As state government agencies are pressed to cut their budgets, we are glad to hear that some public schools are also examining and rethinking items in their budgets.

The Houston Independent School District and YES Prep charter school are both considering putting an end to the practice of paying teachers more for an advanced degree, according to the Houston Chronicle. HISD estimates it will cost taxpayers $7.8 million this year to pay teachers an additional stipend for a master’s or doctorate degree.

A common misperception about teacher quality is that more training and education equals a better teacher. This is not necessarily the case. Just because a teacher has a Ph.D. in physics does not mean they know how to teach. A one-size-fits-all compensation method such as stipends for advanced degrees risks paying some teachers more who aren’t worth it and not adequately rewarding others who are. School leaders should make the decision on how much to pay each teacher individually based on their performance and effectiveness.

Research clearly finds that possession of an advanced degree has absolutely no correlation to higher teacher effectiveness or student achievement. Our recent paper on teacher quality explains this misconception.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education recently put out a report on teachers with master’s degrees that had some surprising facts. – 90% of teacher’s master degrees are in education programs (not the subject area they teach). – Master’s degrees in education had the highest growth rate of all master’s degrees between 1997 and 2007.- 27% of teachers in Texas have a master’s degree and, as a result, receive an extra $1,423 per year on average. This amounts to more than $124.5 million a year spent on outdated method of compensation that does not translate into better teacher quality or higher student achievement.

As school districts are looking for ways to cut their budget and improve teacher quality, we recommend they cut out stipends for advanced degrees – there is nothing in state or federal education regulations prohibiting them making this cut.

– Brooke Terry