Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Flexible, without giving away the store. 

A professor on campus set along a story about Cambridge College, a school that seems intent on helping teachers get a masters degree and the increased pay that comes from it. The story in the WSJ (subscribers only) suggests the problem is the desire for credentials.
With the federal government and many states demanding more advanced degrees of teachers -- and providing financial incentives -- Cambridge is one of many schools that have significantly sped up access to the master's degree in education through nontraditional schedules and other accommodations.

Some fear that all the shortcuts are putting too much emphasis on credentials as an end in themselves -- instead of focusing on what's best for students. "We ought not automatically reward teachers with a salary increase for master's degrees," says Jennifer King Rice, an education professor at the University of Maryland, who recently wrote an analysis of 80 studies on teacher training. "We should reward instead specific, demonstrated mastery of content and teaching methods."

Cambridge administrators say the urgent social need to train teachers justifies helping them in scheduling, grading and admissions. "We try to be as flexible as we can without giving away the store," says Jorge Cardoso, the 51-year-old director of the summer program, called the National Institute for Teaching Excellence.

Some research suggests that a teacher's gaining an advanced degree, particularly in education rather than in a specific subject taught, such as math or science, has little bearing on student performance. More vital are a teacher's intelligence, experience and mastery of the subject. The 2001 "No Child Left Behind" law, which requires that all teachers be "highly qualified" as a condition of federal aid to public schools in high-poverty areas, specifies that a graduate degree would be one way to meet that standard.
The area has been a boon to online and for-profit schools like University of Phoenix and Lesley College in Cambridge.