Friday, June 10, 2011

Is a masters worth it?

I've read a lot in the education policy blogs out there about how teachers shouldn't be given pay raises just because they have a masters because data shows that teachers with masters degrees aren't any more effective than teachers without masters degrees. I suppose I understand the beginning of that argument- why should ineffective teachers with masters degrees get paid more than effective teachers without the degree?  What we're being paid for is what happens in the classroom with the kids.
The thing is, every time I hear that argument I cringe. My masters degree made me a much more effective teacher. I learned important background on child development, how children learn, and how to intervene when some children do not learn. I gained a new perspective, learned strategies I could immediately apply in the classroom, and understood the difference between a teaching strategy that looks like it should work and one that is actually research based and does work. My masters degree turned me into the data-obsessed freak I am today. (I try to hide this most of the time, but I have to admit, I love my data).
Maybe it's where I got my masters, or that I happened to have excellent professors who had both their phd and for the most part continued to teach in the school system, but I have a hard time understanding how people end up walking away from their masters without being more effective teachers. I believe it can happen, but does it really happen as often some education policy people argue?

I worry that the "masters degree isn't worth it" argument encourages teachers to not get their masters degree, assuming there is nothing more for them to learn. And no one in life should assume they have already learned all there is to know.

 It also sends a message to everyone that education degrees are simply a waste of time and that you don't need quality training to be a good teacher. This terrifies me the most. I thought I knew a lot about education and how teaching should work before I took any education classes, but both my undergrad classes and my masters classes (and now my doctorate classes) continue to show me better, more effective ways to teach. What I thought I knew before is so far off from the reality of what is good teaching.


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Lipstick, you have been very fortunate in your choice of Masters' and Doctoral programs. I only wish that all (or even most) programs could claim students like you, who feel confident of the value of their graduate work. But many, many programs have lots of coursework that is not data-driven or research-based, and this is partly because so many of the teachers enrolled in them are driven by the need to get a salary increase, and so are not very choosy about what they learn or do not learn.

luckeyfrog said...

I want to get my masters, but if I'm not enrolled in a program by July 1st, I can't get paid more for it.

And unfortunately, my job was just cut and my fiance is still in school so I'm tentative to start it now.

Someday if money is less of an issue, I would still love to do it, but it's going to depend on the money because there's no guarantee that the masters tuition will be paid back to me in better pay.

I think they should have opted for something like "teachers rated as ineffective won't get paid more depending on their degrees," so that it doesn't hurt teachers that are effective.

Anonymous said...

I also think the proliferation of "quick and dirty" Masters' programs has cheapened the perception from outside, rightfully so. Your programs were rigorous and meaningful. It feels like many are not. My SPED credentialing was extremely ineffective. My Masters was the opposite: Two different programs, two divergent results. It becomes the responsibility of the student to research their program options. If we as teachers are willing to take the "quick" route, it continues to be reflected in the belief that a Masters doesn't improve instruction.