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. Continue reading