Q:  No wonder studies consistently find that there is no connection between student performance and teachers who hold master’s degrees. There are likely to be graduate programs that are exceptions, of course. But which ones? Clearly, there is no substitute for good data to distinguish among them, and yet the vast majority of graduate programs have no data on how well their graduates do in the classroom.

At our university, the University of Washington, in Seattle, we don’t hide from these simple facts. Rather, to the surprise of some of our higher education colleagues, we’ve embraced them.

Here’s our thinking: If teacher-salary scales were to be redesigned so that compensation was structured around increased student outcomes (instead of awarding sums after the attainment of any master’s degree of any quality), we’d certainly expect that teachers (our clients) would change their degree-seeking behaviors. Many universities rightly worry that teachers would be less likely to pursue a master’s degree at all. However, and this is an important point, those who did pursue master’s degrees would become more demanding customers: They would seek out master’s programs oriented toward genuinely improving classroom effectiveness.

C: On the surface, I agree very much with what is being said here–certifications and trainings and degrees do not a good teacher make.  I salute the University of Washington for being bold enough to stand up for a meaningful, if less easily achievable, master’s program.  Having spent 5 years earning my BA, 1 year earning my teaching credential, and now 2 more to earn a masters, I have certainly wondered whether my education is really comparable to some of my peers who achieved their BA, MA and teacher certification in an all-in-one 5 year program (and, due to the “master’s bump,” will have made about $20,000 more than I have by the time they are on their 7th year of teaching.)

However, I am stumped by how to gauge “how well their graduates do in the classroom” or how to design a payscale where “compensation [is] structured around increased student outcomes” because this brings us back to the dilemma of defining student, and thus teacher, success.  It is based on entrance to college?  Graduation from college?  The majority of my close friends work in business and IT and none have college degrees–all of their training has been through their employers or through technical schools.  They make twice what I do and have had far more success with job opportunities, too.  So, are they successful students of the public school system?

Can we base student outcomes on test scores?  Progress made?  Is the school in a wealthy, well-educated neighborhood more or less successful than the school in a high-poverty, immigrant neighborhood?  Perhaps the wealthy school has high test scores but have their kids made progress?  Have the teachers there really done a better job teaching or have they just been handed students that are nearly complete to begin with?  Can I, at my small suburban charter school, say I am a better teacher than my sister-in-law, who teaches migrant students in a gang-ridden, high drop out, high teen pregnancy school?  I mean, my test scores are higher so I must be better, right?

Q:  So, my question becomes, Whether we are a preschool, high school, or college, how to we gauge the success of our students, and thus, teachers, in a meaningful way?

7/30/2012 05:05:36 pm

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