NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Degree Teachers Can Do Without

September 12, 2012

To keep up with the global economy, there must be an emphasis on the quality of education for our nation's children. Because of the financial crisis, education spending has been slashed in many areas in favor of quick economic relief. However, the cuts to education have highlighted an important fact that educators and relevant policymakers need to understand: spending on education is highly inefficient.

The most glaring example of inefficiency is a requirement by eight states for teachers to have a master's degree, says Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Take the case of New York:

  • Teachers receive about $7,426 for obtaining a master's degree.
  • Eighty-eight percent of teachers in the state have a master's degree.
  • Altogether, the salary increase amounted to about $1.5 billion in costs for the 2007-2008 school year.
  • In effect, the salary increase cost $540 per student, or 3.2 percent of the education budget in New York.

These costs are essentially a waste of the state's resources. Advanced degrees have shown little impact on classroom performance. On the contrary, effective classroom teaching requires attributes such as patience and kindness, which a person can't obtain with a master's degree. Moreover, the qualities of master's programs vary widely, yet the salary bump teachers receive is uniform.

Instead, schools should pursue changes to how they spend their dollars to maximize efficiency:

  • Eliminate the requirement for having a master's degree and the associated salary increase.
  • Instead, schools can use the money to award effective teachers based on student test scores and meaningful subjective evaluations.
  • Furthermore, awarding teachers based on their performance would motivate teachers to work harder in their classroom.
  • Additionally, providing incentives for teachers to do better will allow schools a better chance of keeping talented teachers from leaving the profession.

Removing the requirement to get a master's degree allows lawmakers to improve the quality of education without increasing or decreasing the current education budget.

Source: Marcus Winters, "A Degree Teachers Can Do Without," New York Daily News, August 30, 2012.


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