, who says there is a correlation between advanced degrees and teacher quality, and probing a little, you DEMAND PROOF. Then someone offers proof and you want PEER REVIEW. How about just listening and saying, "Interesting, why do you think that is? Is it causal?" Show a little respect and a teacher will bend over backwards to help you.

    I take offense because what is an academic question to you is my livelihood. By coming after teachers for their "lavish" bonuses for post-baccalaureate education, you are essentially searching for loose change among the couch cushions while there are $100 bills all over the room.

    Where's the PEER REVIEW supporting giant bailouts? wars? tax cuts? deregulation? It doesn't exist. It's all theory. And belief in those theories has brought us to this position. Not teacher salaries. Not pensions.

    Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.

    My profession is under attack on all sides, nationwide. This attack is so short sided it isn't even funny. Either the 99% will wake up again and we will see social unrest and upheaval like the world has never known, or we'll all end up as serfs. The Dark Ages: Part II.

    I guess my other giant problem with your lofty "rational" academic questions is that it shows ZERO understanding of why I do what I do. Money is not the end all be all.

  • In reply to BillyTurtle:

    The author of the teacher/garbage collector analogy is particularly egregious; harboring what must be the cultural attitudes of a Henrietta Marie slave-ship Sea captain during the 17th century Atlantic slave trade; not only expresses disregard for teachers and minority children of poverty, but a genuine and deeply embedded malevolence.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    To "Billy, don't be silly. Of course..." You are I assume the same district299reader who earlier wrote, "if we can't get reliable peer reviewed studies with replicable results to show those teachers are better, if we can't duplicate those results (if they are proven to exist, which they are not) on a large scale then we are throwing taxpayer money down the drain." to which myself and others responded by questioning your data-analysis competency.

    But now I think a different response (already articulated by some here) is also required. You ask here, "How do we come to the decision to pay people more or not? By following research that gives a clear indication of value or lack thereof. It's pretty simple really."

    I have two major points to make. First, let's expand on your idea of paying people to include government decision-making more generally. You apparently think that "clear indication of value or lack thereof", by which you by all indications mean quantitative analysis, is the only important factor in determining government decision-making. Others on this thread have pointed out the ambiguity of "clarity" in quantization of complex outcomes like the development of human beings. But to be clear- no teacher commenting has denied the legitimacy of using “hard” data to interpret educational outcomes- we have simply questioned its usefulness as the sole decision-making factor, especially in the absence of critical analysis, in education policy.

    I would like to reiterate the dubiousness of making "clear indication of value" in any quantitative context, in the absence of subjective value judgment. “Value”, for me anyway, goes far beyond numbers. We need to make choices as a people as to what we value, and we should probably make those choices for reasons that go beyond the numerical. For example, and as others have pointed out, we could claim that the lowest cost per extermination of members of an unwanted minority group represents the greatest “value” for our collective money. Obviously this is extreme, but it illustrates the point. If we value educating children, if we value having a system whereby educators are not expected to bear the sole financial burden of the development of our society’s capacity to educate, then we will collectively bear the burden of compensating more highly educated teachers. This is not to say that the system couldn’t use some reform- I don’t advocate rewarding teachers and diploma mills for what may be BS coursework. But I do understand, or I should say value, the need for the institutional development of the teaching profession.

    I agree that “The issue should be studied and tested and analyzed and explored.” But your emphasis on KNOWING that these things are helpful before we take action (you cite replicable, duplicated, peer-reviewed studies but don’t really give a coherent epistemology of student learning) borders on the pathological. Read, for example, the political philosophy of Jurgen Habermas if you still don’t understand why I say (and others in this thread have more or less already said) pathological.

    The other thing that has been said that I want to reiterate is that you are either in the 1% or 99%. If you are in the 99%, it is not the incremental pay increases of more highly educated teachers that is screwing you over. It is the 1%. They are the ones who have profited enormously as the rest of us have suffered. Teachers’ pay is a red herring. I encourage you to support a fully funded public education system based on continuous, research-based improvement so that together, united, we can create a more just and equitable society.

  • In reply to BillyTurtle:

    City garbage collectors just like teachers work their asses off. Both jobs require workers to be "on point" for a good portion of the day. Both are vilified.

    Compare that to most of the private sector who have tons of downtime and are hailed as paragons of hard work. Take some self-congratulatory private sector hack and put' em in a classroom, on the back of a garbage truck, or in a police cruiser and watch 'em shrink.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    True that!

  • Here is one research study for those interested.

  • In reply to Teacher:


    Nationally, teachers with a master's degree earn 11% more pay than teachers without advanced degrees.

    CPS pays 5.26% more for teachers with a master's degree, less than half the national average.

    I guess I'm not shocked.

  • The person provoking this discussion asks Billy Turtle - "So I'm trying to figure out what you're really getting at. Are you opposed to studying cost and benefit in general?

    Or are you opposed to any thoughtful consideration of how teachers should or should not be paid?"

    And that seems to me to sum up the position of the administration, as we now have a mayor who thinks teachers should give consideration to not being paid. I don't agree that this is "thoughtful", however and therein lies the problem with the endlessly repetitive arguments of this person. As have many of you, I have noticed that there is a kind of psychotic pattern here--a demand for data, without the presentation of any data, then a complete lack of response to data when it is presented. Like a taped message rather than a person. If we could only find it and pull the plug. But alas, it will pull the plug on us first and it knows it.

    Just because the mayor has the power to impose a particular view of teaching does not mean there is "data" either to support or refute it. Hence the reason why this discussant does not really care about the studies that he or she is mindlessly demanding us to produce.

    The last contract was, of course, the result of a thoughtful consideration of "how teachers should be paid". But that kind of thinking has been rejected out of hand for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with its validity. The presumption that the method of paying teachers is somehow the crux of the education problem--that is what I'd like to see studied by our friend on this list. Show me the real, reproducible, blablabla studies with placebos and liability releases and all that which support this presumption.

    Obviously, these don't exist. Like everything else in education, they are few and rarely agreed on. So the question is, why is teacher pay such an issue?

    I leave that one to your imagination.

    And still the voice intones, "give me studies, reproducible, and blablabla..."

    I think, if it were possible to shift the discussion away from this claptrap--which it is not, because the eerie voice that is singing this song is also singing the song of city hall and state legislatures across the country--but if it were possible, then a better question might be about schools rather than teachers.

    The odd thing is that in the best schools in the country, there are many weak classroom teachers who make essential contributions to the school. They may be coaches or may work long hours, or may be the psychic glue that holds the community together, or may be great at creating external partner or parent collaboration. These schools could not be great without such people, but we are moving to a system that judges everyone by the same classroom standard, ignoring the fact that the classroom is only one place or way that schools teach young people. Such individuals are able to survive in the classroom in functional communities because the kids are much less demanding. But in places like my school, they cannot survive, and they will be weeded out by the strict application of a blinkered individual classroom-only evaluation system such as the one we are putting in place.

    Paradoxically, as the non-classroom resources of a school are reduced, the classroom becomes harder and harder to use for education, moreso in areas where kids are not ready to learn classroom style. But we are moving in the direction of eliminating school personnel and resources even as we focus more and more on classroom competence.

    For me the sad thing about this is a bit like global warming. There is no reason to believe that the catastrophe can be halted. The train has no brakes. Already, according to an article in next month's Rolling Stone magazine, fossil fuel companies are committed to unearthing and marketing 8 times as much carbon as studies show will tip the earth over the crucial 2 degree temperature rise. At that point, a series of cataclysmic events takes place which essentially make for a Noah's ark kind of situation.

    Sorry for the digression, but so it is here. Our friend is like a lobbyist for Exxon or Venezuela. He is as if paid to keep demanding studies blablabla that will stop his bosses from pursuing their plan. But, of course, he has no interest in the studies and they have no interest in abandoning their plan. He just keeps going blablabla studies. Blablabla studies. It's not about better schools, better results, better anything... except perhaps (and this I save for another column) better profits for the virtual education companies that hope to clean up when the public schools implode as a result of these deliberately unworkable policies.

  • In reply to chicago:

    I have responded to the studies here. The results are contentious, highly debatable, and inconclusive and they are not based solely on exam scores.

    In what areas do we spend money so freely (an average 11% master's degree bump nation wide, it seems) without conclusive evidence that it makes a difference? Education is the largest and most notable example.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Is "I have responded to the studies here" on the list of talking points? Putting aside the confusion created by the fact that you and a dozen other people write in anonymously without bothering to create a unique fake name, you have not responded to any studies at all. What are you talking about?

  • In reply to chicago:

    I have responded to the studies by acknowledging, along with Evan who posted those interesting studies, that their results are inconclusive, highly debatable, and contentious. What the heck else would you like me to say about them? It is not as if there is a clear or obvious majority of research indicating graduate degrees improve student learning.

    What are YOU talking about?

  • If you were looking for a new day care facility, what would compel you to choose one over another? There must be some comparator function in a head that can evaluate and judge. If the reasoning is put down on paper and quantitative, isn't that a study? Isn't that what the papers do when they make recommendations for judges at election time? It seems as though people are judged all the time.

    If graduate degrees in education were really useful, why is there professional development? Usually PD is on educational practice, so shouldn't these degrees have already gone over the latest thinking? If so, PD is redundant and should be eliminated. If instead PD supplies the latest, then what is being learned in the graduate courses? What prevents the newly learned skills to be applied in the classroom? Is it common language? If so, then there is no reason to have graduate degrees, because PD is providing the common language.

    Content area seems different. It is hard to teach science if you don't have enough of it. Keep the content area degrees.

Leave a comment