The teacher master’s degree and student achievement

23 Jul

In Education Trust report: Retaining teachers in high-poverty areas, moi said:

Every population of kids is different and they arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Schools and teachers must be accountable, but there should be various measures of judging teacher effectiveness for a particular population of children. Perhaps, more time and effort should be spent in developing a strong principal corps and giving principals the training and assistance in evaluation and mentoring techniques.

The Ed Trust report, entitled “Building and Sustaining Talent: Creating Conditions in High-Poverty Schools That Support Effective Teaching and Learning,” examines how several districts have handled the issue of teacher retention:

Specifically, districts should take the following steps:

Recruit talented school leaders to their highest need schools, an get them to stay. In addition to the districts spotlighted earlier, the District of Columbia Public Schools has taken a rigorous approach to principal recruitment. The district scours student achievement data from school districts around the country (especially those close to D.C.) and then actively recruits principals of top-performing schools.

Put in place teacher and school-leader evaluation systems that differentiate educator effectiveness in order to identify top performing teachers and leaders. Using these systems in conjunction with data on working conditions and attrition, districts can study which teachers are more and less satisfied, as well as which ones are staying and leaving — and why.

Provide teachers in the highest need schools with meaningful professional growth and career ladders as well as opportunities to collaborate with other teachers, as Ascension Parish and Boston Public Schools have done.

Avoid isolating their most effective teachers and, instead, build teams of highly effective teachers in the district’s most challenging schools, as both Boston Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have done.

Concentrate not just on recruiting new school leaders and teachers to high-need schools, but on developing the skills and instructional abilities of existing employees, as have Fresno and Ascension Parish.

Implement a tool to measure teacher perceptions of their teaching environment, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ working conditions survey, and then use data from the tool to identify target schools and determine primary issues that need to be addressed. For example, Pittsburgh Public Schools works with the New Teacher Center to implement a district-wide survey on working conditions. The district requires all schools to use the data to identify a plan of action and pays special attention to the plans of schools with the poorest survey results to ensure that the planned interventions align with the identified areas of need.

Once better evaluations are in place, districts should make working conditions data part of school and district-leader evaluations. North Carolina requires that survey data on working conditions are factored into school-leader evaluations, which encourages leaders to take the survey results seriously and to act on areas identified as needing improvement.


To date, the conditions that shape teachers’ daily professional lives have not been given the attention they deserve. Too often, a lack of attention to these factors in our highest poverty and lowest performing schools results in environments in which few educators would choose to stay. For too long, the high levels of staff dissatisfaction and turnover that characterize these schools have been erroneously attributed to their students. But research continues to demonstrate that students are not the problem. What matters most are the conditions for teaching and learning. Districts and states have an obligation to examine and act on these conditions. Otherwise, we will never make the progress that we must make to ensure all low-income students and students of color have access to great teachers.                                                                                                                      

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise See, Report: Make Improving Teacher Working Conditions a Priority

The Center for American Progress has released the report, The Sheepskin Effect and Student Achievement: De-emphasizing the Role of Master’s Degrees in Teacher Compensation written by Raegen Miller and Marguerite Roza.

Miller and Roza write in the issue brief:

All teachers in Finland have a master’s degree, and they get extraordinary results from their students. If we want be(er results in U.S. schools, then, we should require teachers to have a master’s degree, so the argument goes.

But this argument has two fatal flaws. First, teachers in Finland hail from the top 10 percent of their graduating class.25 “is selectivity is woven into a set of policies that Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University, has astutely described as a “teaching and learning system.”26 “e Finnish system could scarcely be more diferent than our domestic grab bag of policies arising from approximately 15,000 separate school districts carrying out their responsibility to provide public education, variously conceived by the diverse states of a country with an unmatched tolerance, at least among wealthy industrialized nations, for inequity in school funding and facilities.

Secondly, Finnish teachers hold master’s degrees that augment their knowledge and skills in a way that’s deliberately connected to their instructional challenges. Secondary teachers earn a master’s in the subject of instruction, and the master’s degree required of elementary teachers equips them with specialized knowledge and skills often found only among special education teachers and school psychologists in U.S. schools. “us, holding master’s degrees means Finnish teachers either have a serious grasp on academic content or are well equipped to problem solve around the individual learning needs of their students.

“The typical master’s degree held by a U.S. teacher and the associated skills a(ached pale in comparison. Moreover, it’s unlikely to move in this direction barring a tectonic shift in the higher-education landscape. Institutions of higher education, of course, won’t be at the vanguard of efforts to repeal legislation that inflates demand for one of their most lucrative products, master’s degrees in education. In addition, it bears mentioning, for example, that Connecticut’s requirement that teachers seeking a professional license hold a master’s degree was unscathed by recent reform-conscious legislation in that state.

In Is it true that the dumbest become teachers? Moi said:

There is a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken:

Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

People often assume that if a person could do anything else, they probably wouldn’t teach. Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. has an interesting article in the Washington Post.

In Do teachers really come from the ‘bottom third’ of college graduates? Di Carlo writes:

The conventional wisdom among many education commentators is that U.S. public school teachers “come from the bottom third” of their classes. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took this talking point a step further, and asserted at a press conference last week that teachers are drawn from the bottom 20 percent of graduates…

Overall, then, the blanket assertion that teachers are coming from the “bottom third” of graduates is, at best, an incomplete picture. It’s certainly true that, when the terciles are defined in terms of SAT/ACT scores, there is consistent evidence that new teachers are disproportionately represented in this group (see here and here for examples from the academic literature).

There isn’t really a definitive answer. Miller and Roza’s analysis of the importance of the masters degree in Finland means that more training might be useful in student education achievement.


Urban teacher residencies                              

Study: When teachers overcompensate for prejudice

The teaching profession needs more males and teachers of color

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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