Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Myth of the Master's Degree

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Myth of the Master's Degree

Article excerpt

IN MANY SCHOOL DISTRICTS, slogging through extra college courses to get a master's degree boosts a teacher's annual salary by $2,000 or more. But an extra diploma doesn't significantly improve student achievement. In some cases, elementary school pupils taught by teachers with advanced degrees actually do worse, write Duke University economists Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, and Jacob Vigdor.

Most Americans agree that the quality of their child's teacher is crucial to learning, but teacher quality is notoriously hard to measure. The Duke economists studied the test scores of about 75 percent of all North Carolina third, fourth, and fifth graders between 1994 and 2003. They found that a teacher's increasing experience and acquisition of a "regular" teaching license rather than an "other" license (given to those who do not meet all official requirements) made a positive difference on students' test scores, particularly in math. Teachers with 21 to 27 years of experience were most effective, they found. …

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