Separation of Degrees: State-By-State Analysis of Teacher Compensation for Master's Degrees

Mickey Muldoon

Marguerite Roza and Raegen Miller
Center for American Progress
July 2009

For teachers in many states, obtaining a Master's degree in education is just about the best investment they could make. In New York, for example, a teacher who puts down some $7,000 for a one-year Master's program is contractually guaranteed to earn a permanent salary bonus of $7,109 (on average) every year following completion of the program. It should be no surprise that, in that state, a full 78 percent of teachers hold Master's degrees. (It's worthy to note that a MA is required in four of the five pathways to obtaining a Professional Certificate in the Empire State.) But like Bernie's guaranteed returns, this safe and lucrative investment masks a frightening reality: Master's programs in education are pretty much useless when it comes to improving teacher effectiveness. Which means, according to Roza's and Miller's analysis, that New York spends $1.1 billion--and the country as a whole, $8.6 billion--every year to reward essentially-frivolous degree-grubbing. (And that tally excludes the vast sums, often public dollars, spent on Master's of Education tuition every year.) The authors don't oppose rewarding graduate degrees, but say the education system should reward those that make a palpable difference, like advanced study of science and math. If bonuses and raises were tied to attainments that matter, like Master's degrees that improve teaching effectiveness, teachers would be more likely to invest in them. And their students might actually benefit from the investment. Read it here.

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