by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Kency Nittler of the National Council on Teacher Quality takes a look at compensation for master’s degrees in the 124 largest school districts in the nation. She finds,
Of the ten districts that do not offer additional pay, five are in North Carolina (a state that prohibits the practice), with the remainder in several states including districts such as Dallas Independent School District and Hillsborough County Public Schools that have restructured their pay to primarily recognize performance rather than educational credits.
In addition, four districts (3 percent) have non-traditional salary schedules with advanced degrees or graduate coursework as one of several options teachers can pursue to raise their salaries. Examples include Portland Public Schools (ME) and the Baltimore City Public School System.
Why does North Carolina and a handful of school districts prohibit the practice of awarding salary supplements for master’s degrees? Nittler explains,
Over and over again, research finds that teachers with master’s degrees are rarely more effective than teachers without them. Also true, most teachers (59 percent) accumulate debt in their pursuit of a master’s degree. One analysis, that uses data from eight years ago, reports an average debt of nearly $38,000! Quickly escalating tuition costs most likely mean that figure is now higher.
In short, earning a master’s degree in education is both ineffective and expensive. Yet, school districts across the country continue to base compensation in part on teachers having a master’s degree.
Despite being ineffective and expensive, state lawmakers continue to introduce legislation that would restore the master’s degree supplement.