JLF head John Hood writes today on the issue of teacher quality in general and paying teachers that have a master’s degree more in particular. A highlight:
Although North Carolina liberals appear not to have gotten the memo, most scholars of teaching effectiveness have long known that paying teachers to return to college for master’s degrees is not a wise investment of tax dollars. Students taught by such teachers don’t learn more than students taught by those who don’t get advanced degrees. Conservative-leaning academic scholars agree with this conclusion. But so do liberal-leaning scholars, including those skeptical of other means of attracting and retaining good teachers such as merit pay based on value-added assessments.
The only possible exception would be middle- or high-school teachers who obtain master’s degrees in math or science before teaching advanced courses. Even here the evidence is mixed. And the vast majority of teachers who pursue the salary bump do so by getting master’s degrees in education, not math or science.
What the political debate about North Carolina’s recent decision reveals is that the education establishment lives in a fantasy world, a world of wish-fulfillment rather than hard realities. Its denizens believe that raising taxes to spend more money on education is the state’s best strategy for economic development, despite copious empirical evidence to the contrary. They attribute all gains in student achievement to their pet programs, while blaming the low performance of many states on factors entirely outside of their control — or on the fact that the students are not exposed to their pet programs long enough.