NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pay Raises for Teachers with Master's under Fire

October 10, 2013

For decades, U.S. teachers have been paid on a salary scale known as "step and lane," which awards automatic pay bumps for years of service and advanced degrees. In general, the raises come on top of annual increases negotiated through collective bargaining, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • The nation spends an estimated $15 billion annually on salary bumps for teachers who earn master's degrees, even though research shows the diplomas don't necessarily lead to higher student achievement.
  • Of the 730,635 master's degrees awarded in U.S. colleges in 2011, about 25 percent were in education, the second highest percentage of any field, behind only business, according to the federal data.

"Paying teachers on the basis of master's degrees is equivalent to paying them based on hair color," says Thomas J. Kane, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director for the Center for Education Policy Research.

  • Kane says decades of research has shown that teachers holding master's degrees are no more effective at raising student achievement than those with only bachelor's, except in math.
  • Researchers have also shown that teachers with advanced degrees in science benefit students.

Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, says master's programs can help teachers become more effective in the classroom and boost their "intellectual development," but noted some are not getting the job done. "The public should not pay for credentials that are unrelated to educators' work because doing so would inflate operating costs for schools with no obvious benefit to students," she says.

Source: Stephanie Banchero, "Pay Raises for Teachers with Master's under Fire," Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2013.


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