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Economists Want to Stop Teachers' Degree Bonuses

Economists Want to Stop Teachers' Degree Bonuses

Think getting a masters will give your salary a boost? The future is uncertain.


“We’re experimenting now,” he said, noting pay-for-performance experiments in New York City, Houston and Nashville.

Ninety percent of teachers’ masters degrees are in education, not subjects such as English or math, according to a study by Marguerite Roza and Raegen Miller for the Center on Reinventing Education at the University of Washington.

Their colleague, research professor Dan Goldhaber, explained that that research dating back to a study he did in 1997 has shown that students of teachers with master’s degrees show no better progress in student achievement than their peers taught by teachers without advanced degrees.

Goldhaber said his findings were criticized vehemently in the 1990s, but repeated studies since then have confirmed the results.

Roza and Miller found more than 2 percent of total education spending in 13 states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio and South Carolina, plus Washington and Nebraska, where the dollars topped 3 percent – went to masters degree bonuses.

The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union doesn’t oppose changes in the way teachers are paid and is willing to talk about just about any reform idea, said Rob Weil, deputy director of educational issues.

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“We’re not opposed to looking at compensation systems and making sure our compensation moves forward and changes with the times,” he said. But, he adds, “Change for change’s sake isn’t what we ought to be doing.”

Weil said the problem is that most school districts don’t know what they want to do instead of the traditional salary schedule that gives teachers more money for years of service and additional education.

“I go into school districts all the time and say, ‘What do you want to pay for?’ and that’s when nobody’s home,” he said.

The National Education Association, which is the nation’s largest teacher’s union, has floated the idea of paying higher starting salaries for teachers to attract more and better teachers to the profession. Others have suggested rewarding teachers for student achievement gains.

American teacher pay has been structured the same way in every state since before World War II. Before then, high school teachers were paid more than primary school instructors. Establishing one pay rate was a feminist issue since teachers in the younger grades used to be mostly women and most high school teachers were men.

Even in states where teacher pay is set by the school district according to market factors, the pay schedule has been the same way for many decades, Podgursky said. Average teaching salaries by state

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