APS – NC Eliminates Automatic Pay Increase for Teachers Earning a Master’s Degree – Should APS Do the Same?

As reported at the Wall Street Journal (editorial behind pay wall) and summarized at this non-pay wall site,

North Carolina … signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and—in a rare move—gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.

The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees.

Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.

Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so. [Emphasis added]

The move was made as the research (see link) indicates that there is no improved educational outcome for students when teachers at the elementary school level have advanced degrees or have more than five years experience.

The preponderance of evidence suggests that teachers who have completed graduate degrees are not significantly more effective at increasing student learning than those with no more than a bachelor’s degree. … elementary teachers who had completed master’s degrees were no more or no less effective than others at raising student achievement …

Research does show that teachers become more skilled with experience … teacher effectiveness improves rapidly over the first three years of teaching and reaches its highest point between the third and fifth year but found no substantial improvement after year five. 

It is almost inevitable that budget cuts will have to be made next year. And the biggest target is the budget for administration functions which is nearly double what nearby school districts are paying (see link). However, every function – including teacher’s salaries – has to be examined to ensure the amount paid provides full value.

If advanced degrees and experience beyond five years do not improve educational outcomes, then why are we paying for them?

The following is a snapshot of the education profile and average years of experience for Elementary School teachers in APS as of approximately February 2013.

Elementary School Teacher Pay 072913


Based on the information, the cost of more than five years of experience is $9.4 million and the cost of advanced degrees beyond a bachelor’s is $5.0 million. When combined (there is some cross-over so that it is not additive) the cost of both items is $10.9 million or 18% of the total compensation package for elementary school teachers.

Another perspective would be that APS is paying 22% more than necessary for teacher attributes that do not provide any benefit to educational outcomes.

Most teachers believe that large class sizes adversely affect their effectiveness in the classroom. However, by simply redirecting the incremental compensation for 5+ years of experience and advanced degrees to more teachers at the elementary school level, the average class size – that now stands at 24 for grades 1-5 – could be brought down to the level mandated by the GA DOE.

Again, while I strongly believe that the first target for cuts is the administration function, teacher compensation – which is often considered to be the third rail of education policy – has to be examined as well.

We are often told by the teachers and the administration – educational outcomes are the first priority.

Let everyone put their money where their mouth is.

One Response to APS – NC Eliminates Automatic Pay Increase for Teachers Earning a Master’s Degree – Should APS Do the Same?

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    Since the US is systematically dismanteling public education, we need to watch the trend of many cities around the country. In time, highly experienced educated teachers will be replaced by cheap TFA who will survive typically two years and leave. Treating teachers as temp employees, but maintaining highly paid administrators and overloading class size is a formula for starting more charter schools. And, that is ultimately the goal by many CorpEdReformer$.
    Most charters select their students and can dismiss students who do not meet their expectations. Leaving low achieving kids, students with disabilities, behavior problem kids and ELL kids in the public schools taught by ill prepared young teachers. Just read what is happening in many cities.
    Our society is already and will pay a very high price for such American Greed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: