Sunday, July 28, 2013

Getting My Master's Degree

I've been very up front about saying that the only reason I'm pursuing a master's degree is because I'm "topped out on my pay scale" and won't see another pay raise until I get one.  I chose to get one in math education (8 math classes, 2 education classes) through the University of Idaho Engineering Outreach Program instead of at a diploma mill, though, because I want to learn something that will make me a better classroom teacher.  This has already occurred--some things I learned in my Statistical Analysis class will make me a better statistics teacher.

I'd reconsider spending all this money, though, if I lived in North Carolina:
North Carolina took the first step to change their education system and make it better for the children. Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill that eliminates teacher tenure and eliminates automatic pay increases for any teacher who earns a master’s degree.
I'm sure those on the left will say, "See, Darren?  Is this what you want when Republicans are in charge?"  Of course I would not like to see this, although some reining in of bogus master's degrees should take place.  My response, though, is "What do you expect Republicans to do, treat teachers like their best friends?"  Perhaps teachers and their unions should stop putting all their eggs in the Democratic basket.


concerned said...

I don't expect Republicans to treat teachers like their best friends, but it would be really nice once in a while if they'd craft legislation indicating that they have a basic and realistic knowledge of how schools work.

I didn't read the bill, co I'm taking your word for it that it eliminates teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for any teacher who earns a master’s degree.

Many people don't realize that even with teacher tenure policies, districts do have means to dismiss poor teachers. My district performs their due deligence and does just that for teachers who are not serving students well.

Many also complain that America's teaching pool of candidates is poor in comparison to top-performers. This will definitely not improve that situation in NC.

I bet the R's are proposing some form of performance pay for teachers. Some of these guys just won't do their homework!!

Economic Policy Institute Aug 2010
Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers

mmazenko said...

Yes, I think this is a very poor decision in NC. They make a flimsy argument about some research showing no improvement in teacher performance or student achievement. Yet, this flies in the face of nearly every profession where higher education is linked to better compensation.

The same decision was made in Douglas County school district in CO. And DCSD is a mess right now with high anti-teacher sentiment on board and 300-400 teachers leaving the past two years.

Luke said...


Then how exactly do you propose to evaluate teachers? If its not based on the performance of their students, then what is it?

Why do good teachers need tenure? Or fear some form of merit based pay? It seems to me that the only the only teachers that would NEED tenure or fear a merit based pay system would be those that would not do well without tenure or guaranteed pay.

Anonymous said...

mmazenko: "Yet, this flies in the face of nearly every profession where higher education is linked to better compensation."

"Linked to", yes. Automatic raise because of extra degree, no. In engineering, it is common for the company to pay for extra classes (and even for enough classes that you get a degree), but I don't think it is common that you get an automatic raise once you complete the degree. The company doesn't care about the degree per-se, only what you do with it. If you use the new knowledge, that will show up on your performance review as a specific accomplishment (and you might get a bigger raise because of that accomplishment).

Luke: "Why do good teachers need tenure?"

I'm not a fan of tenure, but one answer is, "Because the folks making the fire/retain decision are *NOT* judged based on actual performance, either. If the principal can fire teachers based on whim and he/she suffers nothing bad, then doing well won't save a teacher's job. In private K-12 schools, the teachers often don't have tenure, but if the wrong teachers are fired, eventually (and possibly fairly soon), the person running the school is out of a job because of falling enrollment. This check on principal insanity isn't present in the public schools (and, no, the school board doesn't count as a check ... they aren't very accountable, either. Certainly not as much as parent's being able to pull their kids).

-Mark Roulo

concerned said...

Hi Luke,

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I'll try to respond to your questions.

How exactly do I propose to evaluate teachers?

This will be my 23rd yr of teaching. The school where I completed student teaching years ago was one that student teachers generally didn't want to be placed at because their teacher evaluations, throughout the school, were performed by their subject experts, i.e. their department chairs. It made me nervous, becaus my evaluator knew everything about the topic I was teaching, but I received some wonderful feedback that helped me for many years to come.

I love the school where I've been teaching my whole career, but I've never been evaluated by anyone that knew mathematics. Luckily, I had several wonderful mentors who answered my math teaching questions along the way. In addition to that, my school has used PLCs for many years now which have been extremely beneficial to most of us.

You asked if [teacher evaluation] is not based on the performance of their students, then what is it [based on]?

I personally don't mind that idea at all. I have no doubt that if my Alg2 or Calc students were given a pre and post test on the content of the course, everyone would see huge gains. It's a pretty simple concept there... BUT there are SO MANY other things to consider, some of which are addressed in that report I linked above.

Why do good teachers need tenure? Or fear some form of merit based pay?

I'm a tenured teacher and no, I don't fear merit based pay, but there is politics in schools like everywhere else. I'm evaluated by a person that doesn't know my subject and may have some non-subject related bias against me... It's nice to know that they have to follow procedures and document any claims made against me before they can just dismiss me.

Anonymous said...

I teach in a parochial school for about 70% of what the local public school pays. Our pay scale does recognize experience and education, but we all have 1 year contracts. If you aren't performing, you aren't asked to return. Our system seems to work extremely well as we are one of the top performing schools in our state. BTW, we are very diverse economically and can't afford to accept only the cream of the crop (I know that argument is coming).

Luke said...

