Eye on Education

Liberal Think Tank says Advanced Degrees Don’t Make Better Teachers

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Cleveland science teacher Gregory Dore has his master's degree, but the Center for American Progress says advanced degrees shouldn't be rewarded with financial incentives because they don't make for better teachers.

A new report from the Center for American Progress argues that teachers with master’s degrees do not do a better job educating their students than their peers without advanced degrees.

The report goes on to say that states waste money by giving salary increases to teachers as a reward for getting a master’s degree, spending nearly $15 billion annually on such pay hikes.

According to the report, Ohio is worse on this front than many other states. This is from a press release sent out

Teachers with advanced degrees are generally compensated with additional salary or stipends, known as the master’s degree bump, but some states are paying far more into this inefficient and unwise policy than others. In Ohio, for instance, the state spends more than $430 per student each year on its master’s degree bump. In others states, such as Utah, that number is $39 per student each year, illustrating the tremendous range in values.

The report blames the advanced-degree programs, arguing that they don’t do a very good job furthering a teacher’s education. According to the report, master’s programs do not spend enough time on how to actually improve instruction skills in the classroom.

From the report:

Instructional efficacy is not the focus of many master’s degree programs in education. Approximately 10 percent of the master’s degrees held by teachers are geared toward educational administration. Further, some master’s programs double as teacher education programs with curricula that are a “confusing patchwork” lacking in rigor and often absent coursework that a reasonable person might imagine fundamental.

In fact, the National Council on Teacher Quality has raised the ire of many colleges and universities lately by questioning their efficacy.

The center is proposing a couple solutions to the situation. First is to encourage teachers to get a master’s in their area of expertise. So, for example, a science teacher would do better to get an advanced degree in science rather than a master’s of education degree. That’s how it’s done in Finland, the center argues, and the U.S. does tend to look up to Finland’s education model.

The report contends that states would be better off rewarding teachers who take on challenging subjects, like math, or are willing to teach in particularly troubled schools. Overall, the center favors a “more complex teacher compensation system, in which higher pay goes to teachers in shortage subject areas, to effective teachers who support novices or tackle the most challenging assignments, and to teachers with extraordinary instructional impact.”

Performance pay has been a key part of education initiatives from the Department of Education lately. It should be noted here that the Center for American Progress is a liberal think tank with ties to both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Tell us what you think; should teachers get pay increases for getting advanced degrees?


  • Duckmonkeyman

    I’d love to get an advanced degree in my content area. But try to find a university who offers STEM degrees in the evenings or weekends. Plus most courses are taught pretty much as 50 years ago targeting 20somethings, not working teachers. But even in post-secondary undergrad, teaching is 10% content and 90% delivery. I suffered plenty of profs and TAs who may have mastered particle physics or Hilbert’s spaces but could not teach no matter his good their intentions. Many of the best teachers my kids have encountered did have Masters. The argument against seems nonsense – don’t reward education because education isn’t important in education. Do people think in these think tanks?

    • Astroboy

      I agree. I have a BS in Physics. There’s no way to get a masters in Physics without taking 2 years off of teaching.

      • lrs63

        I can understand what you are saying because my nephew has a PHD in physics from Carnege Mellon. It does take a lot of dedication. However,
        having more than one science degree, such as in chemistry or biology is very valuable. I’ve often thought that chemistry should be taught before biology to gain greater understanding of the subject. Science is inner connected. Having greater over-all knowledge would be better. At least that is my uninformed opinion of it.

    • lrs63

      It does seem logical that teachers would benefit from having more subject content knowledge. Delivery is important as well. What good is knowledge if you can’t articulate what you know? They both seem equally important to me.

  • Duckmonkeyman

    As I dug more and “followed the money” the road led back to Gates Foundation. Gates has a different agenda of “stack ranking” teachers and privatizing education. Unfortunately the voices of real teachers are being drowned out by dollars from billionaires.


  • Laura Taucher

    I earned my MA from Kent State in French and Pedagogy, so half my classes were graduate French courses and the other half were teaching focused. I learned so much about teaching and was able to keep up on my subject matter.

    I think more programs need to be developed to allow teachers to earn a master’s in their field. I work with many teachers who plunked down work, and money, to online programs that breezed them through but didn’t really get them to evaluate their teaching. They got their MA and their pay raise.

    I do think that there should be some kind of compensation for earning the MA. I spent $15,000 on my MA while still working to pay on my undergraduate loans. I’m glad I did the program but any lack of compensation would make it really difficult to spend that kind of money. We want to improve ourselves but that’s a large sum to pay with little guarantees.

    Oh, and I was laid off about one month before defending my year-long research for graduation completion. So I lost my job, had to still do an excellent job of teaching my students, and complete a graduate program that would now make me unemployable because no district wants to pay a teacher with experience and an MA when they can hire some inexperienced kid straight from college.

    • Moneypoorlyspent

      You are 100% correct. Like you, I have a M.Ed. with 7 years of teaching experience. I can kiss my chance of working for another district goodbye. It is a shame that teachers are not valued for their education and experience. What is truly upsetting is paying on a student loan for a worthless education. Another issue I have is with superintendents and teachers who retire and are rehired because they “save the district money but get an experienced educator!” What is wrong with this state?

  • Matthewfadel

    So, all the best teachers must have dropped out of high school? Bill Gates thinks a computer can teach. this is so insulting. teachers are worth a damn 2,500 raise after paying $ 8,000+ for a degree.

  • Nwoodsd52

    This is so much bullsh*t. While a masters by itself does not make a better teacher, it can make a much better teacher. Teachers are born, a good teacher is a good teacher masters degree or not.

  • lrs63

    I remember my sister in law complaining about the content of the material in her masters program. She didn’t feel it would make her a better teacher even though it would increase her wages. She had been awarded “Teacher of the Year” in her first year of teaching. She was bright, dedicated and disciplined.

    When my daughter was in school, I mentioned to her science teacher that she was ADD and that might be why she was struggling with the material. Immediately the teacher responded that she thought she might be able to help my daughter do better. She had taken a summer course (without compensation to herself) in how to teach ADD students and said she was eager to apply what she had learned. In fact, she said all of her students would benefit.
    Well she was right. My daughter went from a “D” to an “A” in science and expressed more interest in the subject.

    This has left me wondering why teachers aren’t encouraged and compensated more for taking classes that would improve their teaching performance? Are masters programs too much like a diploma mill that enriches the college but doesn’t offer much substance? I don’t know. Teachers can best answer this.

  • Rosanna Danna

    Yes, I’m kind of guessing that this “liberal think tank” study was funded by the privatizing “foundations” somehow. It’s kind of what the cigarette companies used to do…I got a master’s in my subject and it absolutely made me a better teacher, in my subject. I busted my butt and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. This is yet another attempt to bust unions and pay teachers less.

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