Blogging for Real Education Reform? Let's Take on Master's Bumps, Productivity

Thanks to Mike Antonucci’s Intercepts blog, I learned that today is “National Blogging for Real Education Reform Day.” The American Association of School Administrators and ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) are hosting this “grassroots effort to bring together Pk-12 and higher education educators.”

I like to help educate people and am definitely grassroots, but I probably don’t fit the bill of whom they’re looking for to blog on the topic. Nevertheless, here’s a post for real education reform on November 22, 2010, and it has to do with educators. Specifically the way they are paid. I’m talking about all the money we pay teachers and other educators just because they have a master’s degree.

As noted in a Saturday Associated Press story (H/T This Week in Education), we spend about $8.6 billion nationally each year on these “master’s bumps” — which have no connection to improved student learning. In Colorado, thanks to the research of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, we know the amount is nearly $140 million annually (that figure is from year-old data). My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow pointed this out in July 2009 testimony he gave before the state’s Fiscal Stability Commission.

Now, just last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the exact same point at a speech he gave at the American Enterprise Institute:

Doing more with less will likely require reshaping teacher compensation to do more to develop, support, and reward excellence and effectiveness, and less to pay people based on paper credentials.

Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters’ degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers‐‐with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.

Ben applauded the remarks in a blog post at Ed News Colorado. Secretary Duncan may be a latecomer to this point of view. But the reality is that the decades-long upward rise in school budgets has come to a halt, and it’s past time for K-12 schools to focus more on productivity and efficiency.

Now that’s blogging for real education reform!