I've read the arguments, and I agree the those making the hiring and firing decisions should be under the same sort of performance based retention that the teachers SHOULD be under. I still don't agree on tenure. I could see contracts with set time periods, and some sort of performance based metrics. Yes, I would include willingness to go get further education as a factor in what the new contract was worth.

Concerned, Thank you for be honest and candid. Those are much better arguments than what I've seen in the past. The problem is that those aren't that arguments that are usually articulated.

mmazenko said...


You may be "diverse economically" but you are not diverse in terms of student/parent motivation and engagement. The very nature of the choice and expense necessary to attend your school makes you quite homogenous in terms of population. The fact that you can't see that is one of our biggest obstacles in necessary school reform. Your mindset feeds in to the inability of teachers - and the public - to understand that your students may just as likely succeed in spite of your "instruction" as because of it.

mmazenko said...

Tenure is basically providing a teacher "due process" before termination, which is a pretty fair expectation for a profession. Certainly, there are "at will" jobs, but we don't generally use that term in professional fields. Even hourly bank tellers and retail salespeople I know are afforded this sort of due process, as employees are in most respectable organizations. I hear from many "business people" who claim "they could be fired in a minute," though I've rarely known that to be true, except for extreme negligence and criminal behavior.

Instead, I hear from many friends in business who complain about the process of documenting incompetence before dismissing co-workers. Therefore, I'd assert that "tenure" exists in many/most professions.

And, in a field like education where teachers deal individually with minors who can be reluctant consumers of the product and are often their parents' most treasured asset - to be believed at all costs - some level of due process is a reasonable expectation for professional work. Colorado did away with "tenure" in 1995, but we still maintain due process rights for the profession, and that is entirely fair.

I'm sure I'll stir up a storm with these comments, but consider the logic of the argument.

Darren said...

Tenure is *so* much more than due process--it's actually "undue" process.

maxutils said...

Agree with you completely about private schools, Mazenko ... it doesn't matter what the background is, you come in to a school where your students come from families willing to seek out better education on their own, rather than accept what else is out there. So ... private schools start out with kids whose families are prepared to buy in to education, and that makes it hard to screw up. Also, you can kick out the ones who misbehave or don't do well. Public schools do not have that luxury... which is why I would love to see a true voucher system: one where parents could go to any school they wanted, public or private, but would recieve a voucher from their state for the full amount of that year's per-student expenditure ... and would have to sign that over to the school, even if public. Buy in is important...if it doesn't seem like you're paying for it, it isn't valued but taken for granted. As to tenure...Luke, it's needed for a few reasons. Most importantly is the fact that teacher complaints come largely in two categories: teachers who are really bad ... and, teachers who are really good, but who have very high standards an/or very strict discipline. Throw all those in to a pot and stir, and you probably wind up firing more good teachers than bad, based on complaints. If you try other criteria to judge teachers? Well, I've never been observed more than twice in a year by a superior, and maybe for a total of 30 minutes. Standardized test scores? Two problems ... a teacher has no control over the incoming students preparation. Maybe not as much of a problem in elementary, where students are just beginning to learn and develop at different levels ...but, in secondary if I'm an Algebra 2 teacher who gets sent students who can't multiply, it's unlikely I will be successful. With the testing, especially in math, the tests are geared toward 'all or nothing' multiple choice answers, don't test overall comprehension, and mostly have no incentive for the student to do well. Tenure may be too much of a cushion, but there at least needs to be a pillow.

mmazenko said...

Maybe according to practice, D. But not really be definition.

Anonymous said...

You are correct that the motivation of the family is one of the biggest obstacles to school reform, but the unions and their protectionist attitudes make change in the public sector almost impossible. Been there and couldn't stomach the hypocrisy of union officials. Their motivations are certainly NOT ABOUT KIDS. The membership is split. Know some great caring individuals and some folks who are only there to get the retirement and summer vacation. It's that attitude that can't be addressed without some changes. Our 1 year contacts do address those attitudes. I'll admit my working conditions are more pleasant than might exist at some of the public schools in the area.

Anonymous said...

Your point is valid..but where is it written that everyone needs to go to college? Many of the students that should be kicked out of public schools have no alternative. At some point we need to seriously consider what is best for students and not union members. Talk to a plumber or electrician and they'll tell you that they have a difficult time finding apprentices. Part of the problem with public schools is that they say they are forced to keep the problems. Maybe that situation needs to be addressed instead of simply accepted. Moving down the Common Core path where everyone is expected to fit the mold is moving in the wrong direction and doesn't address many of the fundamental flaws in the system.

maxutils said...

I didn't mention college, but I agree with you. One of the greatest problems that public schools have is that they have been restructuring so that everyone gets curriculum designed to get them in to college, but we eliminate programs that would allow them to learn how to fix a car, take a photograph, do fine art, or make a chair. Or do an off campus internship -- which MY high school actively encouraged for seniors. Personally ... I think the SAT has been a decent indicator of academic potential, and has probably improved since my entry in to college ... and it's really not standards based as much as it is vocabulary, reading, and basic math --tools one needs to succeed in college. If you want to go to a 4 year school? Compete on the same playing field as your peers. But if you don't? We should affirm that choice and make other paths available, and not demeaned. Imagine a world where the only desirable occupation was to be a lead guitarist...I'm guessing it wouldn't be successful...