Colorado Takes On Tenure and Evaluation Reform… Are "Master's Bumps" Next?

Writing over at Education Next, experts Emily Cohen and Kate Walsh explain how reformers should be focused on changing the levers of state policy to improve the quality of teaching, rather than grousing about what locally-negotiated collective bargaining contracts won’t allow them to do. In their piece “Invisible Ink in Teacher Contracts”, Cohen and Walsh pour the spotlight on our backyard:

No legislative success, however, trumps that achieved in Colorado in May 2010. The perfect storm—a charismatic, Democratic legislator who is a Teach For America alumnus, the lure of Race to the Top funds, and a whole array of advocacy groups that included the Colorado chapters of Democrats for Education Reform and Stand For Children—pulled off teacher legislation that was bitterly opposed by the state union and which no one dreamed possible a year ago.

The success of SB 191 is becoming conventional wisdom nationwide, and it’s hard to disagree about its national significance — even if the implementation of the bill is slow and its actual effects promise to be somewhat modest. Maybe the best news s that Colorado achieved this remarkable legislative success despite the fact our state tends more than most toward the local control end of the governance spectrum.

But the article also prompted me to think about what else the Colorado General Assembly might find a way to take on. Here’s my nominee:

The love affair that states have with master’s degrees really cannot be justified, as no study of any repute has ever found that these degrees make teachers more effective, particularly when the degrees are earned in education.

I’ve highlighted this problem before and the fact that Colorado spends about $140 million or more a year on these “master’s bumps” alone. Not exactly the hallmark of a productive education system. Now that Colorado has begun to take on teacher tenure and evaluations, here’s hoping that the state can use whatever leverage it has to tackle the issue of “master’s bumps,” too.