(Dec 2) Does a master’s degree make a teacher a better educator?

By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times 
on December 02, 2013 at 7:40 AM, updated December 02, 2013 at 7:41 AM

Is a teacher with a master’s degree a better educator than one without?

The teachers’ contract dispute in the Saucon Valley School District is echoing a national dialogue about whether teachers should be paid more for earning master’s degrees.

After nearly two years of talks — and 18 months after the last contract expired — the district and teachers’ union still have no deal. The teachers have twice rejected a neutral fact-finder’s recommendations that the school board accepted.

The Saucon Valley Education Association has so far refused to explain its rejection of the fact-finder’s report. But school board members say talks are hung up on public pay for graduate coursework and retirement incentives.

The district believes graduate study is valuable but questions whether the current approach challenges teachers enough or enhances student learning. 

“We’re asking the taxpayers to pick up the bill through tuition reimbursement,” said Ed Inghrim, chairman of the board’s negotiation committee. “It is costing us a lot of money. We’re looking at a way to have more value in the classroom.”

The cost of the master’s bump

School districts often compensate teachers in two ways for picking up graduate course credits and advanced degrees. First, they offer tuition reimbursement. Second, many teacher contracts include automatic pay increases for teachers who reach course credit targets or who obtain advanced degrees. Saucon Valley, like many public school districts in the Lehigh Valley and nationwide, provides both.

A national discussion has begun on the merits of that approach. Most research shows a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily translate into better classroom results. North Carolina recently ended automatic pay increases for advanced diplomas.

Public schools around the nation pay almost $15 billion annually, a 72 percent increase over four years, on raises for educators who have gotten master’s degrees, according to a July 2012 report by the Center for American Progress.

How that translates to the classroom is open to interpretation.


Full story: Master’s degrees for teachers a matter of debate Sara Satullo, The Express-Times, 12/2/13


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