Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Thanks for the post Advance degree confusion by Gary Wolf of Education and Community News from Home Town Delaware for bringing a local spin to the latest barrage of BS from the one and only Bill Gates who, along with other noted education experts, claims that a teacher’s education master’s degree has little or no effect on teacher or student performance in our schools–that they are virtually worthless. The message is that pay raises for this kind of tomfoolery should be abandoned.

Gary makes some ironic and sarcastic observations (my favorite kinds) regarding the concept that advanced training and coursework is neither worthy of our time nor our money.

I responded to Gary’s post a while back. However, I thought that the points I made were worth repeating here. BE SURE TO CHECK THE LINK FOR GARY’S COMMENTS–they are right on target.

Here’s what I had to say: I teach 6th grade science. This is my 39th year of teaching. I hold a Master’s Degree in Instruction, plus 45+ hours of college coursework above and beyond that degree–much of it in science content classes. I graduated in 1972 from Goucher College in Baltimore with a B. A. in Elementary Education , meaning that I was trained and prepared to teach all of the coursework required in elementary school: reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, English, handwriting, science, social studies, art, music, and P.E. Which I did for 17 years. In 1981, I completed the Masters of Instruction program at the University of Delaware–a program especially designed for working teachers, where we actually were able to tailor some of the coursework to the work we did every day, and that focused on improving classroom instruction. It was revolutionary for me. It made all the difference in exposing me to new ideas and practices in teaching, effective methods of classroom management (finally), information and training in diagnosing student learning problems and deficiencies, and so much more.

To imagine that teachers could choose to go back to school, to sit through hours of classes, complete all of the required assignments, excel on all of the tests, and pass classes with “A” or “B” grades and NOT get something out of these classes that had an impact on the quality of their instruction is absurd. Perhaps, if I were a mannequin or a zombie,… But, who in their right mind is going to work full-time in a classroom, plus go through all of this again and again, for 30 hours of coursework (3 credit hours per class = 10 classes) to complete a degree program, take the comprehensive final, or complete the final projects or thesis, AND pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the privilege–yes, they actually charge money to take classes at the universities–all for a bump on the pay scale. I completed my master’s program in 1981, my 10th year of teaching.  At the time, my bump was worth about $1000.

Delaware has never had a requirement for teachers to complete advanced degrees. I never understood why this important condition for employment was missing, when all the neighboring states required a master’s degree within 5-10 years of starting to teach.

Bill Gates is a fool– a very wealthy and powerful fool, but a fool none the less.

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This entry was posted in "Reform Experts", Quality Teachers/Quality Teaching, Teacher Education Programs, Teachers and Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jack of All Trades, Master of None

  1. Sarah M says:

    I don’t think Bill Gates is a fool. My kids have had plenty of teachers with master’s degrees. I really do not think this helps distinguish a good teacher from an average teacher from a bad teacher. But I do believe that teachers should be trained in education and the subjects they are going to teach. Our children briefly attended a small private school that did not require teachers to have a degree in education or the subject they were teaching. One teacher who had been there for years did not even have a degree in anything. He was teaching math. Some of them were good teachers, others did not know what they were doing. And we paid tuition for this. I’m not saying they did not learn anything, but they could have learned more and we did not get our money’s worth.

    So my point is, education is a professional field and education should be delivered by professionals. But advanced degrees have no intrinsic value. In Red Clay I am told that several administrators had their doctorate degrees paid for by the district. So how am I getting value for my money?

  2. Frederika says:

    You are correct. My master’s degree did not make me a good teacher. However, it did make me a much better teacher: more focused, more prepared, more instructional skills and strategies, more content knowledge and understanding, and FINALLY, a plan for crowd control–what we call classroom management in the ed biz. Most new teachers have had very little instruction or practice in managing a group of twenty garrulous third graders or 32 jazzed seventh graders–some of whom have passed beyond reluctant learners to resistant ones. Heaven help you if you don’t have a plan starting with Day One of the new school year.

    Teachers in Delaware public schools must be licensed to teach by the State, and officially certificated in the subject area to which they are assigned. Additionally, they now must have achieved highly qualified teacher status (HQT). These are the kinds of credentials that make this career a profession.

    Bill Gates appears foolish to many professional educators. He is making pronouncements about a field about which he actually knows very little.

    If it is true that Red Clay paid for admins to get a doctorate, then they should offer the same benefit to the teaching staff. Dr. Jenner–I like the sound of that!!!

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