How Helpful is a Teaching Education Degree?

Teachers love their teaching degrees; because advancement in teaching careers are completely tied to them. The more teaching education degrees you have, the more you get on the inside track for a promotion and tenure.

Still, the way teacher training courses are run, the criticism against them gets louder every year, some of the loudest coming from the very people who run teaching education degree institutions.

There are more than a thousand graduate teacher training colleges out there, and they say that perhaps one in ten could be doing a decent job, if that. It is really possible that most of them could find themselves bankrupt very soon. In fact, it is possible that President Obama doesn’t really believe that advancement for a teacher at a public school should even be connected to how many master’s degrees the teacher has.

What would be better the government feels, is a system that would reward the teacher with more promotions and better pay, for better results – better performance among her students, and better graduation rates. So is the government right? Should they really stop rewarding teachers for what kind of qualifications and credentials they bring to the table?

Actually, Tennessee already rewards teachers not for how much theoretical knowledge she’s accumulated with more than one teaching education degree, but for how her students perform on standardized tests.

Other states like New York hate the idea so much, they’ve actually passed laws to make it unlawful for a school to reard a teacher primarily for the way her class performs on tests. At this time, what gives the teacher a raise is how long she’s been on the job, and how many degrees she can boast of.

It might be a good idea to hire a teacher based on how many degrees she has to begin with. But once she has the job, ongoing rewards, promotions and raises, should come all from how well she does at the job. Those degrees do not really have anything at all to do with how well she knows her students.

President Obama has another novel idea – only fund education schools based on how well their graduates do at their teaching jobs. We might actually find if we look for this information, that the teachers who come from ordinary less snooty schools actually outperform the teachers who come with some Ivy League teaching education degree.

Maybe the regular teachers from regular backgrounds actually have a better understanding of how ordinary students will think and learn. So if we don’t quite approve of judging a teacher’s ability by the kind of teaching education degree she holds, what do we recommend?

These days, lots of parents put their faith in having their child being taught by a Teach for America recruit. Any day, they would trust practical everyday hard won on-the-job knowledge mixed in with intelligence and a go-for-it attitude, over lots of bookish degrees. Those teachers are well-educated, they know their subjects, and they have an impatience to get their knowledge to count.

Perhaps master’s degrees are important, if a teacher is to try to absorb the goings-on in a class, and form ideas on the future of the K-12 classroom. And this is what the Thinking Skills Coalition and the Partnership for the 21st Century recommend as well. Perhaps then, the teaching education degree has its place, but not for all teachers. Perhaps only teachers who wish to go on to become educators and policy makers, would need to go that far.