Teachers with advanced degrees: good for elite schools, bad for the rest of us?

Gov. Mitch Daniels recently recalled his Indianapolis childhood and teen-age years in a sweet and nostalgic “My Indiana” essay for the Indianapolis Star.

“I was lucky to attend a tremendous public school system,” he wrote, referring to Washington Township schools and North Central High School. “During my senior year in high school, at least three of my teachers had Ph.Ds. The next fall when, naïve and a little scared, I showed up on a far-away college campus full of prep-school types, I found myself better prepared than most of them.”

Is it maybe a little ironic that Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett pushed through the legislature a teacher compensation law that devalues the advanced degrees that Daniels’ teachers possessed?

The law, adopted in 2011, says no more than 33 percent of a teacher’s pay calculation can be based on advanced education and years of experience. Until now, it’s typically been 100 percent. According to the Indiana Department of Education, the law remedies the fact that teacher salaries were based on education and experience “despite data that shows these components have little or no relationship with teacher performance.”

Yet Daniels believes he was lucky to have learned from teachers with Ph.Ds. And today, exclusive Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis, where 100 percent of graduates are admitted to college, boasts on its website that its teachers have an average of 20 years of experience and one in five have doctorates.

Maybe education and experience count for students whose parents can afford nearly $20,000 a year in Park Tudor tuition – just not for the rest of us.

And so it goes when it comes to education. We insist class size doesn’t matter, at least not enough to pay higher taxes to hire more teachers. But we sure don’t want our own kids in crowded classrooms.

We believe that a college degree, youth, enthusiasm and five weeks of Teach for America training is all it takes to be effective in an inner-city school. But for our own children, give us a teacher with a little experience and a record of success at managing a classroom.

We say children in high-poverty schools can succeed if teachers will just buckle down, impose strict discipline and focus relentlessly on raising test scores. But please don’t let the school board cut back on art or foreign languages in our children’s schools.

How different this whole education debate would be if we started to think that what’s best for our own children is what’s best for other parents’ children too – and set about making it happen.

7 thoughts on “Teachers with advanced degrees: good for elite schools, bad for the rest of us?

  1. Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stieglitz , credits the benefit of a good public education as a reason a kid from Gary, IN got into Amherst College. He supports good public schools as a means to help fight the great economic inequality in this country.

    Thanks for all this good information, Steve.

    Beth Crowe

  2. The law that did away with pay for advanced degrees had nothing to do with improving instruction. Its purpose was to create additional funds for merit pay.

    Drive down teacher salaries; make them compete for whatever spare money is left.

    Then tell the public you are rewarding the best teachers.

  3. Pingback: Tony Bennett selling the big lie about need for Hoosier teacher accountability « @ the chalk face

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