I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teachers Who Threw Away Their Money

A question for the evening:

Suppose the company you worked for told you that if you went and got your MBA, you'd get a nice raise. Suppose that was the practice at your firm for years, and you signed a multi-year contract that spelled out the deal.

Suppose you OK'd the college and the program with your boss and your boss's boss. You went to night school and studied during your vacations and weekends and nights and you earned your degree. For the first year or two, you got the raise. Then a new CEO came in.

The CEO had heard of a few studies at a few other firms that showed that managers only got 'better' when their MBA was in a specific field - say, accounting. The studies didn't take into account where the managers earned their MBAs. The studies didn't measure the managers' performances; they measured the performances of their subordinates, whom the managers didn't pick to work for them and who couldn't be fired (it's an odd firm). In fact, only 10%-20% of the possible managers were studied anyway, and only when working in specific parts of the companies.

On the basis of this very flimsy evidence, the new CEO decides to terminate future raises for anyone who earned that MBA outside of accounting. Your MBA is in marketing, so it's is no good, even though it was before, and even though you took accounting as part of your program. All that work you did and all the money you spent to get that degree is now for naught.

You'd be pretty pissed off, right?

Well, this is exactly what Chris Christie wants to do to teachers. His draft bill eliminates the "masters bump", unless the Education Commissioner says the degree is one he likes, like in math (no matter that you may have studied math education in an elementary ed program). There is no grandfather clause: if Chris Cerf thinks your degree is useless, out goes your raise - even if your district had approved your program years ago.

This bill is based on very shallow research that was conducted using state-wide standardized tests - not necessarily in New Jersey, however. The National Council on Teacher Quality's meta-study is cited most often by corporate reformers; there was no attempt, however, by the NCTQ to assess the quality of the studies, the statewide tests the studies were based on, or the quality of the teachers' graduate programs.

(It's also worth pointing out that the studies that show a negative correlation between graduate study and student test scores are the oldest, dating back to 1985. Is it not possible graduate programs have changed over the years?)

Bruce Baker has noted that "reformers" haven't even questioned whether there may be a difference in quality between various graduate programs in education. He's also pointed out that only 10-20% of teachers could possibly be assessed on this criteria. Yet Christie is willing to throw out the thousands of hours and thousands of dollars that thousands of teachers put in to earn their degrees on the basis of "research" that won't even address these core issues.

That he would even propose such a thing is the height of disrespect. It is grossly unfair and dismissive of the work teachers have done to better their craft. It's also dismissive of the many excellent and challenging graduate programs in education around the county, and the professors who have worked hard to develop those programs.

It is completely demoralizing to think that all of the hard work I and my fellow teachers did in graduate school may now become a complete waste of our time...

Seven years of college down the drain...


Anonymous said...

Guess that $80,000 I just spent on an M.S.Ed in museum education at Bank Street is toilet paper. Nice job. Can't wait to leave this state for one that appreciates the hard work of teachers

Kevin said...

I can't see how my Masters degree in reading and literacy is not important to teaching.

CommutingTeacher said...

In my district, you have to apply and have your program approved... and they only approve programs that are related to your position. But to have salaries rise with these degrees, that would cause the new edu-corps to pay their employees more as well. Best knock down those salaries now so the new charts and private schools can pay slave wages to their staff.

Trisha said...

I got my masters before I started teaching. I'm amazed that my MM in Vocal Performance is "irrelevant" to my on-the-job performance as a middle school choir director...

Teacher Mom said...

Funny thing, when I worked in the burbs that particular district preferred to hire ONLY teachers with a masters degree. I guess they believed that a teacher with a masters was in fact better trained and more highly qualified. WOW imagine all the money they could have saved over the years. Now I work in the inner city where only a handful of classroom teachers have a masters, and most of the employees use their masters as a ticket out of the classroom. Unfortunately there is a difference in quality between those with a masters and those without still remaining in the classroom (when they have equal experience).

Additionally, it still pisses me off that my cousin who earned her MBA last year in marketing got a $20,000 a year pay bump to an annual salary of over $90,000. I've had my EdMA for 10 years and just broke $51,000.

Anne said...

I am nearing the end of my masters program and my state is in the process of passing an education budget that will freeze teachers' salaries at their current levels and will no longer bump teachers' salaries for advanced degrees. Most of the people in my program have paid their own way through school and now we find that our degree is worthless. Of course, I know that the knowledge that I have gained will make my classroom a better place for my students to learn and grow, but the lack of a pay upgrade when we have not had a raise in the past 5 years is a slap in the face. Additionally, universities will suffer because their education programs will have no applicants. It's a tragic situation that will have a huge impact on the students in our care. When society does not value education, we have nothing.

Mr. Little said...

I live an educate in IL. While we have our share of ed reform issues, we're not quite facing the onslaught that WI, MI, NJ, ID, and other states have.

I, too, am getting my Masters in Reading. As a Social Studies teacher, it's had a profound impact on the way I teach and perceive learning. I'm halfway through, and I can already say it's made me a better teacher.

Who are politicians to say this degree is worthless? I understand the need to cut some costs but this is ignorant of facts - furthering your education helps you educate better.

Are we paying for the sins of a few teachers that just go and get their Masters for a raise? Perhaps. I loathe these teachers, because most of them aren't good, and I'm angry that their greed could cost many more good teachers money.

My degree costs $20,000. A raise would pay that off in 3 years, and only then would I be making a reasonable salary. Add that with the impending destruction to my pension, the ridiculous amount I have to save for a down payment on a house, and I begin to think: what benefit am I getting from my profession? Then I get attacked on all fronts - by the GOP and the Democrats - and I begin to think: to people even appreciate all this work I'm doing?

This is the point, I believe, of the leaders in charge. To destroy our profession. Sadly, I can't say I'm resistant to it at this point.

Trisha said...

My masters' bump is a whopping $1000 over the corresponding BA and $500 over the corresponding BA+30. My bump hasn't paid off the cost of my MM yet, and won't for 8 more years. Pfft. Thanks a lot, gov!

Anonymous said...

I cannot but wonder how the colleges and universities feel about the states scaling back pay increases to those teachers seeking higher degrees? Won't the higher numbers of those less apt to seek higher degrees have some effect on these universities and their programs?

Unknown said...

NCTQ's veneer as a research organization gives Christie & Cerf justification to end raises for teacher advanced degrees.
NCTQ is a "non-profit" that has been pushing for corporate reforms in teacher training and teacher evaluation since it was founded in 2000. It's purpose is to challenge current professional standards by disseminating junk science on merit pay, alt routes to teacher certifications, seniority pay.

Lately, their junk science is aimed at diminishing university teacher training programs. Not surprising considering the board and funding sources are comprised of the usual suspects. (The business Roundtable, Gates,Broad, Rhee, Kopp, et al)

Read the full report at SourceWatch:


Anonymous said...

Boy I think the gavone governor we have has forgotten that him getting advanced degrees changed him/gave him the opportunity to become a prosecutor and put him in a position to become involved in politics which I'm sure equaled more cha-ching in his wallet. Oh yeah, and I guess he learned all about law by no-good uneducated teachers and did it all on his own. What a scumbag this guy is. He wouldn't last a month in a middle school classroom for 45K a year. Most teachers (well over 95%) don't teach for the money-they all know they'll never be rich-they do it for kids-like yours and mine... So they can someday be successful in a field where their education has afforded them opportunity. But I guess we do need more unemployed people for the state to support and garbage men. Hey, now there's a thought-I heard they make pretty good money-but they're probably unionized so they'll be next to hit the unemployment line as the garbage piles up in front of our homes that we can no longer afford. One last comment...go back 2 years and listen to all his rhetoric about how supportive of education he was, etc., etc. As soon as the teachers unions didn't endorse him it was payback time-a little obvious even to us villians...I mean teachers. And we weren't even given the choice to join the union-you took the job and you were automatically in. Let's see him try and explain that one along with all his other lies and denial of vindictivness!